Convicted animal owners were 'out of their depth'

By Jimmy Ellingham

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Chickens starved to death, dead and decaying bobby calves and the carcasses of four goats were among the horrific sights that met SPCA inspectors at a rural West Auckland property.

A tipoff about conditions at the Helensville hobby farm led the inspectors there on August 8, 2012.

Inside a locked barn were a number of chickens. Five had starved to death and a rooster later died after being rescued.

Other chickens were starving.

Bobby calves were found in another pen, including the bodies of two dead and decaying animals. The other five animals were suffering from starvation and severe worms.

Two days later four dead goats were found in a paddock and another 11 goats were found, emaciated, dehydrated and with worms.

The inspectors placed notices on the property's gates, but by August 20 these hadn't been touched.

In the Waitakere District Court today, the owners of the animals, Mohammed Aqueel Laxman, 37, and Zeenat Yunus Musa, 30, were sentenced on charges laid under the Animal Welfare Act.

Both were banned from owning animals for 10 years.

On five charges, Laxman was sentenced to six months' community detention, 180 hours' community work and $2678 reparation to the SPCA.

On two charges, Musa must serve three months' community detention, do 80 hours' community work pay $2000 reparation.

Judge David Mather said their neglect was "serious offending"

"Each of you attribute your neglect of these animals to personal and relationship difficulties. I accept that you were both going through a stressful separation and communication between the two of you appears to have broken down," the judge told Laxman and Musa.

"It's quite clear that you were out of your depth in terms of proper management of a significant number of animals."

Musa said she was remorseful and thought of the animals as friends. Judge Mather said she still neglected her obligations to them, however.

She had said the chickens were locked in the barn in early August.

Laxman's lawyer Graeme Minchin said his client had no previous convictions.

"What occurred with these animals is totally lamentable. It was an act of an act of a young couple that was over extended," Mr Minchin said.

Outside court, Musa said she was saddened by what happened, but said the animals were victims of "foul play".

She said they were alive two days before the SPCA inspectors arrived and if she had known her rights and done "more research" she could have had a defence.

"There have been lots of weird things happen on the farm."

Musa questioned how her goats could have died when recently she saw others from the same herd still living in a nearby forest.

SPCA Auckland executive director Bob Kerridge said that even the sad event of a breakdown in a family relationship was no excuse for leaving animals to die a slow and agonising death.

"If you accept guardianship of an animal you cannot neglect your responsibility for that animal for any reason, whether personal or not. Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and emotional distress just like humans, and therefore deserve protection and respect. If you neglect or abandon the animals in your care, you can expect to be prosecuted.''

Musa said her ill-health meant the animals couldn't be looked after. "If it wasn't for that the farm would be a paradise and the animals would be here right now.''

Laxman said he was "gutted'' with what happened, saying he and Musa "bit off more than we could chew''.

He was disappointed he now couldn't own domestic animals such as cats.

- APNZ

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