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MARK ALDRIDGE

Lead Senate candidate for the "GREAT AUSTRALIAN PARTY"

Over view RSPCA v Richards

In or about early 2011 going by court records, Oscars law broke into a property they believed at first was a puppy farm, finding many animals on site, the property was messy and water for the animals was purported to be low, selective photos were taken and passed onto the RSPCA.

I note here that Oscars law have said the photos were theirs, but have now refuse to confirm where the photos came from, their website and FB sites say the photos were theirs.

The RSPCA attended shortly after, some notes are blanked out, but the main issue with the animals appeared to be the messy state of the property, and access to water, the defence to the water situation is that someone had turned off the water supply, in any event from my attendance and the RSPCA notes, there was reason for concern and intervention by the RSPCA

The Mains water is a remote link, the bore supplies the animals by pump, photos of empty water baths show water around but not in them and it is pro-ported that many were tipped over, in any event, support and education appeared needed.

There were also 3 dead animals on site, which it appears were not the result of miss-treatment by the owners, a rabbit, donkey and a still born lamb, no findings in the cause of their deaths has been made available, the owner refutes even owning the donkey which was found far from the home area.

I met Miss Richards in or around April of 2013, and was made aware of the case, but as council was employed and the photos were damning, my initial feel was that the lady need some support and direction, but time restraints did not allow me to delve into the case any further, than hoping her lawyer would ensure a just outcome.

When the property was raided, there were around 25 horses, 10 dogs, and assorted livestock, their condition appeared reasonable, 3 horses were considered underweight, but were offered up as rescues in emancipated condition around 4 weeks before the raid, it is hard to ascertain who was at fault but the rest of the horses were in good condition, (2 were seized, both were the purported rescues.As for the general conditions of the property, they were below the expectations of the majority, and intervention of some form was indeed warranted.

The dogs were healthy, but had matted fur, and I believe were being bred from to some degree, again supporting RSPCA intervention.

The paddocks although fencing was make shift in places, was adequate, and shelter and water troughs were numerous, and feed was evident during the RSPCA initial raid.

It appears that some breeding was going on and the occasional sale of the offspring helped in covering the costs of vet and husbandry, although I would not go as far as describing 10 dogs as a puppy farm. There are a series of other issues of a personal nature that appear to have made the period in time when the raids were carried out as not the norm, in regards to the owners help and water supply issues.

It does appear that the prosecution as expected selected photos and made interpretations to back their case, the photos provided were of 2 horses, not all 25, in the pursuit of the truth, one would have hoped details of all the animals would have been pertinent.

The RSPCA prosecution of Miss Richards did not end up allowing an informed and just outcome, as she ran out of savings before a trial, so she was left having to plea bargain against a well funded prosecution.

The Plea bargain was negotiated between the RSPCA and the Lawyer

The court outcome did not favour Miss Richards, but the results made evident the prosecution’s case was not painting a picture of major or deliberate abuse, the court orders were; Compensation to the RSPCA prosecution of just over $5000 which the dependent cannot pay, a 3 year good behavior bond, and limitations on the number of dogs and horses, being 8 horses, and 2 dogs, her dogs must be de-sexed, micro chipped and vaccinated, if the dogs were so owned by the dependent.

As we will soon find, the terms of the plea bargain lead to some interesting debate on who owns an animal.

There were no other limitations placed in respect to the ownership of other animals.

A relationship break up as a result left Miss Richards looking after 2 disabled children, on her own and her adult daughter still lives on the property.

On legal advice; Ms Richards divides the property, subleasing the adjacent block and infrastructure so the daughter and partner can continue to own animals of their own.

I would think that in writing legislation, the term "Custody and control" would not have been designed to inflict unjust damages to others who live on. rent sections, or live adjacent the same property of Mrs Richards.

After the court delivered their findings, Oscars law put up all the information and the woman’s details, which resulted in her receiving threats and abuse, even drive byes, so she contacted me in tears wondering what to do, I commented on Oscars laws page, I agreed with their intervention from what I knew and the resulting RSPCA inspection, but asking people not to terrify a single mother with disabled children in a remote location.

This was a very bad move on behalf, as time went on to prove

It resulted in attacks on my name by Debra Tranter of Oscars law and a ban from the page, Debra and a few of her supporters then took to telling thousands of people I was an animal abuser or supporter of animal abusers, and that I condoned animal abuse.

During the next election I contested, it became worse with accusations i was a child abuser to animal murder, the worst bullying and defamation I had ever seen.

I am sure this occurred due to misinformation, but in any event it immediately shows another shortcoming in animal welfare, where activists take a similar approach to the RSPCA, in respect to becoming judge and jury before they know the facts.

To clarify my position, I have been actively involved in animal rescue and rights based lobbying for around 10 years, I own and self fund an animal sanctuary and support many local shelters. So being called a supporter of animal abuse, because I stepped up to protect children and look for the truth and the best way forward, lacks respect for justice.

Stern actions are needed to address animal abuse cases, but I do not back attacks on a person and her family after justice has been served, even if that justice may not have been adequate in ones eyes.

I attended the property on Wednesday the 23 for the first time, because the RSPCA had turned up without a warrant, and I was the only person she knew to ask questions of in respect to letting them into her home. They pro-ported to be at the property as a result of an animal abuse accusation, so I thought it pertinent for many reasons to see what in fact was going on.

I attended the property and the RSPCA had the drive way blocked, but were sitting in their car with the engine running, and had left the dogs they were trying to seize as a result of being questioned if they needed or had a warrant. they eventually left.

The lady was distraught, I looked over the entire property and filmed the condition and photographed every animal, I offered advice on some clean up issues, in relation to lose metal and the repair of a few fences affected by the recent wind storm but all the animals were in good health as best I could ascertain, clean water was abundant and feed stock was evident.

I confirmed the condition of the animals with the land owners farrier.

The right hand side of the property had several animals and 8 horses, the left hand side which appeared separated had 18 horses , pigs, donkeys ect, which was known as the daughters side, I looked over some paper work, which included a sublease to her daughter, a result of advice from her previous lawyer.

The lawyer who handled the original defence of Sarah also confirmed the basis of the plea bargain, so I had a fair understanding of the case when I arrived.

In the house was one cat, 1 male dog (de-sexed) and 2 females, the male dog was the adult daughters, and the 2 females were the ex partners gift to the 2 younger children, they were registered in the ex partners name and I made a few calls which confirmed this as fact.

On Thursday the 24 the RSPCA returned with 3 vehicles, 2 large horse transporters and a warrant to enter the property, I had some issues with the validity of the warrant, an issue in many of recent RSPCA raids.

They were there to take 2 dogs that may not have been de-sexed, they blocked the family in, and all three children were on site, and to take 18 horses from the daughters paddock, 2 of these belonged to another lady who also turned up on site with a horse float to collect them.

So 2 of the owners of the animals being seized were on site, one was away, but because another was there that had animal restrictions, 2 dogs and 18 health horses were taken, until a court could work out ownership issues, even though proof was available, because the RSPCA had no interest in even seeing it.

The two dogs were taken from the children's arms, these dogs were not owned or registered in Sarahs name.

RSPCA take childrens dogs

The RSPCA wont allow childeren or other people to own dogs, because another is limited to 2, but has none?

RSPCA, how many animal fit in a horse float I was told was for 4 horses (9 horses) ??

The RSPCA are seen here taking animals from a property because a person on the propery has restrictions on how many animals she can own, the animals are owned by two other people, but due the legislat...

I asked several questions, could I see the warrant, the seizure notices, and questions relating to who they were siezing the animals from, with what I would describe as inadequate replies.

They were taking the animals until a court could address ownership issues it appears, I would have thought at this stage considering the animals were all in good health, that court clarification would best precede seizure.

The court judgments did not appear to back the RSPCA's position or provide adequate reason for seizure.

The video on the right is the disabled children handing over their pets to the RSPCA, because no one of the property appears to be able to own animals, except one woman who had none?

The actions of the authorities appears to lack compassion and adherence to the rule of law, the seizure appears flawed as did the transport of the animals, where 9 animals were loaded into transport trucks designed for 4 and and 9 into a float for 5. I have researched each of these facts.

The outcome of this case appears to condone several actions or precedents that would not be in line with community expectations being;

  • The risk that a rescuer who takes in an animal that is not in perfect health, can be prosecuted for having that animal in their care, even if they are taking steps to restore health.
  • Warrants need not be correctly addressed nor filled out correctly
  • Safe transportation of animals can be ignored by the RSPCA, even if they offend their own guidelines
  • Ownership of an animal under the animal welfare act is too open to interpretation, using the word custody to describe ownership, if you are not home and another is, does that make them the owner?
  • The RSPCA prefer to prosecute rather than offer support services or education
  • SAPOL believe they are subservient to the RSPCA
  • There are no avenues to hold the RSPCA to account for any of their actions, other than criminal litigation.
  • Deals done with the RSPCA legal representatives are not adhered to.

The RSPCA have the ability to issue orders, like demanding vet checks, to demand clean up of areas, and the like, they chose not to in both the initial raid (I was not there) and the second seizure, (I was on site)

Update 9/12/1;

After the second seizure, it becomes interesting to debate the use of the law and the RSPCA powers,

The dogs were offered back to their rightful owner, yet they had been de-sexed with out his approval and he was forced to pay certain costs including the de-sexing.

Some horses were offered back to owners (excluding the daughter) but the owners were expected to pay for all costs including gelding, again carried out with out their permission, those parties could not afford the costs.

The RSPCA took Ms Richards to court and demanded forfeiture of all the animals, even though their was a known debate and court applications for their return to their owners.

The RSPCA lawyer told the magistrate in front of my eyes that Richards was the undisputed owner and in breach of law, so the magistrate signed over the animals to the RSPCA, this is not legal at law.

The daughter had filed prior for the return of her horses in the same court, before the mothers case was heard.

The case took over 12 months, and I thought it was very well argued by both parties, the out come was Mrs Richards was found guilty of breaching the original orders, because the court found that when the owners were not home, Mrs Richard was considered to be in "Custody and Control"

The magistrate allowed legal costs of $5,000 which will be paid of over years, but he imposed no further animal owner ship restrictions and did not add to the time limits, he left the argument of who owned the animals open.

This means Ownership V Custody and control may not be one in the same in terms of the Act.

The daughter now has to go to trial in relation to the return of her animals, at this stage, that is booked for a pretrial conference in January 2016.

The RSPCA have however already disposed of all the horses, some sold for amounts of up to $1800 it is purported, so where should this case go from here, should the daughter and other owners lose their horses, simply because the RSPCA successfully argued Mrs Richards was at times in custody and control, even though she was not the owner, interestingly Mrs Richards still has her 8 horses?

So if the horses seized are now gone, and the owners of them never committed a crime, how do we fix this break in the law?

If I am not home, unaware that a neighbor has a limitation order on them, does that mean they are in custody and control of my animals, allowing my animals to be seized and then forfeited to the RSPCA, for the RSPCA to do with them as they please?

The legislation says animals seized are on behalf of the minister, not the RSPCA, so who is responsible for the return of the animals, and why does a young lady with limited income cover the legal costs of getting them back, when the case is against the RSPCA, who have unlimited funds?

Your thoughts?

Mark

Our legal system has become out of reach in a monitory sense, resulting in unjust outcomes.

We need to help refine animal welfare legislation and ensure accountability is available to everyone involved, ownership rights must be addressed as does SAPOL’s position in relation to welfare related disputes.

There appears to be a divide in actions and expectations at every level, where we could step in and offer support and education, we see seizure and prosecution, many judge with out taking the time to ask questions and ascertain the truth and the law is applied with a total lack of equity.

I definitely do not support deliberate animal cruelty, but I must remain open minded in respect to accusations of animal abuse where I have witnesses first hand mistakes being made in recent months, so I will add a few examples.

1. You rescue a dog from the pound, take it to a vet, and take every action to restore its health, you can be charged with animal abuse because you are in the custody of a sick animal.

2. Your elderly animal is approaching its last years, you and your vet are happy with the condition and you treat the animal accordingly, this also can result in animal cruelty charges relating to health.

3. A kitten is dumped outside your home late at night, you take it in, you are a vet nurse, so you treat the kitten and arrange to take it to the vet in the morning, that morning you are raided, the animal can be seized, destroyed and you can be charged.

4. You endure 3 years of drought, but you get all your livesyock through, and finally have all the feed you need, and through all this you keep them healthy, but the RSPCA disagrees and plans to shoot them all, on arrival they see you have the feed and the animals are OK, but they destroy them all in front of you and fine you $300,000 for their costs.

5. You rescue cats, dogs and birds, and have been finding homes for them for over 30 years, you end up left with a few birds with birth defects that are healthy enough but hard to home, you have 40 cats on sight in different states of health, with vet checks for them all, and you have 3 elderly dogs, this can result in seizure of all your animals ad costs accruing at $60,000 a month for their care until you go to court, yet after 12 months, you are still waiting for your day in court.

These are all current or very recent cases.

There are many short falls in genuine animal welfare, many issues are the result of not knowing the full story, or based on selective photos or overzealous prosecutions, not every carer is rich, and not all animals live in 1.2 m x 2.4 m concrete cells, it is about intent, compassion and value of life.

When we have an organisation that kills some 60% of animals, prosecuting another who has a better track record in other cases around Australia, then change is necessary, because if it was all about the animals, support would outweigh prosecution as the first step in any intervention.

The above case is not one where either Oscars law, or the RSPCA should not have intervened how the case has been handled and the last seizure pose serious questions, as does the use of the powers awarded to the RSPCA by the Animal welfare act.

Mark

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