Father-son dog breeders ordered to pay $56,000 vet bill
COMMERCIAL dog breeders Harold Moorhead and son Keith Moorhead have been allowed to continue their Churchable business despite a crackdown by RSPCA inspectors who found them with animals suffering from neglect.
An Ipswich court this week heard there were 152 animals on the property, with many of them affected by fleas, ticks, hookworm, lack of water, mild dental disease, and coats soiled by excrement.
The men had since made considerable efforts to improve the living conditions for their dogs, with the RSPCA seeking a penalty that would allow its inspectors to monitor the breeding operation.
Harold (Max) Moorhead, 77, a former jockey, and Keith Moorhead, 58, appeared for sentence at Ipswich Magistrates Court over a series of offences committed in August and September 2019 under the Animal Care and Protection Act.
Both men pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the compulsory code of practice that applies to the breeding of animals; five counts of failing to provide treatment between August 12-September 11, 2019; two counts of failing to provide appropriate accommodation/living conditions; and failing to provide food and water.
Dozens of charges of failing to provide appropriate living conditions, treatment, and food and water were withdrawn.
All charges against grandson Matthew Moorhead were withdrawn by the RSPCA prosecutor Xuan Huynh, and dismissed by the magistrate.
Ms Huynh said inspectors went to a rural property in September last year, where the Moorheads were licensed dog breeders, and found 152 dogs including 50 puppies.
The breeds included golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, and dachshunds.
The RSPCA had received complaints about inappropriate living conditions and found issues including dogs suffering hookworm, flea burden, lacking appropriate living conditions or without proper access to feeding and enrichment.
Ms Huynh said some were underweight or suffering psychological issues.
As a result, 64 animals were surrendered.
Ms Huynh said one dog, Gracie, was anaemic, had dried faeces on her anus and her coat was covered in fleas.
"She was emaciated and near death, and required blood transfusions and days in intensive care," she said.
Ms Huynh said it was not a case of a deliberate or malicious act, but did involve neglect.
"Nevertheless it did cause harm to these animals. It correlates with the large number of dogs then in their care," Ms Huynh said.
"There were similar issues found in 2016 and they were given the benefit of the doubt.
"It has taken place in a commercial enterprise setting.
"They are profiting from these animals so there are higher obligations.
"Their conduct was well below what is expected of breeders."
Ms Huynh said the RSPCA did not seek to shut down the operation, nor did it seek a substantial fine, saying the money would be better spent by the Moorheads improving the welfare and care of the animals.
She said the RSPCA did seek reimbursement for more than $50,000 in medical and costs incurred when caring for the animals.
The operation now has no more than 70 dogs or puppies.
Magistrate Dennis Kinsella said the Moorheads had made significant efforts which worked in their favour.
"As dog breeders you are subject to a code of practice, with appropriate housing, exercise, food," he said.
He noted that an unannounced inspection by RSPCA last week found no issues.
Mr Kinsella sentenced both men to a two-year probation order.
They were ordered to pay the RSPCA costs of $56,957.
No fine was imposed. No convictions were recorded.