Animal Welfare

Record Prison Sentence for Petting Zoo Owner.

The following article contains items that may be confronting to readers.

Convicted animal cruelty offender 30-year-old Daniel Brighton appeared in Campbelltown Local Court today and was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 26 months, the longest custodial sentence imposed for an RSPCA NSW prosecution.

Mr Brighton, owner of mobile petting zoo Get Wild Experiences, was convicted of two offences of serious animal cruelty on Wednesday last week, for stabbing a dog with a pitchfork, hanging him from a tree and beating him with a mallet.

RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector Scott Meyers said, “The evidence shows the defendant ultimately killed a dog after inflicting severe pain and suffering to him over a long period of time. It is shocking and inexcusable. This dog was someone’s pet and he suffered a torturous death.”

During the hearing over three days at Campbelltown Local Court, the Court heard that on 16 January 2016, Mr Brighton fended off two dogs attacking his camel Alice at his Minto property.

The Court heard that Mr Brighton captured one of the dogs, tied the dog to a tree and left the dog there while he sought pain relief for Alice.

Before leaving the property, he armed himself with a pitchfork and stabbed the dog at least six times from above his head and down into the dog’s body. A subsequent postmortem of the dog’s bones revealed the pitchfork left three thin linear scratch marks on the second vertebra behind the dog’s skull.

He left the pitchfork protruding from the motionless dog (at an angle of approximately 45 degrees) and left to go to the vet.

Some time later, Mr Brighton returned from the vet and proceeded to drag the dog to another location. He realised the dog was still alive when he began to lethargically walk beside him, exclaiming, “It fucking stood up!” and, “It just won’t die; it’s alive”.

He strung the dog to a tree branch and, whilst swinging a mallet like a baseball bat, hit the dog’s skull up to eight times. The beating fractured the right cheekbone of the dog towards his nose. An expert veterinarian determined this was not a fatal nor close-to-fatal injury.

He then placed the dog into plastic bags, wrapped him in towels, and instructed an employee to bury him in the bush.

On 31 August 2017, RSPCA NSW executed a search warrant at the property and the dog was exhumed.

An expert veterinarian forensic pathologist from Taronga Zoo determined that the stabbing and the beating was unlikely to have caused the death of the dog. In her opinion, the forensic evidence showed a repeated and violent attack on the dog.

Inspector Meyers urged people to be humane in their dealings with animals, saying, “Animals are sentient. They deserve humane treatment and there is no excuse for the torture of an animal.”

“We would expect a higher level of respect towards animals from someone who owns and operates businesses under licence involving animals.

“Owners have obligations to ensure their pets are securely housed. We know further that the dog that escaped that night caused significant injuries to Alice the camel. That in no way excuses the actions of the defendant in this matter.

RSPCA NSW reminds people that unaccompanied dogs should be immediately reported to the local council or rangers who are trained to manage the situation.

Mr Brighton has filed for an appeal which is due to be heard initially in the Supreme Court on 3 July 2019. A bail application will be made at 2 p.m. today.