'Totally unacceptable': Taihape farmer prosecuted over mistreatment of sheep

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A Taihape farmer has been banned from owning, exercising authority over, or being in charge of any farm animals for five years after the deaths of dozens of ewes on his farm.

Sixty-five-year-old William (Bill) Chase earlier pleaded guilty to four charges under the Animal Welfare Act,  including two charges of reckless ill-treatment of an animal resulting in the animal's death, when he was sentenced in the Palmerston District Court.

He was also ordered to serve three months community detention.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said animal welfare inspectors responded to a complaint about the welfare of his animals in August 2017.

They found 30 ewes in various states of decomposition as well as dying ewes,  22 of which were so emaciated they had to be euthanised to end their suffering.

One third (100) of the remaining ewes on the property were assessed by a veterinarian as having a body condition score of 1 or less. The Code of Welfare governing sheep and beef cattle requires that urgent remedial action must be taken to improve the condition of any animal in this state, or the animal must be destroyed humanely.

MPI's Manager of Animal Welfare Compliance Gray Harrison said the scene that greeted the MPI animal welfare inspectors was extremely unpleasant.

"It was obvious Mr Chase had shown a complete lack of animal husbandry and supervision including a failure to provide enough food for the ewes in his care and failing to sheer, crutch, dag and drench them," he said.

"This situation could've been avoided if Mr Chase had supervised and looked after his animals properly," said Harrison.

He said the Animal Welfare Act imposes a duty of care on owners and people in charge of animals, to meet their animals' physical, health and behavioural needs and to provide treatment that alleviates pain and distress suffered by any ill or injured animals.

"The Code of Welfare for Sheep and Beef Cattle expands on the requirements of the Act."

"Sheep need to be checked regularly, but even more closely when they are fully-fleeced, close to lambing and in poor condition, so that remedial action can be taken if necessary."

He said the condition of the animals was totally unacceptable. 

"We never find these sorts of cases easy. But we always ensure we take the appropriate action to penalise people who treat animals this way."

MPI encourages anyone with animal welfare complaints to use its confidential hotline number: 0800 00 83 33.