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SPCA Hails Tough Approach To Wildlife Offence


For release: 18 March 2004


Firm line also urged against animal cruelty

The Royal New Zealand SPCA has hailed the imposition of a tough sentence for killing native wild life, saying it wants the same firm approach used in animal cruelty cases.

Robert Milton Cassidy was last month sentenced to six weeks imprisonment by the Kaikohe District Court, after being caught with six newly shot kukupa (native wild pigeons). The sentence was the first handed-down under the Wildlife (Penalties and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2000.

"This case was primarily a conservation matter. Animal cruelty was not one of the issues considered by the court. Even so, we applaud the court's tough stance which will help protect our country's unique wildlife and hence discourage some forms of cruelty," says Peter Blomkamp, Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

Mr Blomkamp describes the Kaikohe judgement as standing in marked contrast to "the excessively indulgent attitude" shown by the courts when dealing with prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, including many actions brought by the SPCA .

"The 1999 Act allows for fines of $25,000 and/or six months imprisonment where an animal is denied adequate food, water or veterinary attention. Characteristically, however, the courts impose fines of between $300 and $500, even in cases of shocking and cruel neglect

"Where an animal is wilfully mistreated, the Act allows for up to three years in jail or a fine of up to $50,000. Even so, the toughest sentence yet meted out in a case of this type was a fine of $8,000 where a stallion had been wilfully ill-treated," he says.

Mr Blomkamp adds that soft sentencing in animal cruelty cases makes a mockery of the 1999 Act and is failing to stem a reported surge in cases of extreme cruelty or neglect.

In September 2003, the SPCA compiled a "List of Shame", detailing 30 cases, including those of an elderly cat tortured to death, ducks blown-up with home-made bombs, a kitten thrown from a moving vehicle and a dog which required more than eighty stitches after a botched attempt to slit her throat.

"Although the pathetic sadists responsible for these acts were not apprehended, at least some of them would have thought twice before making animals suffer, had they feared the imposition of something approaching the full severity of the law," says Peter Blomkamp.

"We are delighted that a court has now taken a robust approach to implementing the new sentencing structure with respect to protecting wildlife. Our native birds should have a special place in the hearts of all New Zealanders and we should all be concerned over the survival of endangered species such as the kukupa.

"But our compassion and our sense of responsibility should not end there. All creatures deserve humane treatment, irrespective of where their ancestors originated and irrespective of whether they are wild, domestic or farm animals. It is a mark of a civilised society to ensure that animals are treated humanely," he says.



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