Dunedin man left dog's injury left untreated

A man's dog has been taken away from him because he failed to get treatment for the animal after it broke its leg jumping out of a window.

Daniel Alan Penman, also known as Morrell (26), unemployed, appeared before Judge Paul Kellar in the Dunedin District Court yesterday and admitted breaching the Animal Welfare Act by failing to comply with requests to obtain treatment for the injured dog.

He was sentenced to 70 hours' community work and ordered to pay $500 reparation to the SPCA. Judge Kellar also ordered forfeiture of the dog, a male Labrador-collie cross named Ghost, so it could be properly cared for and a good home found for it.

A second charge of ill-treating the dog was withdrawn at the request of prosecuting counsel Bill Wright.

The court was told the SPCA received a complaint on August 6 about a dog unable to bear weight on its right hind leg at a flat in Haddon Pl. An inspector went to the address and could clearly see a black and white dog inside. It was holding up its right hind leg as if injured and appeared unable to bear any weight on it. The inspector received no reply to repeated knocking so taped a notice to the door asking the owner to make urgent contact.

The next day, the inspector received a text from another occupant of the flat saying the dog's owner did not think the animal's injury was serious but the texter did. The text said the dog was hurt when it jumped out a window and got its leg caught between the latch and the ledge.

Later the same day, two inspectors returned to the Haddon Pl property. Nobody was home but they could see a dog inside so another notice was taped to the door instructing the owner to mitigate the animal's suffering and asking him to contact them before 10am the next day.

No contact was made and the inspectors went back with a search warrant the following day, August 8. The inspectors asked a female occupant if they could see the dog. She said the owner was in his bedroom and the dog was also in there. When the young woman brought the dog to the inspectors, they could see it was not putting any weight on its right hind leg and the woman said the animal was sore when it moved.

The two inspectors spoke to the dog's owner, Penman/Morrell. He said he had no money but when he was asked to sign the dog over to the SPCA so care could be arranged for it, he refused.

He was advised and cautioned about offences under the Animal Welfare Act and agreed the dog could be taken to a veterinarian but he twice refused to go with the dog and the inspectors. He also refused to carry the dog out to the animal rescue vehicle so a male friend carried the animal while Penman/Morrell remained inside the flat.

A veterinary report showed the dog was very sore in the hock area and X-rays revealed a non-displaced W-shaped fracture of the tibia, Mr Wright said.

The dog was given pain relief, its leg was bandaged and the animal was kept at the veterinary clinic for two nights.

Penman/Morrell did not try to contact the SPCA and on August 16, when he was asked to sign Ghost over to the SPCA, he refused, saying he did not want to lose him, that the dog meant the world to him.

He said he thought the dog was "faking it" as it had injured itself in the past and had come right. He said he was waiting to see if this would happen again. Arrangements were made for him to make a written statement to inspectors later that day but he did not keep the appointment.

Judge Kellar said he was prepared to accept Penman/Morrell was an otherwise responsible dog owner as the animal's overall condition was good. But the fact remained, the injury was assessed as having been there for about two days so the animal had suffered to a greater extent than it should have. And it was known dogs were able to endure a higher level of pain than humans.

While the defendant could not afford to pay a fine, the key sentencing component had to be to deter him and others from not properly caring for their animals, the judge said. He took into account Penman/Morrell's guilty plea and gave him credit for having no relevant prior convictions.