Sentencing in Waikato animal welfare case

Media contact: Jim Flack

An experienced farmer has appeared in the Hamilton District Court today for sentencing on three animal welfare charges brought against him by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

52 year old Peter David Knight, pleaded guilty to a range of offences under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, including the reckless ill-treatment of his animals, and failing to ensure that their physical health and behavioural needs were met.  Thirty of his cows – many of them pregnant and close to calving – had to be euthanised to end their suffering.

Mr Knight was sentenced to 200 hours Community Work and disqualified from owning or managing dairy cattle for three years. The 200 hours Community Work is to be served concurrently with a sentence for four months Community Detention and 200 hours Community Work for charges laid under the Insolvency Act.

The court heard that in July 2012 MPI received a complaint about the welfare of Mr Knight’s cattle located at a Morrinsville grazing block. Upon initial inspection by an MPI Animal Welfare Inspector, it was evident the state of the stock was poor with many animals in an emaciated condition.

Veterinary and consultancy services were utilised for further assessment of the cattle. Nine(9) cows were found to be in such a critical condition that they required emergency euthanasia, with thirty(30) in total euthanised to prevent further suffering.

In New Zealand a scale of 1-10 is used to assess the body condition score of dairy cows. Assessment of body condition score (BCS) gives an estimate of a cow’s body fat reserves. Dairy cattle with a BCS of less than 3.0 are considered emaciated and urgent remedial action must be taken to improve animal condition. In the case of Mr Knight’s cattle, 49 out of a total of 79 were assessed between a BCS of 1.0 – 2.5.

All animals that were euthanised by MPI had been subjected to severe underfeeding by Mr Knight. The pain and distress caused to the animals as a result of the underfeeding was both unreasonable and unnecessary.

Waikato/Bay of Plenty District Compliance Manager Brendon Mikkelsen says “the sentencing today sends a clear message that animal welfare offences will not be tolerated. Ill-treatment of animals is unacceptable. If animal welfare abuse of this nature is detected it will almost certainly result in prosecution.”

“MPI will continue to investigate Animal Welfare complaints and encourages anyone who suspects cases of animal ill-treatment to report their concerns to our hot line 0800 00 83 33. Calls will be kept confidential if necessary.” 

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