Outrage as animal abusers get away with murder
Animal cruelty investigators hope a powerful inquiry could lead to harsher penalties in court after a carer who repeatedly mistreated cats was allowed to keep her shelter and a woman who starved four horses was let off with a fine.
RSPCA NSW chief executive officer Steve Colemon said they often received complaints that the punishment usually does not fit the crime with pet cruelty.
"In my nearly 30 years at RSPCA, I have never seen an individual or company receive a maximum fine - ever," Mr Colemon told The Daily Telegraph.
"I think 'Jeez, when a pet actually dies at the hands of a human and they don't get the maximum penalty in court, what does it take for someone to get the maximum?'"
Several submissions in June to a parliamentary inquiry auditing NSW animal cruelty laws from 1979 called for stronger penalties for people who torture and kill pets.
Out of 15,673 cruelty investigations by the organisation in the 2018/19 financial year, 248 written directions were issued, only 75 people were prosecuted in court and just 37 infringements were handed out.
When explaining the low enforcement numbers, Mr Colton said cruelty was often tough to prove.
"The public has expectations of us as a regulator and that we will do the right thing by animals and get the right result for animals that belong to people who have been prosecuted and not just getting a slap on the wrist," he said.
"But we're hamstrung because of the age of the Act. It's like driving a 2020 car but it has a 1979 engine in it and expecting it to keep pace with everything else."
Mr Colemon said in some cases animals were tied up on chains without being walked, but psychological cruelty was difficult to prove.
"Unless it is skinny, with hair missing we can't prove it. We can prove from a vet scientist that an animal is clearly being tormented," he said.
Mr Colemon said one of the "worst days" for inspectors was when an abused pet was allowed to go back to its owners.
"They are really, really tough days on our staff. We just scratch our heads as to what the point was dealing with it, investigating it, prosecuting it to then have to see the animal go back?" he said.
The government will outline any changes to be made to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act NSW in December.
'WILFUL BLINDNESS TO HAVING CATS TREATED'
A woman from Northern NSW whose job is to protect mistreated animals neglected them - repeatedly.
Yet the Eatonsville animal rescue she has operated for 15 years is still open to this day.
Happy Paws Haven animal rescue owner Sally Ann Rogers, 66, was found to have mistreated hundreds of rescue cats and kittens housed at the charity.
RSPCA inspectors found chronic diarrhoea in most of the 133 cats and kittens, and some with ear infections and rotting teeth.
In 2017, Rogers was banned in the Grafton Local Court from taking on more cats for two years and given a $14,000 fine.
This sentence did not work, because Rodgers offended in February this year.
Inspectors again found felines with chronic ear infections and four cats with the "extremely painful" irreversible tooth and gum damage.
In the Ballina Court in February this year, Rogers was again banned from having cats for two years and fined $11,462.
Magistrate Karen Stafford told the court Rogers displayed a"wilful blindness as to the necessity of having the cats treated".
FINE FOR STARVED HORSES
A Dubbo woman was let off with a fine after leaving dozens of horses starving with no food - four of which had to be put down.
Four of Karen Gorrie's horses with rib, spine and hip bones protruding were found by RSPCA vets to be in such bad condition in 2018 they had to be euthanised.
But in March 2019 in the Dubbo Local Court, the 52-year-old was fined just $1500.
Gorrie told inspectors the horses were in poor condition due to age, poor teeth or as a result of ticks, and admitted she had not called a vet.
Magistrate Wilson told the court the horses were suffering "a significant degree of malnutrition and for a person to allow that deterioration to occur resulting in the horses to be euthanised is quite disturbing."
Originally published as Outrage as animal abusers get away with murder