Australia's RSPCA reacts to NZ allegations about fleeing puppy farmer Dora Ryan, say they could complicate extradition

Australia's RSPCA says fresh accusations of animal neglect against a convicted puppy farmer who fled to New Zealand under a new identity are "hugely concerning", and may complicate efforts to extradite her for sentencing.

Newshub this week revealed disgraced South Australian breeder Dora Ryan moved to a rural property in Kaitaia, Northland in late 2020 with 26 horses and a large number of dogs before she could be sentenced on 33 counts of animal ill-treatment.

Two people who've been in contact with Ryan since she moved to New Zealand told Newshub she's mistreating animals again, but under a different name. They say they've seen horses that were underfed, showing symptoms of calcium deficiency, and covered in lice and ticks.

One of these people - Far North horse transporter Letetia Kelly - reported the alleged mistreatment to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and SPCA in February, but only learned of Ryan's true identity this week when she saw Australian news coverage about her.

A spokesperson for RSPCA South Australia says it didn't come as a shock to hear more accusations of animal mistreatment had been brought against Ryan in New Zealand, as she has a history of taking on far more animals than she can adequately care for.

"[The allegations] are not entirely surprising, because it seems that she doesn't know any other way to make an income other than breeding and selling animals," Carolyn Jones told Newshub.

Dora Ryan with one of her horses.
Dora Ryan with one of her horses. Photo credit: Facebook

"It's hugely concerning, because that's an enormous number of animals for a single person to be caring for, and we don't know what support she's getting in the care of those animals.

"Clearly it's outside of our jurisdiction what's happening to animals in New Zealand, but we know that our counterparts at the SPCA are investigating the matter following reports."

However she says the fresh animal welfare concerns in New Zealand may hamper their efforts to extradite her back to Australia to face the punishment she is due.

"Being such a serious matter, we would like to see it properly finalised," Jones said of Ryan's sentencing.

"We of course, though, share the SPCA's concerns for the welfare of animals she now has in her care. So any extradition would need to take into account the ongoing care of those animals, and that adds another layer of complication to how this matter is dealt with.

"But definitely we are very disappointed she chose to ignore the finalisation of this judicial process, and instead appears to have re-established herself and potentially a similar operation across the waters."

A photo taken of one of the horses owned by Ryan in Kaitaia.
A photo taken of one of the horses owned by Ryan in Kaitaia. Photo credit: Supplied

The RSPCA says it first became aware Ryan had fled across the Tasman in early January, when an Australian citizen with links to New Zealand alerted them to her purchasing a property.

The chief inspector immediately alerted the SPCA, and discussed their concerns she would continue to mistreat animals in New Zealand.

One person, who spoke to Newshub on the condition of anonymity, said they could tell soon after meeting Ryan's horses in Northland that they were in an unhealthy state. She said it seemed Ryan had no knowledge of how to look after them properly.

"They were in exceptionally bad condition… they have all sorts of issues and injuries. Their feet aren't being looked after, they have dietary issues," the person explained.

"[Ryan] had nothing for the horses to eat. She has no knowledge of what to feed them, she doesn't know they need salt to stay healthy. It's clear she doesn't know how to handle them in the slightest."

Horse transporter Kelly says it's likely Ryan's horses have deteriorated further in recent weeks, and she knows of the death of at least one stallion and the stillbirth of a foal.

A horse found on the South Australia property where Ryan kept animals.
A horse found on the South Australia property where Ryan kept animals. Photo credit: RSPCA

Jones says the nature of the claims against Ryan in New Zealand are in keeping with what the RSPCA had seen during inspections of her property in Port Pirie, South Australia, where horses were found emaciated and dogs lived in squalid enclosures covered in faeces, urine and rotting bones.

Across two inspections two years apart, a total of 33 animals were seized from Ryan's property - four of which were in such poor condition they had to be euthanised. Ryan was later found guilty of 33 charges of animal ill-treatment.

"It's hard to know how anybody could not know that their animals were suffering given the condition in which these animals were found," Jones said.

"Some were in a shocking condition. How anybody could not see that these animals were suffering and in some cases, in need of immediate veterinary care, is beyond most people's comprehension."