Drought blamed for ‘horrendous’ rise in animal cruelty
CASES of animal cruelty have risen to "horrendous" levels in Warwick where livestock bears the brunt of ongoing drought.
Cruelty statistics released by the RSPCA place Warwick among the top 25 offenders in the state, with over 80 reports of cruelty recorded in 2019.
Neglect makes up the bulk of complaints, and that number rises every single year, according to RSPCA media advisor Michael Beatty.
Darling Downs inspector Shawn Jansen said more horses and cattle were being reported than ever before, with widespread reports of emaciation and ill-health in Warwick.
"Drought is not an acceptable reason for an animal to be left in poor condition," Mr Jansen said.
"It does not justify not feeding an animal."
Stanthorpe, for example, suffered similar drought conditions to Warwick but only recorded 15 cases of neglect or cruelty last year.
RSPCA media advisor Michael Beatty said, because their work with livestock is limited to herds of 10 or under, most livestock call outs were to hobby farms.
"You get some malnourished horses that have been found basically skeletal," he said.
"Drought obviously hasn't helped but the fact remains that if you own an animal you have to care for that animal.
Mr Beatty said people rent out acreage properties cheaply and purchase horses, thinking of them as a "lawnmower".
"But then when there's no more grass and they have to fork out for hay, they often decide they won't or can't afford to do that."
Residents often can't afford not to: The maximum penalty for animal cruelty in Queensland is seven years in jail and $30,000 in fines.
The "bread and butter" of RSPCA calls in Warwick remain domesticated animals, however.
Mr Jansen found Kali last year, a dog abandoned and "probably less than a day from death."
Her previous owner was charged and convicted for abandonment and duty of care offences.
"The most common issue is inappropriate tethering and living conditions," Mr Jansen said.
Two cases were prosecuted by the RSPCA in Warwick last year, with one still remaining before the courts.
"The other one was for a dog whose owners failed to treat, despite having advanced cancer," Mr Jansen said.
"The dog was very emaciated."
While the work can be tough and emotionally challenging, Mr Jansen said it can also be immensely rewarding.
Kali was seized and now lives with her new "fur"-ever family in the Darling Downs.
"It's important to remember that the statistics only show the complaints recorded, not the outcomes," he said.
"We see a lot of animals in really poor conditions or not cared for, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
"The reward is educating owners to the point where the issues are resolved: Many animals have had their lives turned around and are now living in really good conditions.
"We understand what a tough time people are going through and we know most owners want to do the right thing."