Gracie the Boston Terrier. Picture: RSPCA Queensland
Gracie the Boston Terrier. Picture: RSPCA Queensland

Dog breeders fail to get puppies back

COMMERCIAL breeder Harold Moorhead and his son Keith Moorhead have failed to get their puppies and breeding dogs returned from the RSPCA after they were seized in September.

Through their lawyer Craig Stevenson the businessmen sought for a stay in their court matters pending an appeal in which they face dozens of charges alleging they failed to provide appropriate accommodation or living conditions to animals.

If the stay was granted they wanted their animals returned to allow the puppies to be sold to alleviate financial hardship.

The criminal matters received a brief mention in Ipswich Magistrates Court with RSPCA lawyer Xuan Huynh saying the trial would involve more than 40 witnesses. A hearing date will be sought next year.

In a follow-up civil application the court heard the Moorheads lost 64 dogs and puppies when taken by RSPCA animal inspectors on September 10 due to alleged welfare concerns.

The men argued through their lawyer the seizure represented financial hardship because animals were their sole means of earning an income.

"All the charges will be hotly contested at trial," Mr Stevenson said.

Mr Stevenson said the dogs should be returned after 28 days as the RSPCA had made no animal prohibition order and the inspectors left behind dozens of other animals still entrusted in their care.

Churchable dog breeder Keith Moorhead, 57.
Churchable dog breeder Keith Moorhead, 57.

Only one dog named as Gracie was subject to a prohibition order and she'd been surrendered. She is no longer part of the application.

Mr Stevenson said they sought the stay for the animals to then be returned as they were the sole income of the Moorhead's and there would be financial hardship.

With as many as 59 animals left in their care the registered breeders would have to adhere to RSPCA requirements if the other dogs were to be returned.

Magistrate Virginia Sturgess said the conclusion to be drawn from the fact the RSPCA left dogs in the care of the men was it had no welfare concerns for those animals.

Mr Stevenson in his submission said the actual animals were physically no longer needed by the RSPCA for the legal proceedings next year (as relevant issues had now been documented).

If there were concerns the RSPCA could issue further welfare directions, he said.

Mr Stevenson said the seized puppies were getting older and likely not to be saleable and it was in the public interest they were sold and went to new homes.


Dog breeder Harold Moorhead, 77 leaves Ipswich court.
Dog breeder Harold Moorhead, 77 leaves Ipswich court.

Mr Stevenson outlined financial concerns as the RSPCA could charge $50,000 a month for animal care expenses.

Ms Sturgess said there was no evidence before the court to support the income or financial loss of their business or how much the puppies sold for which would have given the case more weight.

She said she was not prepared to speculate.

She noted one dog found collapsed and in need of urgent care had since been surrendered to the RSPCA.

RSPCA prosecutor Scott Seefeld briefly mentioned some health issues the seized animals allegedly had such as dental, dermatitis, eye prolapse, eye irritations, hernia, and penis swelling. He said there was 17 dead dogs found at the Churchable property in 2017.

He said with a criminal case pending, any return and sale of some animals was not the preferred course of the RSPCA.

Ms Sturgess said she might have considered a stay and the return of the puppies if there was financial evidence to rely on.

The application was refused.

The matter of appeal will be mentioned on April 28.

An RSPCA spokesman said the seized animals received and continue to receive "expert veterinary and behavioural care".