Shocking neglect of a family of Shar Peis sparks calls for changes to the Animal Welfare Act

Marvin the Shar Pei
Marvin the Shar Pei

THE shocking neglect of a family of Shar Peis in Ellenbrook highlights the need for legislative changes that give the RSPCA greater powers to inspect and prosecute say animal welfare agencies.

Get Barked owner Dylan Anderson called for urgent changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2002 to give the RSPCA WA inspectors stronger powers to intervene in cases of suspected animal neglect.

“On November 19, three Shar Peis Marvin, Ginger and Teddy were surrendered to the WA Shar Pei Protection with some very obvious signs of neglect, malnourishment, overbreeding and inbreeding,” he said.

“The rescue did not know what they were walking into that day and what they saw broke their hearts as these dogs were in very bad shape with Marvin the youngest being the worst.

“He is obviously the result of incest backyard breeding as he is mutated as well as being severely neglected with corkscrewed nails that meant he was barely able to walk.”

Mr Anderson said he was frustrated the RSPCA WA were not investigating the case.

“The RSPCA WA said an investigation into Marvin’s owner won’t happen as it has been compromised by the dogs being surrendered to the rescue group,” he said.

“They said the evidence that we have wasn’t collected in an admissible form and because an RSPCA WA inspector was not present at the property when the dogs were removed, their ability to gather and present sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute was compromised.

“Surely if the RSPCA sat down and interviewed us and the rescue service and looked at the dogs there would be more than enough evidence to warrant an investigation.”

In a letter responding to Mr Anderson’s concerns, RSPCA WA said it had received numerous enquiries regarding the prospects of prosecuting Marvin’s owners for neglect however they were limited by the Act.

“While it may seem like an open and shut case, the Animal Welfare Act 2002 is constructed in such a way that allows for various defences to possible offences to be applicable in this case,” the letter said.

‘For RSPCA to mount a prosecution we would need evidence of who was legally in charge of the dogs at the time they were removed, how long the dogs had been in their care and what, if any, measures had been taken to alleviate or treat any conditions from which the dogs appeared to be suffering.

“The evidence in this matter was not collected in an admissible form.

“As an RSPCA WA inspector was not present at the property when the dogs were removed our ability to gather and present sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute was compromised.”

The letter said an inspector attended the property where the dogs were being kept on November 15, 2018, in response to a report of abandoned animals.

However, because the report was a complaint of abandonment with no allegation of neglect towards the dogs the inspector was limited in what they could legally do.

“The Act states that an inspector needs reasonable grounds to suspect an offence has occurred in order to exercise their authority to enter premises,” the letter said.

“The inspector attended the property and established the dogs were in fact not abandoned after speaking with a person there who confirmed she was looking after the dogs.

“As the complaint report only detailed animals abandoned at the property the inspector had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with the dogs and as such had no legal grounds to inspect the animals.”

But Mr Anderson said the inspector could have taken steps to ensure the dogs were being looked after.

“It is entirely reasonable to think the inspector could have asked to see the dogs or popped their head over the fence rather than just take this person’s word that the dogs were safe,” he said.

“Had the inspector done so it would have been immediately obvious the dogs were in an horrific state of neglect.”

However, RSPCA WA said inspectors must operate within the law.

“This case highlights the need for changes to the Act,” the letter said.

“RSPCA WA is working with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development on a review of the Act, with the aim of enabling inspectors to take a more proactive approach to animal welfare matters in WA.

“We urge all members of the community to contact their local parliamentary representatives to call for changes to the Act to ensure animals in WA can be protected and that people who are cruel to animals can be held to account.”

Shar Pei Protection volunteer Natasha Goodchild said the family were now doing really well but would need ongoing care.

“It has cost thousands of dollars in vet fees to treat Marvin, Teddy and Ginger,” she said.

“Marvin is slowly putting on weight and getting healthier before he can have surgery.

“Ginger still needs extensive surgery on her breast lumps and will need a complete hysterectomy and lumpectomy, however, we were waiting on her to recover from her eye surgery as she had cherry eye and entropion surgery.

“Teddy was desexed however he had complications from that due to his poor immune system.

“This awful case really shows that there must be changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2002 so no other dog needlessly suffers like this family.”