6 Jul 2021

Farmer sentenced to home detention for animal neglect

2:20 pm on 6 July 2021

A farmer has been sentenced to nine months' home detention and banned from owning or managing farm animals for four years for serious animal welfare offending.

Invercargill District Court

Bevan Scott Tait had earlier pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Animal Welfare Act. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Bevan Scott Tait received his sentence at the Invercargill District Court on Monday having earlier pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Animal Welfare Act.

As a result of Tait's offending, 226 sheep and three lambs had to be euthanised because they were emaciated and suffered from flystrike.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) launched an investigation at the 52-year-old's Tussock Creek, Southland, farm following a complaint in 2019. That led to a series of inspections over a five month period by MPI, farm consultants and veterinarians.

MPI animal welfare manager Gray Harrison said inspectors found animals in some distress and directed Tait to take corrective action, including euthanising eight sheep.

"We followed up and found Mr Tait had made some improvements and treated affected sheep for flystrike," Harrison said.

"However, we received another complaint later that month and executed a search warrant where our inspectors found three dead cows. There was also not enough pasture available to his sheep and no evidence of supplementary feed being provided to them."

MPI sent a a farm consultant to assess stocking rate, stock condition, available feed, and nutritional value of feed on farm. As a result, Tait was directed to make a number of improvements.

"At an unannounced follow-up visit, we found Mr Tait did not follow our directions, and action needed to be taken. 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.

"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," Harrison said.

MPI sold and rehomed the rest of his animals - 35 cattle and 387 sheep and about 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 saif.

Tait was also ordered to do 150 hours of community service.