A 51-year-old Concord man was convicted at Burwood Local Court on 19 May 2020,after pleading guilty to two charges of committing an act of cruelty towards aFrench Bulldog, Eiffel, who he formerly co-owned with an ex-partner.

The man was sentenced to a two-year Community Corrections Order, requiring himto be of good behaviour, to appear before the Court if called upon, and toremain under the supervision of the local Community Corrections Office for theterm of the order. The Court awarded custody of Eiffel to RSPCA NSW, andprohibited the offender from purchasing, acquiring, taking possession orcustody of any animal for a period of two years. He was also ordered to pay$6,157.34 in veterinary treatment and shelter costs to RSPCA NSW.

Upon delivering the judgment, Magistrate Stapleton said, “This type of crueltyto animals is one that goes on behind closed doors; that is hard to detect;that was only detected in this case because of [the man’s transmission ofvideo evidence and malicious] texts to his ex-partner.”

In the opinion of the Court, the offender’s conduct was made more serious bythe fact that domestic violence was a feature of the offence.

In December 2019, RSPCA NSW received a cruelty complaint in relation to aFrench Bulldog, accompanied by video footage that had been sent by theoffender to his ex-partner, the dog’s previous co-owner. The videos depictvarious acts of cruelty against the French Bulldog. In response, RSPCA NSWinspectors obtained a search warrant for the man’s Concord premises. Therethey found the dog, Eiffel, in the man’s courtyard, which was covered infaecal matter and diarrhoea. The inspectors seized the man’s mobile phone forforensic investigation and seized and transported Eiffel to the RSPCA NSWSydney Veterinary Hospital for veterinary treatment.

RSPCA NSW identified evidence of animal cruelty on the mobile phone in theform of video files, recorded on 2 and 3 December 2019, which showed the mancommitting acts of cruelty against Eiffel. In the first video, the man isheard referencing his ex-partner, saying to Eiffel, “Say hello to mummy… Sayhello,” before striking the dog on the side of the face. The second videoshows Eiffel sitting outside in the sun, before the man approaches him andkicks him, and when the dog attempts to move away, the man approaches andkicks him again. The third video depicts Eiffel being kicked with a foot fivetimes.

A veterinary examination of Eiffel identified several conditions, includingbilateral scleral injection (engorged blood vessels in the eyes), evidence ofdiarrhoea, skin ulceration on the scrotum, and inflammation and rednessbetween his toes. Eiffel exhibited fearful behaviour requiring anxiolyticmedication and supportive anxiety management, and he was also given treatmentfor diarrhoea, routine antiparasitic treatments and vaccinations. Acertificate of expert evidence by the examining veterinarian found thatEiffel’s condition was consistent with recent soft tissue trauma, and notedthat diarrhoea is a common stress response in dogs. The vet also reviewed thefootage taken from the offender’s phone and found, as a matter of expertopinion, that the abuse documented would have caused the dog extreme distress,and pain and suffering, including extreme mental suffering.

In households experiencing domestic violence where there are also companionanimals, studies have confirmed there is also a high probability of animalabuse. A 2008 study from Victoria found that 53 per cent of women entering arefuge to escape domestic violence and abuse reported that their pets had beenharmed (Volant et a.l., 2008).

“Animal cruelty in the context of domestic violence is sadly not uncommon.Pets can be used to coerce or threaten a person, and they can become victimsof abuse themselves. It is of paramount importance that we are able to providesupport to people and their pets leaving violent households by providing asafe space to the animals, and where possible, giving abused animals a voicein the Courts when acts of violence have been committed against them,” saidRSPCA NSW Deputy Chief Inspector Purcell.

RSPCA NSW supports pet owners leaving violent situations through the CommunityDomestic Violence Program, which includes working with them to arrangeemergency boarding or temporary foster care for their pet while they seekrefuge. From January to March this year, the program has provided 1,603 daysof temporary care to animals leaving domestic violence situations.

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