An Invercargill farmer has been sentenced to nine months home detention and banned from owning or managing farm animals for four years after pleading guilty to eight animal cruelty charges.
52-year-old Bevan Scott Tait received his sentence by audio visual link at the Invercargill District Court this week following an investigation launched by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in 2019.
As a result of his offending, 226 sheep and 3 lambs were euthanised due to their emaciated state. Many were also suffering from flystrike at the time they were discovered by MPI inspectors.
MPI Animal Welfare launched an investigation at his Tussock Creek farm following a complaint in 2019. That led to a series of inspections from April until August that year by MPI, farm consultants, and veterinarians.
“Our inspectors found animals in some distress and directed Mr Tait to take corrective action, including euthanising eight sheep,” said MPI national manager of Animal Welfare and NAIT Compliance, Gray Harrison.
“We followed up and found Mr Tait had made some improvements and treated affected sheep for fly-strike.
“However, we received another complaint later that month and executed a search warrant where our inspectors found 3 dead cows. There was also not enough pasture available to his sheep and no evidence of supplementary feed being provided to them.
“We sent a farm consultant to assess stocking rate, stock condition, available feed, and nutritional value of feed on farm. As a result, we directed Mr Tait to make a number of improvements to ensure his animals were properly fed and protected from disease.
“At an unannounced follow-up visit, we found Mr Tait did not follow our directions, and action needed to be taken.”
Mr Harrison said it was clear Mr Tait was not doing what was needed to look after his animals.
“So we obtained a court order which directed him to de-stock within three days,” he said.
“At the end of that time we visited again, but he had failed to destock. We had a vet assess each animal individually, and as a result 226 sheep and three lambs had to be euthanised.
“No one likes to see animals put down, but it was a necessary action in this situation to alleviate the suffering they were enduring.”
The Ministry sold and rehomed the rest of his animals – 35 cattle, 387 sheep, and around 100 lambs.
“It’s fair to say that this type of offending is rare. Most farmers do the right thing by their animals and Mr Tait’s neglect of his animals was one of the worst we’ve seen for some time,” Mr Harrison said.
“We strongly encourage any member of the public who is aware of animal ill-treatment or cruelty to report it to the MPI animal welfare complaints freephone 0800 00 83 33.”
Mr Tait has also been ordered to do 150 hours of community service.