William Brown

Published on stuff.co.nz 22/05/2019



A Huntly man has been banned for life from owning animals after his attempt to dock the tail of a doberman puppy left it in severe pain with bone and muscle exposed.

William Brown pleaded guilty to performing a significant surgical procedure on an animal and failing to ensure that the animal receives treatment to alleviate any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

He was sentenced in the Huntly District Court to 150 hours’ community work, disqualified from owning animals indefinitely, and ordered to pay the SPCA $954.51.

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen​ said tail docking had no benefit to dogs and should only be carried out for medical reasons by a  veterinarian or a veterinary student under supervision, and the animal must receive pain relief.

Tail docking was favoured among owners of some breeds such as dobermans or rottweilers because it made the dog look more menacing.

“It’s not for any health benefits for the dog. It’s just for that look.”

Midgen said this case was one of the most serious cases of a botched docking the organisation had come across where a dog had to suffer through a long period of pain without veterinary care.

“It’s hard to fathom that someone could see an animal like that and not think that something needed to be sorted on it.”

In May 2017, a  Waikato District animal control officer (ACO) found the puppy named Thimble roaming the streets with a tail wound that looked painful, inflamed, and infected, and visible bone could be seen.

Brown refused to let the ACO take Thimble to a veterinarian, saying that he had called SPCA who were coming the next day and would treat Thimble for free. However, there was no record in the organisation’s system of that call being received or of any request for assistance from the defendant.

On the same day, an SPCA Inspector came to the property and found Thimble cowering, fearful, urinating where he stood, and showing signs of pain and distress.

 Brown surrendered Thimble to the SPCA, and it was taken to a vet clinic in Huntly and given immediate pain relief and first aid.

Thimble was taken from the veterinarian clinic to the SPCA’s hospital in Auckland. The veterinarian’s report at the hospital said Thimble’s tail wound had two centimetres of exposed bone, muscle, and tendon protruding from the skin which had a clearly visible line. An estimated 60 per cent of Thimble’s tail was amputated.

Thimble flinched when his tail was handled, and he also showed signs of ‘learned helplessness’, which is seen in animals who have learnt they cannot escape from painful situations. His injury caused pain and suffering at the time as well as beyond the initial injury.  The damage to his skin, muscle, and nerves was painful and long-lasting, especially with the complicating infection and repeated trauma to the exposed wound. 

Brown admitted to placing a sheep docking rubber band on the dog’s tail in an attempt to dock the tail, but someone had played with the band, causing the tail injury.  He admitted that Thimble had not been microchipped, registered, vaccinated, or seen a vet at any time. 

Midgen said Brown took matters into his own hands and attempted a surgical procedure with devastating results.

“Thankfully, Thimble was adopted by his loving forever home after extensive care by the SPCA’s canine team, and never again has to live in pain or fear.”