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Chisholm woman found guilty after 156 animals were seized by RSPCA ACT Inspectors

Chisholm woman Cynthia Lawrence has been charged and found guilty for multiple offences under the Animal Welfare Act after 156 animals were seized from her residence. The charges included failure to provide adequate food, water, and shelter. Additional charges of failure to take reasonable steps to alleviate pain were also brought before the courts.

In February 2015, RSPCA ACT Inspectors attended the Chisholm home after concerns were raised for the welfare of the poultry living in the yard. Upon arrival, the front yard was littered with debris with ducks and chickens sighted roaming through old vehicles, chairs, containers, crates, cages, coops, and bins.

Inspectors found numerous rats, guinea pigs, quails, ferrets, rabbits, and poultry were observed in assorted crates and cages; many of which did not have water and were extremely dirty and overcrowded.

Live chickens were standing on the dead and decomposing bodies of others; the cramped cages meant that they were trampling one another to death. Only after RSPCA ACT staff started to clear the cages did they find bodies of dead and dying chickens lying in the filthy bottom. Unfortunately, some had to be euthanised as a result.

In the majority of cases the water containers were empty and full of faeces and debris with the bottoms of the cages wet, muddy, and thick with faeces and debris as well.

Due to the extremely poor living conditions and the fact that many of the animals needed immediate veterinary treatment, the decision was made to seize the animals.

RSPCA ACT Senior Inspector Catherine Croatto explained her dismay, “It was extremely sad to see the conditions that these animals were forced to live in. It’s so wrong that people continue to treat animals like they don’t matter. Every animal, regardless of the species has the right to live a life free of pain, hunger, thirst, injury and distress”.

The Defendant was given a $1,650 fine, 12 month good behaviour order and a three year animal ban on chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs. She was not banned from owning other animals.

RSPCA ACT Chief Executive Tammy Ven Dange, was frustrated by the sentencing, “After working on this case for almost 18 months, I’m disturb to think that our inspectors could easily find other neglected animals at this home and have to go through the entire process again.” 

Ms Ven Dange further commented, “Regardless of whether an animal is a pet or used as a food source, there are very good reasons why our Animal Welfare laws are written to ensure that all animals, regardless of species, have their most basic needs met.  In this case, too many animals lost their lives due to neglect with many more that suffered. We cannot see any reason why, if the courts think this owner cannot properly look after rabbits, guinea pigs or poultry, that she somehow has the capacity and capability to care for other species of animals.”