Some misleading information has been posted on social media, so we are providing the following facts, as they were presented to the court, and we hope this answers any questions you might have about this case.
On 17 October 2017, RSPCA Inspectors in company with police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s property. The defendant and her husband were present during the execution of the warrant. Upon entry to the property the Inspectors noted a very strong odour of faeces, urine, rotting food and dampness coming from the house. Once inside the house this odour was overwhelming.
Inspectors noted there was a combination of tile flooring or bare concrete floors throughout the house. The floors were for the most part covered in a layer of straw which was littered with animal faeces, urine and food waste. Much of the straw was wet.
There were several ducks and a chicken roaming in the lounge area of the house. The floor was covered in straw. There was duck and chicken faeces and feathers visible, the flooring was damp and smelly, and there was a large bowl of wet food in the middle of the room.
There was a guinea pig confined in an area of this room in a one square metre hutch. Inspectors noted that it appeared in poor condition with a flea burden, overgrown nails and severely matted coat.
There was a second room that was cordoned off with tiling boxes and there were two drakes, a duck and 10 ducklings confined in this area. There was a table in this area that was cluttered with food debris and rubbish, which had been scattered across the floor by the dogs.
In the main bedroom of the house there was a Queen size bed, bedside tables, television and set of drawers. The entire floor of the room was covered with a layer of straw. Inside the room there were approximately 18 ducks and 4 chickens. The animals had access to the walk in robe where there was a clam shell pool full of water.
Inspectors noted one chicken at the base of the bed that appeared obviously unwell. The chicken was unable to walk, appeared to have no use of its legs and could not raise itself off the ground. It was trying to drag itself along the floor using its wings. There were no feathers on the chicken’s legs or under its belly, indicating it had been dragging itself in this way for some time. The chicken was emaciated.
The defendant stated the living conditions for the animals inside the house had been like that for most of the year, since Council seized 7 of her ducks at the end of 2016. She stated the living conditions had slowly deteriorated and she had not realised how bad they were until Inspectors pointed it out.
The animals were seized and transported to the RSPCA Wacol Animal Care Campus. They were examined and treated by RSPCA veterinarians who noted as follows:
20 of the adult ducks, and all of the chickens were underweight. 5 adult ducks and all of the chickens had mild grade bumblefoot which is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction on the feet caused by unsanitary living conditions. 1 chicken was emaciated, unable to walk and falling to the side – it was euthanased on humane grounds and the autopsy indicated septic arthritis. All poultry required worming treatment.
Treating veterinarians concluded that the animals’ conditions were consistent with being caused by neglect, including failure to provide veterinary treatment and failure to provide hygienic appropriate living conditions.
While in the care of RSPCA, the ducks were provided with ongoing care and veterinary treatment. They had the run of some large safely fenced paddocks with plenty of water for paddling and shade for snoozing. Rounding them up to put into their holding yards for visits by the owner or veterinary checks was sometimes a challenge! After their medical issues were cleared, they were placed into foster care for their remaining months in care, where they enjoyed grassy open spaces and swims in dams behind the safety of fencing.
Please understand that RSPCA Qld does not enter into prosecution lightly. It is usually a last resort. Ms Staines was informed repeatedly that she would have to pay the boarding and veterinary costs for the ducks if she did not surrender them voluntarily. She refused to do so even after obtaining legal advice.
When Ms STAINES appeared in court, represented by her solicitor, she pleaded guilty to and was convicted and sentenced to an order for probation for a period of 12 months. The Magistrate noted that she loved her ducks perhaps too much, and it was hoped she would get the help she needed during her period of probation.
The conviction was not recorded.
She was also ordered to pay $92.90 costs of summons and $42,409.50 in vet and boarding costs and was prohibited from owning any animals for a period of 2 years, other than as approved from time to time by RSPCA.
Ms Staines was NOT fined. The costs were ordered to reimburse RSPCA for the cost of caring for the ducks while they were held pending finalisation of the court proceedings. Had Ms Staines surrendered the ducks, little or no costs would have been sought. The costs ordered against Ms Staines were substantially reduced by the RSPCA. They were wholesale costs only, and RSPCA certainly will not profit even if Ms Staines ends up paying the entire amount eventually. It was entirely appropriate that these costs were ordered and that they be recovered. It would not be fair or just to ask our generous donors to fund the costs of caring for Ms Staines ducks when she had the opportunity to surrender them and avoid paying costs at all.