SPCA's annual List of Shame mirrors New Zealand's violent society
Sunday, 4 November, 2012
A family cat deliberately cut up in Timaru, a tethered pet goat stabbed to death in Greymouth, a climbing carabiner threaded through the neck of a dog in Rotorua, and in Wellington, several boys kick and hit a small terrier cross dog with a cricket bat. These are just four of more than thirty grievously inhumane acts of abuse and neglect of animals that make up the 2012 SPCA List of Shame.
“Violence towards animals both co-occurs and is a predictor of violence towards humans”, says Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive of SPCA New Zealand. “The sheer level of violence meted out on animals by some of the perpetrators in the cases in this year’s List of Shame is shocking, and underlying of wider issues in New Zealand.”
SPCA New Zealand, in partnership with Women’s Refuge, recently released research into the strong link between animal cruelty and domestic and family violence in New Zealand. This study, ‘Pets as Pawns’, showed that 50% of women interviewed had witnessed animal cruelty as part of their experience of domestic violence and 25% said their children had witnessed violence against animals. The research also revealed that one in three women surveyed reported delaying leaving violent relationships because they feared their pets and other animals would be killed or tortured.
The SPCA speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves and the annual SPCA List of Shame aims to highlight to the New Zealand public the appalling abuse of animals which happens all too frequently throughout the country.
Unfortunately cases such as those in the this year’s list of shame are all too familiar to SPCA centres around New Zealand, who are then tasked with the heartbreaking job of determining whether the animals in question are able to be rehabilitated or have to be euthanased due to their abuse or neglect. In many cases, the financial cost of investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators is also met by these SPCA centres.
July saw the prosecution of two men who had systematically shot 33 dogs and puppies. This was a particularly violent and prolonged act of cruelty which resulted in many of the dogs dying a slow painful death, whilst others struggled to hide from the shooters. These men were handed sentences of 6 months home detention and 6 months community detention, 300 hours community work and reparation.
“The SPCA’s work is made less effective by the low level of sentencing being awarded in animal welfare cases. The sentencing in most of these cases is appallingly inadequate, and is no way indicative of the range of penalties that can be handed down under the Animal Welfare Amendment Act”, says Robyn Kippenberger. “Considering the close links between violence towards humans and animal cruelty, courts should be recognising these crimes as significant in a continuum of violent behaviour. If these crimes are not punished significantly, an opportunity is lost to send a message that no violence is acceptable.”
The SPCA’s work is almost entirely funded by donations, sponsorships and legacies provided by generous New Zealanders. New Zealanders are encouraged to support their SPCAs to make New Zealand a safer place for animals and humans.
“People speak sometimes about the "bestial" cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.”
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 19th Century Russian novelist, journalist, and short-story writer