Palmerston North Woman Sentenced for Ill Treatment of Dog

Press Release – SPCA

Palmerston North Woman Sentenced for Ill Treatment of Dog

A Palmerston North woman left a dog unattended for seven days, causing it to develop flesh wounds from prolonged wearing of a harness.

The woman, who has permanent name suppression, was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court today, Friday August 11, for ill treatment of an animal causing it to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress. She received six months supervision, surrender of any other animals owned by her and disqualification from owning animals for three years.

RNZSPCA Chief Executive, Andrea Midgen, welcomed the sentence and considers that the woman had been held accountable for her actions. “This dog suffered considerable pain and distress directly as a result of this woman’s behaviour. This sends a clear message that it is simply unacceptable to leave your dog unattended for any length of time without a plan to meet its welfare needs and that if you do not do this then you will face consequences.”

In November 2016, the woman went to Auckland and left her brother’s black Staffordshire terrier dog confined to one room in her house. The dog had sufficient food and water for three days but she had not made arrangements for anyone to walk or attend to the dog. The woman said she had expected to return home on the same day but, due to personal reasons, had to stay longer than expected.

Seven days after leaving, she texted her friend asking her to break into the house to feed the dog. The friend visited the home and became very concerned about the dog’s well-being and contacted the SPCA.

Three SPCA inspectors visited the property and found the dog confined to a messy room with a strong smell of urine. They managed to drop some food to him through a small hinged window. The inspectors also noticed that the dog was wearing a harness which appeared to be cutting into the skin of his armpits.

The inspectors contacted the woman and asked if she knew anyone with a key to her home who could come and look after the dog in her absence, as they were concerned for its welfare. She was unable to think of anyone who could assist.

In order to lawfully help this dog, the inspectors executed a search warrant and seized the dog for urgent veterinary care. The veterinarian determined the dog had two lacerations through each armpit, approximately 2cm deep, and that these had been caused by an incorrectly fitted, and inappropriately monitored, harness.

The veterinarian concluded this had led to the dog being subjected to unreasonable and unnecessary pain and distress, as the friction from the harness would have caused increasing damage to the underlying tissue. The dog was treated by the veterinarian and has made a full recovery.

It was not the first time that the SPCA had attended an incident related to dogs left unattended by this woman. SPCA inspectors had given verbal advice on at least two previous occasions over the legality of leaving dogs unattended.

Midgen said this case highlighted the need to ensure that collars and harnesses are fitted correctly and that harnesses should not be left on all the time.

“They should be used only for short periods of time for specific reasons, such as for exercise or for securing a dog in a vehicle. You must also make sure to choose the an appropriate and well fitted harness so that it will not causing your animal any distress.”

Midgen also emphasised the need to ensure that someone is checking/feeding/exercising your animals if you go away, or alternatively they should be booked into a boarding kennel.

“A pet should not be left alone for an extended period of time without someone regularly checking on the wellbeing of the dog and a plan, including contact numbers, in case of an emergency. And, if your plans do change, let someone know.”

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