Michael Joseph Wilson, who was sentenced in the Dunedin
District Court yesterday to five months' home detention and
banned from possessing or owning any animal for five years.
Photo by ODT.
A man's appalling and woeful treatment of hens on a
property described as "a death camp for chickens" was
aggravated by amount of time it would have taken for them to
get to the point where they were dying or almost dying of
starvation or ill-treatment.
Their distress must have been obvious and could only have
continued through callous indifference to their suffering,
Judge Stephen Coyle said.
Michael Joseph Wilson (40), fitter and turner, was before the
Dunedin District Court yesterday having admitted recklessly
ill-treating hens resulting in them dying, and ill-treating
hens, at Waitati, between June 2 and 9 last year.
He was convicted and sentenced to five months' home detention
on the "reckless" charge, with a concurrent three-month term
on the other charge.
The judge also ordered that he not possess or own any animal
for five years. And he is to pay $1357 reparation to the SPCA
and $3000 costs.
The summary said complaints from the public resulted in an
SPCA inspection of the Double Hill property on June 2 last
There were about 200 hens on the property. About 20 hens had
signs of stress and the hens were showing classic symptoms of
Wilson said he would be selling the hens. The 20 stressed
hens would be euthanised.
On June 9, inspectors returned to the property.
An estimated 100 hens could be seen. There were sick and
It was clear the hens were extremely hungry.
They gathered around the inspectors' vehicle and a large
number flew on to the open tailgate pecking at anything the
In one place a hen was pecking at two dead hens. In another
place a sick hen being pecked by another hen was not
responding to the pecking.
In a third place, there were eight dead hens and a sick hen
with a few hens pecking at them.
The only apparent water supply was a very dirty and muddy
pond. All water containers found were empty.
The veterinary postmortem report indicated no evidence of the
hens having been fed.
It appeared the only content of their intestines was mud.
Prosecuting counsel Bill Wright submitted the offending was
serious and aggravated by a history of complaints about
Wilson's animal care.
A total of 48 hens had to be euthanised. The SPCA had tried
for many months to try and help Wilson.
Counsel Andrew Dawson said the prosecution related to an
under-resourced and under-prepared commercial venture.
Wilson accepted he should have asked for more help.
He unequivocally accepted responsibility.
He was co-operative with the SPCA investigators when
interviewed and would comply with any sentence imposed by the
Wilson had no relevant previous convictions.
Judge Coyle described Wilson's care of the hens as "nothing
short of woefully inadequate and inhumane".
The hens deserved to be properly looked after and given
adequate food and water, he said.
From the summary of facts emerged a picture of a gradually
deteriorating standard of care.
The SPCA had tried for at least a year work with Wilson in
regard to the treatment of animals.
The veterinarian's description of the site as "a death camp
for chickens" seemed apt; and the number of dead and dying
hens an accurate reflection of how they had been treated.
Their starvation did not happen overnight. It was something
to which Wilson could not have turned a blind eye.
If he been anywhere near them, it would have been as obvious
to him as to the SPCA that they were starving.
Wilson had blamed factors including a lack of money, the
"There was the option of euthanising the hens. They are not
hard to kill humanely," he told Wilson.
Imposing five months' home detention, the judge said had the
sentence been one of imprisonment it would have been 11 and