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Soft Sentencing On Animal Cruelty Mocks The Law


For immediate release: 18 June 2001


"Courts are handing down inadequate sentences for animal cruelty cases," says the Royal New Zealand Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"The 1999 Animal Welfare Act provides for substantially higher fines and prison sentences than did previous legislation. However, the Courts seem reluctant to apply penalties from the higher end of the scale, even when faced with appalling instances of cruelty," says RNZSPCA Chief Executive, Peter Blomkamp.

Mr Blomkamp cites a case heard in the Oamaru District Court on 30th May this year, concerning a farm donkey that had lost one of its hooves because of laminitis and chronic neglect. The stump that remained was raw, whilst the other front hoof had been allowed to grow to a length of approximately 25 centimetres and was curling upwards.

"In cases such as this, the 1999 Act allows the Courts to impose fines of up to $25,000 and to sentence those responsible to three months imprisonment. But, in this case, the Oamaru District Court opted for a fine of $250 or just one percent of the permitted maximum, along with costs," he says.

"The donkey had probably been in severe pain for months or even years as a result of its owner's callousness. Just imagine, if you or I had lost our foot and had to try and move around on a raw infected stump!

"We're disgusted at the lenient sentence handed out for such a blatant and prolonged example of animal cruelty. It makes a complete mockery of the legislation," adds Mr Blomkamp. ....CONT. The RNZSPCA has written to the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Phil Goff, expressing its concern over the Oamaru case and over other cases of judicial leniency in animal cruelty cases. The society plans to continue pushing for more rigorous application of the 1999 legislation.

"We've got to lose the mindset which says that animal cruelty is unimportant. If, as a country, we take an uncaring and irresponsible approach to defenceless animals, we will also end up taking a callous approach to our fellow humans, including children. There's enough evidence that we're already on the slippery path downwards in that respect," says Mr Blomkamp. "As far as cruelty to farm animals is concerned, New Zealand's soft approach to sentencing could also impact adversely on our agricultural exports, particularly in affluent markets which have a strong regard for animal welfare," he adds.

For further information, please contact:

Peter Blomkamp Chief Executive Officer RNZSPCA 09 827 6094 025 277 1961

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