A Far North Queensland couple who fed two puppies an almost exclusively vegan diet, leaving them severely malnourished and underweight, has been banned from owning pets for three years and fined nearly $9,000.
James McKenzie and Megan Price from Cow Bay, north of Cairns, were each charged with two counts of failing to treat an animal and one count of failing to comply with an animal welfare direction (AWD) between April and May 2020.
The bull-arab-cross puppies, named Roo and Ula, were seized from the couple after the RSPCA made several visits to their property to investigate reports of animal cruelty and found the dogs were being fed chickpeas, quinoa, rice and grains.
After being seized in May, the dogs underwent days of emergency treatment, which resulted in Ula being renamed and re-homed after his condition improved.
Roo, however, did not respond well to emergency rehabilitation and was euthanased on the advice of three independent vets who held concerns around his quality of life due to lifelong pain.
RSPCA told dogs had ‘gone to God’
On one of the first visits in April last year, the RSPCA inspector was told Roo had injured a back leg when jumping off the couch.
The couple told the inspector they had put the dog’s leg into a homemade cast, which they learned to construct from the internet, because they did not have the money to take the dog to the vet for treatment.
Roo was found to be underweight, struggling to stand and suffering blisters on his stomach due to the homemade cast rubbing against his skin.
The couple was issued with two AWDs — ordering them to have the puppy examined by a vet immediately.
The couple told the inspector that puppies Roo and Ula were being fed on rice and chickpeas as the couple had run out of dog food and were unable to buy more.
Days later, when the RSPCA followed up on the dogs’ welfare, Mr McKenzie told the inspector the dogs had “gone to God”.
“They’re not with us anymore,” Mr McKenzie told the inspector.
Less than a week later, the RSPCA learned Roo and Ula were back at the property.
A search warrant of the couple’s property found there was no dog food or meat products at the property, only human food, including lentils, rice, pasta, quinoa and grains in the panty and fridge.
Ms Price told the inspector she made her own dog food for the puppies but refused to disclose what ingredients she used.
“You eat murdered animals, you will never be like us — we are vegans and love animals,” Mr McKenzie told the inspector as the puppies were seized.
After being seized, both dogs were assessed by veterinarian Dr Paul Matthews as being “emaciated” and suffering severe calcium deficiencies.
Giving evidence, Dr Matthews said approximately three months of inappropriate diet had led to severe nutritional imbalance in both puppies.
The couple was ordered to pay more than $8,600 in fines, legal costs and veterinarian bills.