Repeat animal cruelty offender and founder of Northern NSW animal rescue HappyPaws Haven was convicted and sentenced at Ballina Local Court on 11 February2020 of two counts of failing to provide necessary veterinary treatment toeight cats under her care.

The 69-year-old woman, who was previously convicted of animal cruelty offencesin 2017, was sentenced to a three-year community corrections order, subject tothe conditions that during the term of the order she be of good behaviour andappears before the court if required. She was ordered to forfeit custody ofthe eight cats within 28 days and was banned from purchasing, acquiring ortaking possession or custody of any feline for a period of two years. She wasalso ordered to pay costs of $11,462 to RSPCA NSW.

On 31 July 2017, a team of RSPCA inspectors and veterinarians attended thewoman’s Eatonsville property, where they assessed the condition of 58 cats andkittens. Every cat was photographed and identified, and blood and othersamples taken. She was issued written directions to obtain veterinarytreatment for medical issues identified in eight of the cats, includingtimeframes for compliance that ranged from immediate action to the provisionof treatment or further consultation within seven days.

The vets determined that there was a failure to provide necessary vettreatment to six cats for moderate to severe dental disease for a period notless than three weeks prior to examination. Two cats were found to have Grade3 dental disease. Four cats were found to have Grade 4 dental disease, themost advanced stage of the disease, which is irreversible and associated withsevere inflammation and ulceration of the soft tissues in the oral cavity, gumrecession, loose or missing teeth, infection and purulent discharge at the gumline. It is an extremely painful and debilitating condition and caused thecats unnecessary pain and suffering.

The vets determined that there was a failure to provide necessary vettreatment to four cats for chronic infections of the external ear canals(otitis externa). The condition would have been present and identifiable by aperson caring for the cats for a period no less than seven days prior toexamination. Left untreated, the condition causes significant inflammation andpain and can lead to the rupture of the ear drum, risking the development ofmiddle or internal ear infections capable of spreading to the brain.

Magistrate Stafford commented that the defendant demonstrated a “degree ofarrogance toward the RSPCA’s opinion” and that there seemed to be a “wilfulblindness as to the necessity of having the cats treated”.

RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector Scott Meyers said, “It is unfortunate that a personin charge of an animal welfare rescue group has committed these offencestowards animals in her care.”

“This conviction represents the importance of thorough and routine vetexaminations to maintain the optimum health and wellbeing of animals in aperson’s care, particularly as an animal rescue group, which has a higherexpectation placed up on them by the community to properly look after andprovide necessary treatment to their rescue animals. It is the second time thedefendant has been charged and convicted for failing in that responsibility.”

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