A 45-YEAR-OLD man has been convicted of animal neglect charges after he and his 21-year-old partner left 11 dogs, two cats and three birds in “revolting” living conditions at a Calliope camping ground.
Many of the animals were kept in cramped cages without access to food or water while the couple drove to Brisbane in June 2016.
By the time they were recovered by the RSPCA, most of the animals were severely underweight, riddled with fleas and suffering from other medical conditions.
A chihuahua, named Aldi, was found underneath an upturned milk carton under the couple’s trailer, while a bull mastiff named Major had to be euthanised due to an untreated perineal hernia.
The rest of the animals have since been rehomed.
Paul John Bougoure, 45, and Ashlee Gina Thackeray, 21, each pleaded guilty to 17 charges of breaching their duty of care to an animal at Gladstone Magistrates Court this morning.
Bougoure, who had already been banned for life from owning animals, also pleaded guilty to breaching that prohibition order.
The animals were found after a council worker was called to the Calliope River Rest Area on June 9, 2016, to catch one of the dogs which had escaped its tether.
Council officers returned the next day with the RSPCA Inspector and recovered the animals, providing them with water and taking them for vet assessments.
Bougoure and Thackeray were not at the camp when they arrived.
When Thackeray was contacted she admitted the animals were in a poor condition and she was aware some did not have water.
She was initially reluctant to surrender the animals to the RSPCA, but the next day agreed to deliver them and gave consent for Major to be euthanised.
RSPCA lawyer Jordan Ahlstrand told Gladstone Magistrates Court the manner in which the animals had been cared for was “appalling”.
He said Bougoure had a history of animal offences, including one conviction of having sex with a horse.
Bougoure’s lawyer Tom Polley told the court his client had had a “hard and strict upbringing” at the hands of his father.
He said the couple were “living hard financially” at the time of the offences, as they were in the process of relocating from their house in Bajool to Bargara.
The court was told the couple were only intending to stay in Calliope for a short period of time, and the trip to Brisbane was only meant to last 12 hours.
However, Bougoure was arrested on an unrelated matter when they arrived in Brisbane, causing Thackeray to remain away from the camping ground for two more nights.
Thackeray’s lawyer Rio Ramos told the court her client was remorseful for the “unfortunate incident” and accepted “she could have done better.”
She said her client was “very passionate about animals” and wanted to find work with stock dogs as it was “the only thing she’s ever known”.
Magistrate Catherine Benson said Thackeray might consider it an unfortunate incident but the reality was the animals had been uncared for for a lengthy period of time.
“It’s not a situation where you are being charged and sentenced only for leaving animals for a few days,” Ms Benson said.
“You need to have a whole new attitude towards the care and protection of animals if that’s the career (you would like to) have.”
Thackeray was sentenced to 18 months’ probation and banned from owning any animals for two years, with no conviction recorded due to her age and early guilty plea.
Turning her attention to Bougoure, Ms Benson said he had “thumbed (his) nose” at the court by defying a lifetime prohibition order that had already been already in place at the time of the offending.
She sentenced him to six months in prison, suspended for two years, and said the only reason he would not serve actual time in custody was the amount of time that had passed since his last similar conviction.
Bougoure also received a two month sentence for breaching the prohibition order, suspended for two years and to be served concurrently with the six-month sentence, as well as a second lifetime prohibition order.
Both Bougoure and Thackeray were ordered to pay the legal and operations costs incurred by the RSPCA.
Speaking after the conclusion of the case, RSPCA Regional Inspector Clare Gordon said the decision was a good outcome, calling the animals’ living conditions “revolting”.
“Definitely a serious case that we hope not to see very often,” she said.
“This job came up when I’d only been in the position for two weeks – it was a real eye-opener to me.
“The animals’ conditions were terrible. They were emaciated, they were anemic, they were riddled with fleas (and) hookworm.
“To be given a life prohibition order, the courts don’t do that lightly. So he has serious offendings prior to this, and then he’s continued to do it.”