SPCA List of Shame 2021: New Zealand's ten worst animal cruelty cases of the last year exposed

Warning: This article contains images and descriptions of animal suffering that may disturb readers.

A duffle bag filled with puppies dumped in a river, a dog emaciated beyond recognition and a flock of sheep riddled with maggots are among the horror stories brought to light in the SPCA's 2021 List of Shame.

The list, published every year to expose New Zealand's worst cases of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect, was released by the charity on Tuesday morning.

This year's version features 10 cases - from the more than 15,000 callouts attended by SPCA staff attended in 2020 - in which animals have experienced severe suffering, many at the hands of their owners.

The List of Shame 2021

One of the faces of this year's campaign is Louie, a dog who was discovered by SPCA Inspectorates with a partially degloved leg, rotting teeth and flesh, and severely matted fur that was infested with fleas.

Vets carried out surgeries to save him - but despite an "incredible transformation" across six weeks, Louie had to be put down after a series of seizures stunted his recovery. His owner has since been disqualified from owning animals for five years.

Louie, before and after his rescue.
Louie, before and after his rescue. Photo credit: Supplied / SPCA

Tragically, that was just one of several sickening examples of animal cruelty in Aotearoa over the last few years - some of which are too graphic to show images of.

Another saw three south Auckland puppies placed in a duffle bag alongside a weight and dumped in the Waikato River, their legs and muzzles bound with tape. The 15-week-old dogs were discovered by a family out for a walk.

No one was ever charged for the offence.
No one was ever charged for the offence. Photo credit: Supplied / SPCA

The tape and weight were sent for fingerprint testing, but the bag was deemed to have been underwater for a significant period of time and the offender was never identified.

Meanwhile in Canterbury, bull mastiff Bolo was rescued by Inspectorates after his owner was caught on camera beating him with a plank of wood. A vet check-up found the distressed pup had suffered a shoulder injury, internal injuries, muscle damage and wounds to his face.

While Bolo made a good recovery, his former owner was sentenced to 150 hours' community work, a $1500 fine and disqualified from owning dogs for three years.

Among the other cases was a dog tied up and starved to death, another left anaemic and emaciated, horses and a flock of sheep riddled with maggots and left in faeces-covered paddocks, and five neglected cats that had to be euthanised due to severe infection and conjunctivitis.

Girl was found emaciated beyond belief, but recovered and was later adopted.
Girl was found emaciated beyond belief, but recovered and was later adopted. Photo credit: Supplied / SPCA

A wild duck struck by a firework, a group of pet rabbits left dehydrated and starving, and an abandoned dog covered in mange rounded out the rest of the list.

On most occasions, an owner was identified and sentenced for abuse or neglect. On others, the criminals responsible were never found.

'It's time NZers get with the programme'

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen says seeing animals in suffering like those on the List of Shame is "so tough" - especially with the efforts the charity goes to to prevent it from occurring.

But those on the list represent just a fraction of the 15,000 animals the SPCA was called out to rescue last year - and Midgen believes it's important for Kiwis to know just how bad the conditions are.

"It's our way of sharing with New Zealanders the really tough times our Inspectorates go through and situations they deal with. It also helps educate people and make them think 'have I seen something?' or 'am I involved in something?' and report it," she told Newshub.

"We appreciate that the list can be deeply distressing, but... we need to detail these cases to raise awareness of  the devastating animal abuse we continue to see in New Zealand."

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen.
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen. Photo credit: Supplied

Animal welfare remains a significant issue in New Zealand. The SPCA alone - just one of dozens of animal welfare organisations across the country - treated more than 40,000 animals last year.

Midgen says while it works "incredibly hard" to protect the nation's most vulnerable animals, the List of Shame makes it clear that violence towards animals continues to prevail here.

"The horrific cases from this year's list reminds us that there is still much to be done to tackle the issue of animal abuse, and we're determined to give these animals the life they so desperately need and deserve."

Part of the solution is to educate the next generation of animal owners. Midgen says the cases SPCA staff are called to are a mixture of deliberate cruelty and Kiwis ignorant about how to treat animals well.

"It's much easier to help and support and educate people who haven't quite got it right, to get it right," she explained.

"Education is a big thing in this space. We have a big programme in primary and intermediate schools, which is teaching children about responsible pet ownership, animal sentience and compassion for animals.

"So future generations are going to be really up to speed on this one, and we should see it come down a huge amount."

Midgen said animal owners need to understand how their actions affect the animals in their lives.

"It's time for New Zealanders to get with the programme and understand these are sentient beings. Animals feel pain, distress, harm, hurt just like we do as humans - and it needs to stop."

'We have more work than we can deal with'

Midgen says there are two main ways the public can help the SPCA prevent other animals being abused.

The first is to report any suspected cases of abuse or neglect, so Inspectors can investigate.

The second is to contribute to its Annual Appeal, which will run for a week from next Monday, March 1. The appeal is a push for public funding for the charity, which costs $47 million annually to operate.

A big chunk of the money - more than $10 million - is required to run the SPCA's Inspectorate programme, which is the service focused on rescuing animals and prosecuting offenders.

The SPCA receives $2.5 million from the Government to run this service - making up about 5 percent of its total operating costs - but the charity relies on public donations to pay its 600 employees and run its 40 centres.

"We have more work than we can deal with, so it's quite a challenge for us to deliver the right level of service to animal needs out there," Midgen told Newshub.

"Please help our appeal - we have no idea how well it's going to run with the COVID-19 situation."

The SPCA encourages those who wish to help them financially to give to street collectors across New Zealand between March 1-7, or by donating online.