Social worker guilty of animal cruelty

A man accused of putting a cat in a plastic bag before throwing it under cars because it was the "quickest way" to kill the animal has been found guilty of ill-treatment.

Vincent Paul Fleming was found guilty at the Auckland District Court of a charge of cruelty to animals after a defended hearing today.

Fleming, an unemployed social worker, told police he found his flatmate's cat dead behind his home in Mt Roskill, Auckland in January and repeated that evidence today in court.

But Judge Heemi Taumaunu rejected Fleming's evidence and described his behaviour as "bizarre".

Constable Matthew Bunce told the court Fleming told him the cat had been hit by a car.

He said Fleming told him he had "kicked at it and it did nothing". He put the dead cat in a bag and took it to a dairy on Boundary Rd.

Mr Bunce said he also asked Fleming how he knew the cat was dead. Fleming responded: "Its head was squashed and it was bleeding ... I chucked it under some cars to make sure it was dead. It was buggered ..."

Asked why he didn't take it to the vet to be put down humanely, Fleming said chucking it under cars was the "quickest way" and he had never thought of taking the animal to the vet.

Fleming said he dumped the cat in a rubbish bin outside a dairy "because that's where I put all my rubbish".

Mr Bunce said police responded after being tipped off by an informant, and searched a riverbank before finding the dead cat in the rubbish bin.

Under cross-examination by Fleming's lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, Mr Bunce confirmed that Fleming believed the cat was already dead before he threw it under cars.

He also said the personal details Fleming gave to police were all correct.

Earlier, Ms Dyhrberg unsuccessfully opposed a media application for cameras in court. She said her client had been attacked outside his home shortly after his arrest.

The attackers came at Fleming from behind, called him a "cruel bastard" and knocked him out, she said.

Police couldn't act because Fleming could not identify his attackers.

Ms Dyhrberg said there was a risk of a vigilante reaction from members of the public if her client's photo was published.

She also said her client hoped to return to his profession as a counsellor and social worker.

But Judge Heemi Taumaunu said those who allegedly attacked Fleming already know what he looks like and where he lives. He said the principle of open justice outweighed those concerns.

- Edward Gay APNZ court reporter

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