Published in the Otago Daily Times 23 June 2009
The longest sentence for animal cruelty in New Zealand was imposed on a Dunedin man yesterday.
Jeffrey Hurring, 19, a supermarket shelf-filler, was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court to 12 months’ jail for killing an 18-month-old male Jack Russell dog in Dunedin on February 2 this year.
He was also barred from owning an animal for 10 years.
Hurring admitted killing the dog, named Diesel and owned by a friend, by first trying to strangle it using a chain, his hands and his feet.
When the dog did not die after 30 minutes, he poured petrol down its throat, stuffed a pillow-case down its throat and finally hit it on the head with a spade.
The impact broke the dog’s back and jaw, killing it.
The SPCA has hailed the sentence as the one it has been waiting for, after years of fighting for harsher sentences for people found guilty of extreme cruelty to animals.
Tears ran down the face of Hurring’s mother as she and his father left the court after the sentencing.
Judge Stephen O’Driscoll told the court the attack on the dog was at the higher end of the scale in terms of seriousness and gravity.
The maximum previous sentence handed down in New Zealand for cruelty to an animal was nine months’ jail, but the particular cruelty of this case was a significant aggravating factor in sentencing.
That, accompanied by the vulnerability of the dog, the premeditation and the deliberate conduct over a period of time in which Hurring used a variety of tools and methods to kill the dog, meant he must take a starting point of 18 months’ imprisonment.
He took six months off for Hurring’s age, his early guilty plea, his remorse, his acceptance of responsibility for the dog’s suffering, his lack of previous convictions and his naivete and immaturity which, in the judge’s view, diminished culpability.
He also ordered Hurring to pay $1178.50 reparation to the SPCA and to continue counselling for his drinking and other issues related to his offending for at least six months after his release from prison.
The judge ssaid a pre-sentence report indicated Hurring had little insight into his offending.
He had been assessed as having a propensity for violence and frequently verbally abused others.
There was moderate risk he would reoffend, Judge O’Driscoll said.
There was a need to educate people living in urban areas that it was inappropriate for them to undertake the task of putting down animals themselves, he said.
SPCA national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger said the SPCA was delighted with the sentence.
“It gives significant recognition to what we have been saying for a very long time, that this sort of violence is unacceptable and inextricably linked with violence to humans.
“This sends a very clear message.”
This was just one case of many in a disturbing trend of young men committing extreme and prolonged violence against animals this year.
Dunedin SPCA inspector and lead investigator on the case Steph Saunders said it was a pleasing result.