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Cattle returned to Northland farmer

Cattle returned to Northland farmer

Following a three day hearing in the Auckland High Court last week, the Judge ruled that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) will return some of the cattle seized last year from a Northland farmer charged with their neglect.

The return of the cattle is dependent upon Mr Summers strictly following a farm management plan developed by an independent farm consultant. The number of cattle will be determined once an assessment of the property is completed.

Earl Culham of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Special Investigation Group (SPIG) said that MAF would continue to monitor the welfare of the cattle in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 1999, until the criminal case is heard later this year.

Mr Summers is facing criminal charges under the Animal Welfare Act, which range from ill-treatment to failure to provide sufficient food.

Since the seizure of 318 cattle in July last year, MAF has incurred costs of approximately $250,000 for their care, pasture, veterinary costs and supplementary feed. A total which exceeds the value of the herd.

Mr Culham said effectively MAF had become responsible for the day to day expenses of farming the animals until the case comes to criminal trial.

The High Court decision reverses a 2002 judgement which ruled that MAF could sell the cattle in order to recover costs.

Mr Culham said MAF is considering the implications of this decision in regard to the Ministry’s powers of enforcement under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

“Clearly we need to consider the long term costs involved when we seize animals.”

Mr Culham said that the investigation was one of the most difficult animal welfare cases he had been involved in and that it had taken a severe toll on all those involved.

Under the Animal Welfare Act provides for maximum penalties of $50,000 dollars or three years imprisonment.

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