A Hawkes Bay farmer was ordered to pay $7000 to the SPCA and $529 in reparation following one of the worst cases of neglect an SPCA inspector said he had seen.
Andrew Ormond, 45, was sentenced in Hastings District Court yesterday after admitting nine charges of ill-treatment of an animal at his 200ha rural station, leading to the death of 29 sheep.
In May last year, Napier SPCA inspectors visited Ormond's Crownthorpe Settlement Rd property, west of Napier.
They found several hundred heavily fleeced sheep grazing in paddocks where a large amount of blackberry was growing and over two days found 49 sheep entangled, 21 of which were dead and in various states of decomposition.
A further nine sheep were found dead in streams, bogs, and open paddocks elsewhere on the property.
As the inspectors cut the sheep free, they found four live animals in such a poor condition they had to be euthanised immediately to relieve their pain and distress.
The horrific injuries included a broken hind leg, blindness, and one sheep that lost an eye had worn a deep groove in the soil trying to break free from the blackberry.
Eight sheep were put down.
Judge Jonathan Down said the sheep were "significantly malnourished" and it was obvious the animals had suffered neglect.
"It is clear to me Mr Ormond you were going through a difficult period of time in your life ... but the primary duty you had was to care for the welfare and wellbeing of those animals."
He said Ormond showed "extreme remorse" and embarrassment and appeared determined to ensure animals in his care will never be ill-treated again.
Ormond was convicted of the nine charges of ill-treating an animal and was ordered to pay $7000 to the SPCA and $529 in reparation for the veterinary bills to treat the wounded sheep.
Ormond, who was also the deputy master of the Hawke's Bay Hunt Club, told Hawke's Bay Today outside court he was "extremely embarrassed" and sorry for what happened.
When interviewed by the SPCA, he admitted he was aware of the blackberry problem but because of his marriage breakup was reluctant to visit the property. Napier SPCA manager and senior inspector Bruce Wills said it was one of the worst cases of neglect he had seen in more than 10 years of animal welfare enforcement.
"This is not a case of a farmer being caught out by last year's drought or lack of feed, this is someone who simply allowed other areas of his life to take precedence over his obligations to his animals.
"The level of suffering I witnessed on that property was severe and prolonged. It will haunt me for some time."
He said outside court the $7000 was appreciated and hoped the sentence would act as a deterrent to animal ill-treatment nationwide.
Royal New Zealand SPCA chief executive Ric Odom said the case is an example of neglect that is all too typical.
"Here you have a farmer who owns hundreds of livestock but seems to have forgotten his responsibilities towards those animals."