Photos taken at Stocks Produce during an RSPCA investigation in to the business' care of the animals it had for sale.
Photos taken at Stocks Produce during an RSPCA investigation in to the business' care of the animals it had for sale.

Stock shop gets away with small fine after poultry cruelty

A BUSINESSMAN who retails chickens, birds and animals has been fined $2000 for animal offences - despite the RSPCA having to euthanase hundreds of suffering birds.

The trader Geoffrey Dawson operates Stocks Produce on the Warrego Highway at Pine Mountain.

Ipswich Magistrate Donna MacCallum ordered Dawson to also pay the RSPCA $2250 for veterinary costs.

Geoffrey Thomas Dawson, 64, from Woolmar, pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to eight animal offences under the Animal Care and Protection Act.

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LACK OF CARE: Animal trader Geoffrey Dawson had no comment to make when leaving Ipswich Courthouse after sentence.
LACK OF CARE: Animal trader Geoffrey Dawson had no comment to make when leaving Ipswich Courthouse after sentence. Ross Irby

The offences were five counts of failing to provide treatment; two counts of failing to comply, inappropriate living conditions; and failing to comply with an animal welfare directive.

RSPCA prosecutor, barrister Adrian Braithwaite said the case had merged 24 charges. He said these related to in excess of 300 birds or animals after Dawson repeatedly had multiple contacts with the RSPCA officers.

"Over the years there has been multiple attempts to assist him in an educational capacity in their overall care that did not come to fruition," Mr Braithwaite said.

 

Stocks Produce.
Stocks Produce. Cordell Richardson

In November 2017, the RSPCA ordered Dawson to comply with deficiencies in his care of animals with food, water, and housing.

Mr Braithwaite said this had not been complied with despite Dawson being given multiple opportunities.

"His animals were in very poor condition. Multiple examples with various diseases, ailments, housed in inappropriate living arrangements," Mr Braithwaite said.

"We seek a fine of substance given the offences were done when carrying out commercial trade.

"It is a business he says he intends to sell later in the year. Given his history it may be the better course of valour."

 

Defence lawyer Bill Leather supplied the court with a reference letter from Dawson's vet at Brassall.

The court was also given a letter from a businessman who supplied Dawson with live chickens (battery hens), as well as a letter about students who visited his business operation.

"He has been in business in excess of 30 years. Been a number of interactions with the RSPCA but no prosecutions," Mr Leather said.

"But unfortunately for him things came to a head at the end of 2017 and in 2018. He understands the high standards now expected in his industry.

"He has spent $20,000 upgrading his cages. He was sourcing battery hens and on-selling.

 

Sick animals were found at the business.
Sick animals were found at the business.

"He admits his standards were below what was expected. He says he is far more vigilant with staff to ensure the birds cages are cleaned twice a week.

"His vet says he regularly gets checks done on his young animals, pups, where the scope for disease, fleas, is high.

"Mr Dawson tells me he is looking at leaving the industry if he can sell. This may take time but at this stage will continue to operate.

"Ipswich City Council has inspected his business premises and made comments about improvements he has made.

"He is very popular in the locality and this has affected him emotionally as well."

Mr Leather argued a prohibition order sought by the RSPCA was not appropriate given the fact the RSPCA would continue monitoring Dawson closely.

Magistrate MacCallum acknowledged the prosecution saying Dawson was now willing to comply with its directives.

"The letter of support from the vet seems somewhat at odds with the RSPCA complaints," Ms MacCallum said.

"The vet does say there was some mistakes by you in the purchase of some animals carrying disease.

"The vet says your standards seem to be good and no cruelty to the animals."

Ms MacCallum said the council was prepared to support him and he'd been "a good corporate citizen" being supportive of children with disabilities.

She fined him $2000 and ordered that he pay the $2520 veterinary costs and $1100 in RSPCA legal costs.

A prohibition order of three years was made, Ms MacCallum saying this involves some exceptions.

OVERCROWDED ANIMALS SUFFER IN HOT CAGES

SINCE 2002 the RSPCA received and investigated 121 complaints made by the public about the Stocks Produce store.

Seventeen complaints were made in 2017. Inspectors and vets inspected the premises on November 8, 2017.

Living conditions of animals was generally poor with most cages in need of cleaning.

There was poor ventilation and air circulation inside the main shed with flies everywhere.

Two puppies had bloated abdomens and were living in their faeces. Their water was not drinkable.

Two goats were living in cages with a wire bottom. The cages stacked on another.

More than 100 small birds were in an overcrowded cage.

And 173 adult chickens were housed in "grossly overstocked", damp and dirty enclosures that had not been cleaned since a previous Animal Welfare Direction was made.

Many were emaciated and there was not enough perches or nesting boxes.

The underweight chickens were mite or lice infested - many suffering obvious signs of respiratory illness.

All 173 chickens were euthanased.

Three kittens were lying motionless, one hardly breathing.

All animals looked to be suffering from the summer heat. There was heavy flea infestation at the store.

Chickens with swollen eyes and respiratory disease. Chickens had severe scaly leg mite infestations, were underweight and with protruding keel bones.

There were obvious mite and lice infestations on all animals.



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