A FATHER and daughter duo have been fined more than $20,000 for animal cruelty and ordered to pay care costs of more than $150,000 to the RSPCA after property raids revealed "heartbreaking" stories of neglect.
The pair operated an intensive companion animal breeding facility near Inverell and together pleaded guilty to 18 charges for failings at the Copeton property.
The RSPCA NSW's Intensive Breeding Taskforce (IBTF) - dedicated to investigating reports of inadequate conditions and standards at large breeding facilities - raided the property in September 2020, following reports a dog called Strawberry had died after being denied veterinary treatment for a number of days.
RSPCA NSW chief veterinarian, Liz Arnott, determined the 10-month-old boxer had suffered from dystocia, a condition considered to be a veterinary emergency for about 40 hours.
Dystocia is difficulty in expelling a litter of pups during labour, and left untreated, caused Strawberry to suffer systemic illness, weakness, and ultimately led to her premature death.
Inspectors from RSPCA NSW executed simultaneous search warrants at the Copeton property and another linked property in Wagga Wagga on September 16, 2020.
More than 440 dogs - including 250 puppies - were examined. More than 20 adult dogs and 41 puppies were seized during the operation.
The dogs found on the properties were kept inside concrete kennel blocks with no bedding and constantly wet floors. Every dog had wet feet and underbellies, with some covered in liquid faecal matter.
The animals were found to be suffering from a range of health issues including ear infections, severe dental disease, intestinal worms, poor body condition, conjunctivitis, matted coats, wounds, and urine scalding.
Written directions were issued to the defendants to seek veterinary treatment for another 32 of the dogs within two to four weeks.
RSPCA NSW vets subsequently treated the seized dogs, providing medications, pain relief, dental procedures, ear and eye surgeries, grooming, and specialty scans.
The dogs were then surrendered and rehomed.
The court convicted and fined the man a total of $16,700. The woman was convicted and fined $4,200.
The pair agreed to reduce the size of the breeding establishment from 180 bitches and 25 stud dogs to no more than 80 bitches and 25 stud dogs.
In sentencing at Inverell Local Court, Magistrate Holly Kemp said Strawberry was "innately vulnerable, utterly helpless and dependent on humans to ensure the right treatment was offered to her".
"There was a failure on the part of the defendant, as a result of which she endured hours of suffering leading up to her death," she said.
RSPCA NSW chief inspector, Scott Meyers said "the facts in relation to Strawberry are nothing short of heartbreaking".
"The scale of this case highlights the critical role that our Intensive Breeding Task Force plays in the protection and welfare of puppies and their mothers," he said.
"RSPCA NSW have identified approximately 900 breeding facilities in our state, and our team are working tirelessly to inspect each one, to prevent any more animals from suffering at the hands of irresponsible breeders."
This is why we need stronger laws in New South Wales - desperately.- Georgie Purcell
President of animal welfare lobby group Oscar's Law, Georgie Purcell, said the case highlighted the urgent need for legislative change in New South Wales.
"This is why we need stronger laws in New South Wales - desperately. As a comparison, if this happened in Victoria, the perpetrator found guilty of animal cruelty would be banned from running a Domestic Animal Business. It is no wonder New South Wales is becoming the puppy farming capital of Australia," she said.
"On Monday, we will give evidence at the Select Committee on Puppy Farming in New South Wales and demand urgent legislative change to end cruel puppy farming across the state."
The Upper House parliamentary inquiry into puppy farming in New South Wales will hold its second public hearing on Monday, May 23.
Puppy purchasers, foster carers, animal welfare groups, and council and government representatives will give evidence.
More than 900 submissions have been received by the inquiry and there have been over 6,000 responses to an online questionaire, which committee chair, Mick Veitch, said was acknowledgement of the "considerable interest" in the inquiry.
"This will inform our consideration of the Companion Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms) Bill 2021 as well as various animal protection and consumer protection issues associated with the sale of pets from puppy and kitten farms online and in pet shops," Mr Veitch said.
"The committee is keen to hear how the current framework is operating in practice and how it may be improved."
The committee's recommendations are due to be handed to the NSW government in August.
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