• Since this story was published, the conviction against Terepai Noel Teremoana has been quashed by the High Court at Auckland

An Auckland man has been sentenced to four months' jail after he nearly starved his dog to death in a case that shocked the SPCA.

Terepai Noel Teremoana was found guilty in the Manukau District Court today of reckless ill-treatment of an animal following a tip-off about a malnourished dog.

The dog, Ben, was hours away from death and so emaciated the animal inspector who rescued him described him as a "skeleton covered with fur".


Though Ben put on weight at the SPCA compound, the trauma of abuse he suffered at the hands of Teremoana meant he developed serious psychological problems and was too dangerous to rehome. He was put down.

SPCA Auckland chief executive Andrea Midgen said this was a disgusting case of animal cruelty and Ben's owner deserved the have the book thrown at him.

"We are pleased that this prosecution resulted in a jail sentence. It sends a clear, strong message to animal offenders that their actions won't be tolerated," she said.

An SPCA spokesperson said an inspector found Ben in July 2012 after a complaint about a malnourished dog at a Manurewa property.

The inspector said Ben looked like a skeleton covered with fur, his bones clearly seen through his skin.

The dog also suffered from infected pressure sores on his rump and an inch-long tail wound. He was infested with fleas and worms.

The vet who treated the dog stated that in 24 years of practise Ben was the most emaciated dog she had ever seen.

She believed the dog was hours from death when he arrived at the clinic.

The vet said Ben had probably not had enough food for weeks, if not months.

She said it was obvious, even to an untrained person, Ben needed urgent veterinary help.

Once in the care SPCA Ben was fed a proper diet and his weight almost doubled from 11.7kg to 22kg in eight weeks.

And although Ben's physical wounds healed, his psychological ones did not. As a result of extreme neglect and abuse he was left with irreparable psychological damage and the difficult decision was made to euthanase him.

Ms Midgen said the jail sentence brought justice for a dog who had endured months of pain and suffering.

"This is a disgusting case of irresponsible pet ownership.

"Ben's painful experience is unacceptable and was completely avoidable. Cases of animal cruelty will not be tolerated and we will continue to fight for justice for animals like Ben," she said.

She hoped this case set a precedent for future animal abuse cases in New Zealand.

Teremoana was disqualified from owning a dog for five years and ordered to pay $2583.33 reparations to SPCA Auckland.