Local man sentenced on charges against animals

Liz Bell

ANIMAL welfare advocates have slammed the “lenient” sentence given to a man who ran an illegal puppy farm in Munro, where dead puppies were found and dogs were kept in appalling conditions.

During a raid earlier this year, Wellington Shire Council officers found 39 cavoodles — including two dead, one-week old puppies — locked in small, dark, damp and dirty greyhound trailers on the leased bush block.

On Tuesday at Sale Magistrates’ Court, Bertram Cooke, 85, escaped jail after pleading guilty to 28 charges, rolled up from 155 for sentencing purposes, and was ordered to pay almost $13,000 in costs to Wellington Shire Council.

He was banned from owning dogs for 10 years and must perform 150 hours of work in the community.

A forfeiture order was issued for both dog trailers seized during the raid, to be destroyed along with all contents. Cooke must also submit to a 10-year monitoring order to ensure he does not have any dogs.

Oscar’s Law founder Deb Tranter was in Sale for the sentencing and later dismissed the fine on Twitter as “lenient”.

“The punishment for running an illegal puppy factory should be a deterrent — not a slight inconvenience. Especially for repeat offenders like Bert Cooke,” she said.

“To put it in perspective, this fine is worth one litter.”

The council had sought a custodial sentence given the severity of the charges, which included cruelty to animals, but a spokeswoman said the council was pleased at the outcome of the court hearing.

Acting on information, council officers had raided the Munro property in July and found the animals hidden in dog trailers, under camouflage in the bush.

The poor quality of living conditions warranted immediate seizure, which council was authorised to do under the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

Charges were brought under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the Domestic Animals Act, Local Government Act and Wellington Shire Local Law.

On Tuesday, Magistrate Rodney Higgins told the court that if it wasn’t for Cooke’s age, he may have been jailed.

Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, the maximum penalty for cruelty is $88,566, with possible jail time of up to 12 months.