Auckland SPCA v EZ Step Ltd [2019] NZDC 18316

Published 23 July 2021

Sentencing — animal welfare — failing to provide treatment to an animal — failing to ensure physical health and behavioural needs of animals — severe pain — Animal Welfare Act 1999, ss 10, 11, 12 & 171 — Sentencing Act 2002, ss 106 & 107 — Crimes Act 1961 — R v Hughes [2008] NZCA 546, [2009] 3 NZLR 222 — Z v R [2012] NZCA 599 — Marlborough District Council v Babich Wines Ltd & Sowman [2017] NZDC 23819. The defendant company (a pet shop) appeared for sentence, having pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide treatment to an animal and three charges of failing to ensure physical health and behavioural needs of animals. The defendant had a kitten in its care with a ruptured cornea. When seen by a vet, two days after the condition had noticeably deteriorated, the vet prescribed pain relief and treatment medication for the kitten. The vet noted that treatment had a 50 percent chance of success and, if unsuccessful, the eyeball could be removed; alternatively, euthanasia was an option. The defendant did not pick-up nor administer the pain relief or medication, a day later opting to euthanise the kitten. A vet noted that the kitten would have suffered acute pain at the time of the rupture, and over the following days, considerable and severe pain. The other three charges arose as a result of not providing adequate conditions for several reptiles in the defendant's store.; the enclosures for all three falling well below the standard for good care and welfare of reptiles. The defendant applied for a discharge without conviction, claiming the prosecution had already had an impact on its business. The Judge considered that the offending was of moderate gravity: there was no reasonable excuse for failing to administer the prescribed medication prior to euthanising the kitten, and providing adequate conditions for the reptiles would have been an easy fix. A discharge without conviction was refused and a conviction entered. A starting point for fine was set at $19,000.00, with discounts for lack of prior convictions, remorse, and guilty pleas, taking the final fine to $10,687.50. The SPCA applied under s 171 of the Animal Welfare Act that it be paid the fine, and the Judge made an order accordingly. Judgment Date: 17 September 2019.