Second conviction for ill-treatment of deer

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A deer farmer has been fined more than $20,000 for a second animal welfare conviction on his Taihape farm in two years.

Graham Nicol, 67, of Levin, was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court in late June on charges relating to the reckless ill treatment of 19 hinds and failure to meet the physical health and behavioural needs of 110 hinds. He was fined $15,000 and  $7500 respectively.

The offending dates back to June 2013 when the Ministry for Primary Industries received an animal welfare complaint on its hotline regarding deer on Mr Nicol's Taihape property.

At his initial inspection, an MPI Animal Welfare Inspector found five recently deceased hinds and others struggling to keep up with the herd.

Having obtained a search warrant, the inspector returned to the property with a veterinarian and a Federated Farmers representative where he found another 19 hinds in such poor condition that they had to be euthanised and a further 110 which were bordering on emaciation. Post mortems on six of the dead animals showed they were emaciated and had no teeth.

The Animal Welfare Code for deer states that farmers with animals in this state must take immediate remedial action, through veterinary treatment, improved nutrition or husbandry practice to avoid further deterioration and risk to animal health or welfare.

Mr Nichol was also convicted earlier this year of reckless ill treatment of 18 deer and was fined $9750. That conviction related to a complaint received by MPI in 2012 where 10 deer were found dead on the same property in Taihape, along with a further eight that had to be euthanised.

The fines and veterinary costs associated with these two incidents totalled more than $36,000.

MPI District Compliance Manager Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa Ray McKay says MPI Animal Welfare Inspectors will often work through issues with stock owners, but would not tolerate wilful negligence or cruelty.

"While the Taihape area was subject to a major drought over summer and autumn, prudent farmers in the area cut stock numbers, weaned early and brought in substantial amounts of supplement feed to ensure their animals did not deteriorate or starve. This was not the case on this property."

Mr McKay says the fine sends a clear message that ill-treatment and inadequate care of animals is a serious matter and offenders can expect to be prosecuted.

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