Court ‘activism’ needed in animal cruelty matters like Gunnedah koolie case: rescuer

One of the dogs seized from the Gunnedah property. Photo: RSPCA
One of the dogs seized from the Gunnedah property. Photo: RSPCA

AN ANIMAL rescuer in the region has challenged courts to “activism” to catch up with community sentiment in cruelty cases such as the recent one in Gunnedah.

Dogs Without Borders’ Judy Scrivener said that without heavy enough penalties or conditions, puppy farmers convicted of cruelty could simply set up shop in another part of the state or country.

“I’d like to challenge the judicial system – why doesn’t some magistrate or judge start to practise activism within our court system and set some precedents that have some solid weight?” Mrs Scrivener said.

The former solicitor spoke with The Leader after 62-year-old Leith Gatenby of Gunnedah was convicted of nine charges of animal cruelty in the local court last week.

RSPCA NSW inspectors had seized 51 dogs from “squalid conditions with an array of untreated serious health issues”.

Gatenby pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to a female koolie, which had to be put down, and eight charges of failing to provide vet care for dogs, including 36 that were emaciated and 50 with gastrointestinal parasites.

She was ordered to pay $135,000 in costs and fines, and banned from owning more than five desexed dogs.


Leader readers responded to our online reports on the case with shock that Gatenby would still be allowed to own animals.

“How can they allow her to have any dogs after finding the dogs in such terrible condition! The courts need to put [sic] tougher and impose lifetime bans on these people,” one wrote.

Mrs Scrivener said “the courts need to give more weight to the suffering of animals that do nothing but make money for these people who have absolute disregard for our judicial system and animal welfare”.

“The most typical thing done when puppy farmers are prosecuted – they move town, they move states, they advertise under multiple names,” she said.

“I certainly think that the courts need to step up and actually make it part of the conditions, whether bail or reporting conditions, that with any change of residence they must … notify both their bail person or certainly the RSPCA.”

Mrs Scrivener said offenders “forfeited the right to be accepted as a normal, caring community member”.

“If you can turn away every single day from suffering at that level those dogs were at, that shows a desensitisation to feelings – and that is, in my opinion, very serious.”


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