Court Outcome: Bull Terrier Breeder Charged

Animal Welfare Rescue RSPCA Inspectors Posted May 19, 2021
Bull Terrier breeder pleads guilty to inappropriate living conditions for 110 Bull Terriers and failure to provide veterinary treatment.
Sharon McAdam appeared in Gladstone Magistrates Court on Wednesday August 7, 2019. 

At the time of the offences, the defendant was the person in charge of 87 Bull Terrier type dogs and 23 Bull Terrier type puppies. She owned 102 of those dogs and puppies, and there were 8 dogs in her possession that were owned by other people. 

The dogs were all kept at her property.

The defendant operated a successful dog breeding business under the name of Kupala Bull Terriers and had done so since 1985.

In the two years prior to the offence dates, the defendant had bred at least 36 litters of puppies, resulting in at least 135 puppies.

In September 2018, the defendant sold a Bull Terrier puppy named ‘Murphy’ to a purchaser. Murphy was flown from Queensland to the purchaser in Western Australia. On 17 September 2018, the purchaser collected the puppy Murphy from the airport, and took him to a veterinarian the following day. Murphy was examined by a veterinarian at Halls Head Small Animal Clinic who noted that he had very marginal tartar especially on the upper carnassial teeth, a generalised mange appearance, alopecia and crusting over his entire body affecting the face, legs, ventrum, dorsum and feet, and extremely inflamed skin. Murphy also had bilateral inflammation of the conjunctiva (eye infections). He looked extremely pruritic (itchy from skin disease) and depressed.

Vets stated that these conditions required treatment, and would have been obvious to a lay person for at least a week.

On 16 October 2018, an RSPCA Inspector attended the defendant’s parents’ property and spoke with McAdams about welfare concerns reported about Murphy. The Inspector sighted two other Bull Terrier dogs at the Gladstone property. They were the only dogs at the property and had no welfare concerns. 

On 28 November 2018, an RSPCA Inspector attended the defendant’s property to address allegations relating to the welfare of dogs on the property. The initial report was that there were approximately 5 dogs on the property. 

The Inspector walked to the house and did not see any dogs. He spoke with the defendant’s husband who stated that there were dogs on the property which were being used in a breeding operation conducted by the defendant. The defendant’s husband led the Inspector to a garage area near to the house, where the Inspector sighted 13 dogs housed in small crates, and none of these dogs had access to water.

The temperature in Gladstone that day was just over 32 degrees Celsius. The Inspector directed the defendant’s husband to provide the dogs with water, and noted that he did not have enough containers to put one in each crate.

The defendant’s husband stated that he was overwhelmed and glad that the RSPCA had attended, as he had already planned on asking for help.

The defendant’s husband said to the Inspector, there were “a lot more dogs to see”.

The defendant’s husband directed the Inspector to the dwelling and the defendant came out of the house. She agreed to show the Inspector the remaining animals at the property.

RSPCA Investigations uncovered 110 dogs living in appalling conditions at the property.
Evidence photos and video really paint the grim picture of how these pets lived out their day-to-day life. 

Inappropriate Living Conditions

The animals were living in inappropriate conditions. The dogs and puppies were spread out in cages and enclosures at the rear and side of the property, unable to be seen from the road and not apparent from the house. 

Many of the animals did not have access to water, or appropriate water. Many of the animals were living in small cages, the bases of which were covered in urine and faeces. Some of the animals could not stand up or turn around in cages without touching the sides or roof. Some cages were damaged, causing wire to poke out and cause a hazard to the animals. Some of the animals were housed in areas with insufficient ventilation, and which were extremely hot. The putrid stench coming from the areas was overwhelming. There were dogs and puppies kept in a whelping room where the smell of ammonia was overpowering.

As a result of the welfare concerns identified, and in consultation with the Chief Inspector, all animals on the property were seized by the Inspector.

When informed of the decision to seize the animals, the female defendant stated that they belonged to her and not her husband.

The defendant was cooperative and surrendered ownership of all the dogs she owned to the RSPCA (102 dogs), and consented to the seizure of the remaining dogs not owned by her.

The Inspector was not sufficiently resourced to deal with such a large scale seizure.

The number of dogs involved was entirely unexpected.

The complainant Inspector and a team of animal attendants and Inspectors were deployed from Brisbane and Rockhampton to assist.

The extraction of the dogs took place the following day.

All dogs and puppies were removed from the property on November 29. You can read the timeline of events here.

dogs suffering in heat rspca inspectors

During the rescue, Inspectors noted poor ventilation in the garage and the extreme temperature. There was an overpowering smell of ammonia and faeces. The bases of all the enclosures were covered in urine, urine soaked newspaper, and faeces.

bull terriers living in crates rspca inspectors

The dogs did not have access to appropriate bedding and could not display normal patterns of behaviour. Some of the dogs were observed pawing at the cages and vocalising in a manner that indicated they were distressed.

bull terrier dog breeder in queensland charged

Puppies and four other dogs were also housed inappropriately in the whelping room situated in the garage. The smell of ammonia emanating from this room was overpowering. There were two dogs housed in pens, and two dogs housed in transport crates. There were six puppies approximately six weeks of age housed in a round plastic tub. 

bull terriers kept in awful living conditions rspca inspectors

The base of all enclosures were covered in urine, urine soaked newspaper and faeces. The animals did not have access to appropriate bedding and could not display normal patterns of behaviour. There was one puppy approximately two weeks of age housed in a plastic storage tub.

bull terrier rspca queensland inspectorate raid

22 dogs were housed in rundown, outside dirt pens. The dogs did not have access to appropriate bedding, enrichment or clean water. Many of the pens contained hazardous materials including exposed metal wires.

rspca inspectors charge bull terrier breeder queensland

Many of the pens were wire shut and extremely hard to access. Many of the pens did not contain appropriate shelter for the dogs, and some had only an upturned garbage bin or water tank in lieu of a suitable kennel or structure.

animals living in filth rspca inspectors

Many of the pens contained excess faeces.

bull terrier breeder charged living conditions rspca inspectors

There were also four dogs housed in a garden shed with similar welfare concerns: poor ventilation in extreme temperatures, strong smell of ammonia and faeces, bases of all the cages were covered in urine, urine soaked newspaper and faeces, and dogs did not have access to appropriate bedding and could not display normal patterns of behaviour.

inappropriate conditions breeder charged of bull terriers

The dogs did not have access to clean water, and the dogs were observed pawing at the cages and vocalising in a manner that indicated they were distressed.

bull terrier puppies breeder charged queensland 2019

There were 12 puppies kept in a dirt pen outside. There was an upturned water tank in the pen for shelter, however this was not sufficient for the amount of puppies. The puppies did not have access to appropriate water, bedding or enrichment. The puppies’ coats were dirty and unkempt, particularly on their feet and bellies. There was insufficient shelter from the elements, including the heat that day, and it was too hot for the puppies to seek shelter inside the overturned tank.

rspca inspectors charge bull terrier breeder 2019

There were another four puppies kept in a separate dirt pen outside with similar welfare concerns.

bull terrier breeder charged inappropriate living conditions inspectorate

13 dogs were housed in individual concrete pens with one dog in a makeshift pen. The dogs did not have access to appropriate bedding or enrichment and could not display normal patterns of behaviour. The pens smelt strongly of ammonia.

bull terrier breeder charged queensland rspca inspectorate 2019

Another 13 dogs were located in another shed, housed in individual crates.

bull terrier raid outcome rspca inspectorate 2019

Welfare concerns here included, access to appropriate water or bedding, some of the dogs were unable to stand without touching the top of the crate, poor ventilation and severe heat, overpowering smell of ammonia and faeces, and some of the dogs were observed pawing at the cages and vocalising in a manner that indicated they were distressed.

bull terrier raid rspca inspectorate 2019

Nine dogs were also found in dirt pens behind the kennel blocks. They did not have access to appropriate shelter, water or bedding. There was very little shade in the pens and the dogs were observed displaying signs of heat stress.
Veterinary Treatment
All dogs were transported safely in air conditioned trailers to RSPCA sites at Bundaberg, Dakabin and Wacol for veterinary and behavioural assessments. All dogs arrived safely.

All dogs were examined by qualified veterinarians and were provided flea treatment, worming treatment, vaccinations, baths, and any other grooming required. 

The overwhelming putrid stench of the dogs and puppies was noted by all who handled them and who walked past the kennel areas where they were housed.

The animals required numerous baths before they started to lose this smell, which was associated with their long term putrid living conditions. 

On veterinary examination, many dogs and puppies required additional treatment for minor concerns including skin irritations, minor wounds and lesions, discharge from eyes, and dirty ears.

It was also noted that many of the dogs had worn teeth, suspected to be evidence of chewing or biting at their wire pens, and many dogs required dental work. 

Several of the dogs were identified as suffering from disease or injury which veterinarians stated required treatment, had been present for some time, and would have been obvious to a lay person. 
Rehabilitation & Rehoming
All dogs and puppies had overwhelming behavioural and psychological issues associated with the way they had been housed. 

Some of the Bull Terrier puppies were able to be desexed and rehomed quite quickly.

RSPCA coordinated assistance from specialist breed rescue and rehabilitation organisations and foster carers, in order to provide best possible outcomes for the remaining dogs and puppies. 

Dogs had to learn to walk on leads, they were frightened and nervous in the outside world, and unsettled and unresponsive around people. They frequently ‘shut down’ to avoid engaging. 

Bull Terriers are often referred to as the clowns of the dog world, typically relaxed and friendly around people in life generally. Other than the baby puppies, most of the seized Bull Terriers were withdrawn, untrusting of human attention, ears down, and cowering from love and affection.

None of the dogs responded to their names, and did not respond to humans calling them or inviting them for pats and affection.

Some dogs, particularly older dogs, required medication in order to cope mentally with day to day life. Some were otherwise living in what was described as a constant state of fear, with any sudden movements or sounds spooking them. These dogs required particular expertise and experienced carers to work with them patiently and slowly, and many continue to work with them to date.

After more than 6 months of intensive work by all involved, all dogs and puppies seized from the defendants were ultimately successfully rehomed, or entered into long term rehabilitation to be rehomed. 

Learn more on our Get the Facts blog about the seizure.
Court Outcome
Sharon McAdam was given a 2 year probation order with no conviction recorded, ordered to pay $99.55 in court costs, $1,000 in legal costs, and $5,500 to the RSPCA for veterinary and boarding costs. She was prohibited from owning any animal other than as approved from time to time in writing by the Chief Inspector until August 6, 2022. McAdam has approval for two dogs under certain conditions. 

Magistrate Beckinsale took into account McAdams early plea and cooperation with the RSPCA. Magistrate Beckinsale said, “It was unfortunate that it had to get to this extent before you sought treatment for your condition,” in relation to her hoarding. Her Honour said that it was a “Shame that resources were taken from the RSPCA in order to care for these animals” and “What you did really fell short and this must be a deterrent for you and the community.”

Whilst members of the community may be disappointed with this outcome, RSPCA Qld Prosecutions Officer Tracey Jackson says, “As prosecutors, our duty is to be fair and to ensure penalties are just and lawful. If we are too unreasonable, courts will not make the orders we seek, and if we continue being unreasonable we could risk losing our power to prosecute. 

“In many cases, the best way to protect animals, is to use prohibition orders to limit or regulate animals owned by offenders.”

You can read more on this topic of Prohibition Orders from Tracey and what they mean here. 

Emma Lagoon
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