Published on stuff.co.nz 22/06/2018
A Nelson judge found himself in a “very difficult position” when finding an appropriate sentence for a 77-year-old Richmond farmer charged with animal cruelty.
Inspections of a Redwood Valley beef farm belonging to Raymond Albert Gardner, 77, uncovered dead, rotting, and dying calves, cows in “obvious pain and distress” with skin sores and diarrhoea, and cattle housed in a shed that was a “deep boggy mix of sawdust, mud, water and effluent”.
Gardner was sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Friday on three charges of failing to provide treatment to ill and injured animals, three of failing to meet animals’ needs, three of keeping a suffering animal alive, and two of ill-treating an animal.
Judge David Ruth said at sentencing it was “serious-end offending”, but the court had found itself in a difficult position determining a suitable sentence.
“If he was a younger man he’d go to jail … because of his age and circumstances imprisonment would be quite inappropriate and so home detention is also out of the equation.”
In a some instances he thought calves in his care had already died – one “moribund” calf was outside the pens, half buried in mud and Gardner told inspectors it was dead; it was found to be still breathing.
A further nine calves were found dead, and Gardner said they’d died from scours as he’d been feeding them a mix of lamb’s milk powder and green-top milk as he hadn’t been able to get calf milk powder.
One calf was found alive but “collapsed”, “emaciated” and “flyblown” with mature maggots and new eggs, and had to be euthanised immediately by a vet.
Despite being given a treatment plan involving electrolytes and proper feeding regime, over the course of months Gardner failed to improve the conditions on the farm, and was charged with animal cruelty.
In sentencing, Judge Ruth said Gardner couldn’t do community work, due again to his age and personal circumstances.
He agreed with Ministry of Primary Industries lawyer Julie Wotton’s calculations for an appropriate fine, which had a starting point of more than $50,000.
However, even if he applied generous, but feasible, discounts based on personal circumstances and guilty pleas, it would still be more than $20,000 – “out of the question” in terms of what Gardner’s assets and finances.
Judge Ruth was aware Gardner had suffered a serious injury and it appeared that had affected his ability to manage animals.
“Otherwise, simply on the face of it, the evidence before me would indicate totally callous and cruel behaviour, otherwise inexplicable.”