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 a French Bulldog, Eiffel, who he formerly co-owned with an ex-partner.
The man was sentenced to a two-year Community Corrections Order, requiring him to be of good behaviour, to appear before the Court if called upon, and to remain under the supervision of the local Community Corrections Office for the term of the order. The Court awarded custody of Eiffel to RSPCA NSW, and prohibited the offender from purchasing, acquiring, taking possession or custody 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 cruelty to 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 of video evidence and malicious] texts to his ex-partner.”
In the opinion of the Court, the offender’s conduct was made more serious by the fact that domestic violence was a feature of the offence.
In December 2019, RSPCA NSW received a cruelty complaint in relation to a French Bulldog, accompanied by video footage that had been sent by the offender to his ex-partner, the dog’s previous co-owner. The videos depict various acts of cruelty against the French Bulldog. In response, RSPCA NSW inspectors obtained a search warrant for the man’s Concord premises. There they found the dog, Eiffel, in the man’s courtyard, which was covered in faecal matter and diarrhoea. The inspectors seized the man’s mobile phone for forensic investigation and seized and transported Eiffel to the RSPCA NSW Sydney Veterinary Hospital for veterinary treatment.
RSPCA NSW identified evidence of animal cruelty on the mobile phone in the form of video files, recorded on 2 and 3 December 2019, which showed the man committing acts of cruelty against Eiffel. In the first video, the man is heard referencing his ex-partner, saying to Eiffel, “Say hello to mummy… Say hello,” before striking the dog on the side of the face. The second video shows Eiffel sitting outside in the sun, before the man approaches him and kicks him, and when the dog attempts to move away, the man approaches and kicks him again. The third video depicts Eiffel being kicked with a foot five times.
A veterinary examination of Eiffel identified several conditions, including bilateral scleral injection (engorged blood vessels in the eyes), evidence of diarrhoea, skin ulceration on the scrotum, and inflammation and redness between his toes. Eiffel exhibited fearful behaviour requiring anxiolytic medication and supportive anxiety management, and he was also given treatment for diarrhoea, routine antiparasitic treatments and vaccinations. A certificate of expert evidence by the examining veterinarian found that Eiffel’s condition was consistent with recent soft tissue trauma, and noted that diarrhoea is a common stress response in dogs. The vet also reviewed the footage taken from the offender’s phone and found, as a matter of expert opinion, 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 companion animals, studies have confirmed there is also a high probability of animal abuse. A 2008 study from Victoria found that 53 per cent of women entering a refuge to escape domestic violence and abuse reported that their pets had been harmed (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 victims of abuse themselves. It is of paramount importance that we are able to provide support to people and their pets leaving violent households by providing a safe space to the animals, and where possible, giving abused animals a voice in the Courts when acts of violence have been committed against them,” said RSPCA NSW Deputy Chief Inspector Purcell.
RSPCA NSW supports pet owners leaving violent situations through the Community Domestic Violence Program, which includes working with them to arrange emergency boarding or temporary foster care for their pet while they seek refuge. From January to March this year, the program has provided 1,603 days of temporary care to animals leaving domestic violence situations.