Published on Stuff.co.nz on October 13 2017
A New Plymouth dog owner who kept two malnourished dogs inside a fetid-smelling house without proper care for a year has been banned from owning dogs for five years.
Tansley Morere Ratapu, 47, appeared for sentencing in the New Plymouth District Court on Friday on two charges under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 of failing to ensure an animal received treatment, and failing to ensure the physical health and welfare needs of two dogs were met.
Ratapu had earlier pleaded guilty to both charges.
The dogs were discovered by an SPCA inspector in September 2016 after a call from the public alerted the organisation of three dogs living in house, the court heard.
Two other dogs, Kasey and Keita, were seen living inside the house among rubbish, half eaten dog food, dog faeces, and little water to drink.
Keita was pregnant and underweight with rib and hip bones visible, while Kasey was in a reasonable condition, the court heard.
A week later a search warrant was granted for the SPCA to go inside the house. A veterinarian found Keita’s health had worsened and the dog had bite marks around its head and ears, and hair loss.
There was no food, or water for the dogs inside the house.
In sentencing Judge Kevin Glubb said Ratapu had accepted responsibility for the dogs’ care.
Ratapu had previously told the SPCA the dogs had been living in the damp, badly aerated house for a year and he would attend to them twice a week.
But in the six weeks before the SPCA visited the house, he had only been going to the house once a week.
It was clear from the condition of the dogs that the lack of care had been going on for some time, Judge Glubb said.
There had been a breach of trust by Ratapu as the animals were reliant on him as their owner, he said.
There was also an element of vulnerability as one of the dogs was pregnant and needed greater care.
Ratapu was sentenced to 120 hours community work and ordered to pay $3183.80 reparation to the SPCA, at a rate of $30 a week.
He was also banned from owning any dogs for the next five years.
Both dogs were forfeited to the care of the SPCA.
The penalty for each charge is 12 months jail and/or a $50,000 fine.
SPCA North Taranaki spokeswoman Jackie Poles Smith said the sentence sent a clear signal to the public that animal neglect was not acceptable.
“It is important that he was held accountable because animal cruelty and neglect is not tolerated in our society,” she said.
“We extremely happy the ownership of the dogs has been forfeited to the SPCA.
“It is very important he is not allowed to own dogs for another five years because it is proven he is not capable of owning a dog.”
Poles Smith said the organisation witnessed a lot of animal cruelty.
“Unfortunately we get a lot of these sort of cases but not to this severity.
“We are reliant on the public to let us know when they see this sort of cruelty happening so we can act.”