Mark Spitz

Published on 12 Jan 2010

A farmer and farm consultant has been sentenced in Rotorua District Court to 250 hours’ community service after being convicted on multiple counts of ill-treatment to farm animals.

Mark Spitz (crct) was also ordered to pay $9340 in reparations when he appeared in court yesterday.

Spitz was visited by a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) animal welfare investigator in July 2007 after a complaint was received about dead and starving cattle on properties in the Rotorua area that he farmed.

MAF said the investigator’s first visit found animals in poor condition with insufficient feed available, and two recently dead beef cattle. Many animals had a body condition score (BCS) of three or less on a scale of 1-10.

Spitz was given written notice to improve animal welfare conditions on his properties. The notice included requests to get a veterinarian to assess stock and to meet the animals’ nutritional needs.

Between July and September 2007 MAF animal welfare investigators visited Spitz’s properties and issued further formal notices under the Animal Welfare Act, because he had done very little, if anything, to alleviate the growing concern over his stock, MAF told the court.

There was ongoing concern about pasture coverage of grazing paddocks, and a lack of supplementary feed. An independent farm consultant’s assessment concluded that feeding levels over the properties could be termed “controlled starvation.

“Most animals were in very poor body condition as there was very little feed available and some animals had died while others subsequently had to be euthanased by MAF investigators.”

In September 2007, MAF obtained a temporary enforcement order that directed Spitz to comply with the instructions given by MAF investigators. A follow up visit showed Spitz to be substantially in breach of that order, leaving MAF Investigators with no choice but to obtain a further court order to de-stock his properties.

MAF enforcement acting director Jacqui Pate said Spitz not only repeatedly ignored court orders and requests from inspectors but also made the situation more difficult for inspectors by continually moving stock between properties.

“If he had taken the advice and support offered by MAF staff and veterinarians, and accepted that his animals were in a bad state, he may not be in this position now,” she said.