WARNING: This story may distress some readers.
A pair of puppy breeders have been sentenced for animal cruelty over the mistreatment of dogs in their care following raids in Copeton near Inverell and Ashmont in Wagga Wagga in 2020.
RSPCA investigators found hundreds of animals kept in appalling conditions and dozens in poor health, living in concrete kennels with no bedding and wet floors covered in fecal matter.
In sentencing, Magistrate Holly Kemp referred to the death of a female boxer named Strawberry.
She said Strawberry was “innately vulnerable, utterly helpless and dependant on humans to ensure the right treatment was offered to her”, Magistrate Kemp explained.
“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.”
The father and daughter, who operated one of the state’s largest intensive companion animal breeding establishments, pleaded guilty and were convicted of 18 offences.
The conviction follows operations carried out in September 2020 by the RSPCA NSW’s Intensive Breeding Taskforce.
After following up on reports that Strawberry had died after not receiving veterinary treatment, inspectors conducted simultaneous searches at Copeton and Ashmont.
A total of 441 dogs were examined, including 250 puppies. Twenty-one adult dogs and 41 puppies were seized, and the defendants were ordered to seek veterinary treatment for another 32 dogs within two to four weeks.
Animals were 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.
The dogs received the necessary care from the RSPCA team and have now been rehomed with rescue groups and families.
Strawberry could not be saved.
RSPCA Chief Veterinarian Liz Arnott determined that the breeding boxer had suffered for almost two days before her death after being stricken with dystocia, a birthing condition considered a veterinary emergency.
RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector Scott Meyers described Strawberry’s untimely death as “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 has 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.”
The court convicted and fined the man a total of $16,700.
The woman was convicted and fined $4,200 for her role in the operation.
The pair agreed to orders sought by RSPCA NSW 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 addition to the reduction in the size of the establishment, the defendants were ordered to pay animal care costs of $150,000 to RSPCA NSW.
It’s not the first time the Copeton puppy farm operators have fronted the court. The facility was also the subject of RSPCA raids in 2015.
If you have animal welfare concerns, call RSPCA NSW to investigate on 1300 CRUELTY.