Warrant executed on a property: Beyond the façade

RSPCA Inspectors Animal Welfare Animal Cruelty Posted Apr 15, 2019
On Wednesday the 20th of March our RSPCA Inspectorate executed a warrant at a property in north Brisbane to investigate concerns about numerous animals, many of which were disabled, being kept at the location.
The property is the home of Storybook Farm Sacred Animal Garden Rescue.

***Please note this blog contains graphic images of animal injuries***

Why did the RSPCA attend?

Inspectors executed a warrant in response to concerns about a number of animals, many of which were disabled, that were kept at the property.

dogs seized from animal rescue group

What was encountered at the property?

It was immediately apparent to Inspectors that the conditions in which the animals were being kept, in no way resembled the conditions portrayed by this rescue group on their social media profiles, or in their regular stories aired to media, incorporating pleas for donations.

As recently as the day before this seizure, a photograph of a Dalmatian named Barry was posted on Storybook Farm’s Facebook page looking cute, contented and clean, wearing a donated jumper. This poor dog’s real life could not have been further removed from that happy scene portrayed on Facebook. (SEE PICTURE BELOW).

severe injuries dog seized by rspca inspectorate

The flesh on Barry’s back legs had worn through almost to exposed bone, the skin on his testicles had worn bare exposing raw flesh, and he had other wounds on his rear end also associated with dragging and immobility in his rear end. These wounds were being constantly soaked in urine as Barry had no control of his bladder. The ulceration of the wounds and urine scalding was severe. 

Veterinarians were of the belief that Barry was experiencing significant pain and had been experiencing this pain every second of every day. His quality of life, prognosis, and an inability to keep him alive comfortably, meant that vets had no option but to humanely euthanase him. Experienced staff were reduced to tears. 

Numerous other animals at the property had varying significant medical conditions, including open wounds, some from them chewing themselves, and others from pressure sores or from scraping their immobile bodies along the ground. Some animals had skin diseases and ear infections. All the animals smelled putrid, with an overwhelming stench of aged urine and faeces. 

All of the dogs were living in faeces and urine. Disabled animals were lying, unable to move normally, living in filth and squalor, some even without water or bedding. 

The smell was unbearable. The suffering of the animals was palpable. The entire scene was heartbreaking. 

Our most experienced Inspectors on the scene today stated that the conditions at the property were horrendous. “Quite frankly, we were shocked to see that the person in charge of these animals continued to maintain the public façade that the animals were being rescued and well cared for, and that funding was being spent on their care. It’s hard to believe that is the case, when we see what we’ve seen here today.” 

A senior RSPCA spokesperson said, “It’s unimaginable that someone could put their head on their pillow every night, knowing that every second of every minute of every hour of every day, those animals were suffering, unable to move freely, unable to escape, unable to relieve their pain and distress.”

Were animals removed from the location?

37 animals were seized by RSPCA Inspectors from this property and are currently being assessed and treated by our veterinary team.

seizure of animals from animal rescue group

Is this an isolated animal rescue group issue?

Chief Inspector Daniel Young said, “We are continually disappointed to see people keeping animals in conditions like this, under the guise of operating as a rescue or sanctuary. Good intentions are not enough. Animals need food, water, clean living conditions and veterinary treatment. If people cannot afford that, then sadly they cannot have animals and certainly should not be rescuing animals.

“We are constantly amazed that donations are given to some of these groups and do not appear to have been used on the care of the animals. Running an animal rescue is hard work, and expensive. We know this. We also know there are excellent smaller rescue groups out there and they provide us with valuable assistance, and do great work for animals. But sadly there are some rescue groups that still try to operate on a love of animals and good intentions, rather than providing for the real needs of animals."

How can you identify good rescue groups?

“We often come across animal rescue operations that appear to be a way for people simply to legitimise hoarding behaviour. What you see on Facebook is not always what the reality is behind the scene. Do your due diligence, check out financial reports, ask around about the conditions animals are kept in, find out where veterinary work is done, and make considered decisions about surrendering animals and adopting animals – because they depend on you.”

Aren’t they just saving animals that don’t have other options?

“Our advice to people who care for animals, whether in your home or running a rescue group, is to know your limits, ask for help sooner rather than later, and be prepared to admit when you have taken too much on and seek help.

“We understand that some people are opposed to euthanasia, but sadly we know that there are some things worse than a humane death for animals.”

These photos taken today show the real story behind the property our Inspectorate attended.

Is this the first time the RSPCA have investigated this group?

The attendance by Inspectors followed a previous attendance at another property in north Brisbane where the operator of Storybook Farm was keeping a number of horses and a donkey.

On 8 March 2019, RSPCA Inspectors responded to reports that horses and a donkey at a property were underweight. Inspectors located horses that were underweight and attempted to work with the rescue group operator, issuing an Animal Welfare Direction for care and food to be provided to the animals. Ultimately though, Inspectors seized three emaciated horses (one pictured below), all of which had been in the care of Storybook Farm for years.

emaciated horse saved by rspca inspectorate

Assistance from Veterinary Specialists

Many of the dogs seized from Storybook had vital CT scans thanks to our friends at Veterinary Specialist Services to determine any spinal damage and underlying issues that may be affecting these pets.

CT scans for dogs at Veterinary Specialist Services

Thank you Dr. Abbie Tipler and the VSS team for helping provide neurological tests and scans

Veterinary Specialist Services help rescued animals

A donkey and three horses were also among those rescued in the raid. Sadly, one of the horses had to be euthanised on humane grounds. Dr Slade Walker and Joe Williams of Old Mill Vet Equine Service have been assisting the RSPCA with veterinary checks, vaccinations, microchips and hoof trimming.

horse vet checks rspca

RSPCA Qld Chief Inspector Daniel Young said the animals were emaciated when they arrived and have needed a lot of extra care. “One black mare had hooves so badly splayed the vets believe they hadn’t been trimmed in nearly a year.

“The donkey had two broken teeth that needed to be extracted which means she would have been in a lot of pain while eating, which would have contributed to her weight loss.”

The team at Animal Physiotherapy Solutions have also been recently assisting the rehabilitation of dogs seized from the raid, including fitting of Help ‘Em Up harnesses to improve their time in RSPCA care and into their future.

bull arab fitted with mobility harness

dachshund fitted with mobility wheels

staffy with leg amputation receives physiotherapy

Call for Information

Our Inspectorate is calling on extra information from the public relating to a blue staffy that was seized from the property. Now named Paulie, the dog was discovered with a crudely amputated hind leg at the property.

staffy with crudely amputated leg at storybook

RSPCA Queensland Chief Inspector Daniel Young says that Paulie was in a shocking condition when he arrived. “It’s extremely important that we find out how Paulie came to be at Storybook,” he said.

“We’d like to speak with the owners or whoever may have dropped him at Storybook Farm so we know a little more about what we are dealing with. There won’t be any judgement, it’s simply about working out how and when this poor dog came to be at Storybook.”

The RSPCA veterinary team have since properly amputated his leg and he is recovering from surgery well.

call for information on blue staffy by rspca inspectorate

What's next?

RSPCA staff are still waiting for all of the animals seized to be officially handed over by the owner of Storybook Farm. Then animals can start to return to appropriate homes with owners who have come forward, or get ready for adoption.

RSPCA Queensland Prosecutions Officer Tracey Jackson says that Inspectors are working through a mountain of information that continues to come through about these animals.

“Returning and rehoming pets can be quick, or it can drag out to the end of the court case depending on the nature of the investigation and the conduct of the defendant,” she said.

The damage of words

Whenever these emotional stories are published, we encounter people who draw conclusions, make up ‘facts’, and then level criticism based on that misinformation. Others jump on board far too quickly and share these harmful comments, which leads to a social media ‘frenzy’ based on untruths, which can do genuine harm to the people and animals involved.

Every volunteer and staff member at the RSPCA works tirelessly, all with a shared passion for animals. Many of us do unpaid hours and some encounter terrible situations. Our Inspectors, our call centre and customer service staff, our vet team, our animal attendants, our volunteers, our management are all here for one reason - the animals. The animals we do it for are worth every cent, every minute, every heartache and every sleepless night. We will not falter with name calling and disparaging remarks. The animals are the reason we are here. 

Every dollar, every volunteer hour and every limited resource spent on responding to these words or the damage caused by them, is time taken away from animals in care and in need. 

Sometimes the people we meet do unspeakable things to animals. But others, people who are supposed to be on the side of animals, hurt them by sharing and promoting these untrue and damaging remarks.

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