Animal Welfare

Animal Rescue Founder Convicted and Sentenced for Multiple Cruelty Offences

Repeat animal cruelty offender and founder of Northern NSW animal rescue Happy Paws Haven was convicted and sentenced at Ballina Local Court on 11 February 2020 of two counts of failing to provide necessary veterinary treatment to eight cats under her care.

The 69-year-old woman, who was previously convicted of animal cruelty offences in 2017, was sentenced to a three-year community corrections order, subject to the conditions that during the term of the order she be of good behaviour and appears before the court if required. She was ordered to forfeit custody of the eight cats within 28 days and was banned from purchasing, acquiring or taking possession or custody of any feline for a period of two years. She was also ordered to pay costs of $11,462 to RSPCA NSW.

On 31 July 2017, a team of RSPCA inspectors and veterinarians attended the woman’s Eatonsville property, where they assessed the condition of 58 cats and kittens. Every cat was photographed and identified, and blood and other samples taken. She was issued written directions to obtain veterinary treatment for medical issues identified in eight of the cats, including timeframes for compliance that ranged from immediate action to the provision of treatment or further consultation within seven days.

The vets determined that there was a failure to provide necessary vet treatment to six cats for moderate to severe dental disease for a period not less than three weeks prior to examination. Two cats were found to have Grade 3 dental disease. Four cats were found to have Grade 4 dental disease, the most advanced stage of the disease, which is irreversible and associated with severe inflammation and ulceration of the soft tissues in the oral cavity, gum recession, loose or missing teeth, infection and purulent discharge at the gum line. It is an extremely painful and debilitating condition and caused the cats unnecessary pain and suffering.

The vets determined that there was a failure to provide necessary vet treatment to four cats for chronic infections of the external ear canals (otitis externa). The condition would have been present and identifiable by a person caring for the cats for a period no less than seven days prior to examination. Left untreated, the condition causes significant inflammation and pain and can lead to the rupture of the ear drum, risking the development of middle or internal ear infections capable of spreading to the brain.

Magistrate Stafford commented that the defendant demonstrated a “degree of arrogance toward the RSPCA’s opinion” and that there seemed to be a “wilful blindness as to the necessity of having the cats treated”.

RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector Scott Meyers said, “It is unfortunate that a person in charge of an animal welfare rescue group has committed these offences towards animals in her care.”

“This conviction represents the importance of thorough and routine vet examinations to maintain the optimum health and wellbeing of animals in a person’s care, particularly as an animal rescue group, which has a higher expectation placed up on them by the community to properly look after and provide necessary treatment to their rescue animals. It is the second time the defendant has been charged and convicted for failing in that responsibility.”