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Doggy day care owner prosecuted by SPCA over dog’s death

9 May 2019

An Auckland woman has been prosecuted by SPCA after a dog died while staying at her doggy day care facility.

Trudi Hewett, owner of Valley Dog Daycare in West Auckland, was found guilty of one charge of ill-treating an animal under the Animal Welfare Act in Waitakere District Court.

Yesterday, she was sentenced to 40 hours’ community service, has been disqualified from running any animal care business for five years, and ordered to pay SPCA $506 in reparations and solicitor’s costs of $282.

This is the first time SPCA has prosecuted in relation to animal cruelty at a doggy day care facility.

The case began in May 2017 when the owners of a Huntaway-Doberman crossbreed named Wilson arrived at the doggy day care to pick him up. They found Wilson dead, lying in a pond with a number of visible injuries.

Even though the defendant was present at the property on that day, she admitted she had not seen Wilson for approximately five hours. In response to this incident, SPCA Inspectors launched an animal welfare investigation.

Results from a veterinarian assessment on Wilson’s body suggests that he was attacked by at least one other dog. His body was covered in puncture marks and abrasions and his throat area was bruised and inflamed.

Bruising around his larynx lead the vet to believe that he died from asphyxiation. The vet said that the attack would have been a very painful and distressing way for Wilson to die.

SPCA Inspectors executed a search warrant on the defendant’s property. Records obtained showed that there were multiple other incidents where dogs were injured while under her care – some required serious veterinary care.

Records also provided evidence the defendant had previously rejected dogs from attending her day care facility for showing signs of aggression. These records showed that two dogs at the day care on the day Wilson died had been previously banned from another facility for showing aggressive behaviour.

The SPCA Inspector’s investigation raised queries on the defendant’s level of supervision of the dogs, and the frequency of dog head counts. There were a number of incidences where she may not have been actively supervising the dogs, or even present at the property.

After Wilson's death the defendant closed the day care and has said she will never look after dogs again.

“Our thoughts are with Wilson’s owners, who lost their beloved family member in a truly awful way. They trusted this facility to care for Wilson and he should have been safe and well looked after there,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.

“Doggy day cares are an unregulated industry in New Zealand, but operators must still comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1999. If animals are in your care, it is your responsibility to ensure all their needs are met. As a doggy day care facility, owners expect you to ensure their dogs are safe, happy and healthy and you must take this responsibility seriously.”

“We encourage anyone considering leaving their pet at a doggy day, kennel or cattery to do research first. Good facilities for dogs, for example, will require a behaviour assessment for all dogs, low dog to human ratios, compatible play groups, qualified staff, and dogs must never be left unsupervised.”


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