A Waikanae man who abandoned four kittens on the side of the road in the middle of winter has been disqualified from owning cats for five years.
Martin Close, 28, was convicted on Tuesday in the Porirua District Court of deserting an animal with no provision for its needs.
Close left a box of 6-week-old kittens in a paddock on Huia St on May 31, about 300m from Wellington SPCA's Waikanae Centre.
The SPCA were alerted to the four kittens, which were found in scrub.
The kittens have since all been given treatment and found new homes.
Wellington SPCA senior animal welfare inspector Peter McCallum launched an investigation and was able to track down and speak to Close, who admitted to deserting the kittens.
McCallum said his investigation "wasn't Sherlock Holmes stuff".
"I wish it was," he said.
McCallum had realised the vacuum cleaner box was of a late model, so took the serial number and asked around until he found the person who bought the vacuum, who pointed him towards Close.
"It was pretty straightforward investigative skills, really."
Close pleaded guilty in court to the offence and was sentenced to 80 hours community work, reparation of $614.52, and $100 to the SPCA towards legal expenses.
He was also banned from owning or exercising authority over cats or kittens for the next five years.
"Given their young age and the fact that it was mid-winter, the outcome could have been considerably worse if they hadn't been fortunate enough to be found by a member of the public and the SPCA alerted," McCallum said.
"In this instance the young kittens could have easily been taken to the nearby SPCA where we will never refuse to accept sick, injured or vulnerable animals in need of assistance.
"Each year Wellington SPCA helps around 5000 animals, and this case highlights the need for people to desex their animals to avoid unwanted litters that they cannot care for.
While the desertion of vulnerable animals was "far from uncommon", SPCA inspectors often struggled to obtain enough evidence to find the offender and conduct a successful prosecution, he said.
This year Wellington SPCA have conducted several desertion investigations.
Chief executive and former inspector Steve Glassey was pleased to see the hard work of the inspectorate and support of prosecution lawyer Elizabeth Hall resulting in a conviction.
"This week, Wellington SPCA is leading change in animal welfare investigations with the hosting of the first inspectorate surveillance course to enable experienced inspectors to undertake covert intelligence collection to aid in resolving these difficult cases. With increased expertise in this field, we hope to bring more offenders to justice."