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A quick overview of the case of Mariana May, an animal lover in WA

Mariana is a 72 your old woman with a massive compassion for animals, as such she has been rescuing strays, injured and abused animals for over 20 years, more so since she retired a few years ago.

In this time it has been no holds barred, with vet receipts alone reaching over $100,000, it could be more than double that.

Her feeding regime is also well above the norm, with a preference for only the best for her animals, which consists of rescues and working with several local vets in the WA area, cats, rabbits, dogs and birds.

The local council, who like the RSPCA in WA are empowered by the Animal welfare Act, have been regular visitors at Marianas home and have never had issue with the quality of life she offers any animal in her custody.

On the 14 of December 2012, the RSPCA visited her home, Mariana had just returned home from the vets having spent over $400 on a sick rabbit she had found, they had a look around, and went on to seize one rabbit, which it appears they diagnosed with a wrong condition, they told Mariana they were not happy with the conditions the animals were kept in.

At this stage I will note a few things, none of the animals in Marianas care were sick, none were purchased, all were rescues and Mariana employs a local handy man to help her on a regular basis, when I met him, he made me aware that he had been in for one of their big clean ups only a few days before the RSPCA’s first visit.

Mariana was distraught about the RSPCA taking her rabbit, and demanded its return, and also requested to know what was needed to bring the property up to the RSPCA standards, as Marianna, her employee, and the council could see no issues with the conditions, the RSPCA did not reply to her calls.

She then phoned the president of the animal protection society for advise, he too could see no issues with the conditions or the animals, but offered to help move them to renovate for good luck.

Mariana owned 2 adjacent houses, so they set up a whole house as a cattery, ripping up the carpets, adding water bowls, a fountain and attached outside runs, so Mariana could renovate the original area/home they lived in.

The RSPCA got back to Mariana a few days later and told her the Rabbit was fine, and would be home soon, which lifted her spirits.

On the 19 of December Mariana was out feeding animals at another location, and when she returned home the RSPCA were there, they had broken into both homes, and were taking every animal she had, a total of around 128 birds, cats, rabbits and a dog.

Mariana describes the ordeal like a smash and grab, broken furniture, crockery and even missing jewellery, the RSPCA were there until after midnight.

Mariana describes the ordeal like a smash and grab, broken furniture, crockery and even missing jewellery, the RSPCA were there until after midnight.

If the RSPCA had considered the matter urgent they had the grounds to get an urgent warrant under the legislation, yet they appeared to be in no hurry, so surely to break and enter while the owner was not home was also an abuse of their powers.

Marianas explained some of the animals had just had surgery and others were on medications, she offered to supply the medicines and explain each case, they refused to listen, they also refused to take the medicine or the food she asked that they use.

Mariana phoned her main vet and explained what had happened, as she was seriously worried for the animal’s welfare, her vet then phoned the RSPCA to help and check on the patients she was treating and again they refused. Many of those animals were apparently left with out medication and died in the RSPCA's care,

Mariana then lodged complaints with the government and the State administration Tribunal for the return of her animals.

After around 4 months, the RSPCA had yet to press charges or explain how they had a right to seize the animals, so the magistrate ordered the RSPCA to return the animals, but they did not, and then lodged a charge of not keeping the animals in a suitable area, with just hours before the legislation would have supported the return as well.

Over the next few months, the RSPCA started killing the animals, based on issues that did not add up, and the government stepped in and demanded they adhere to the legislation, also asking for explanations as to why the animals were killed, because their own paper work did not add up.

By May 2013 (5 months after the seizure), the RSPCA wanted boarding costs of those animals left alive totalling over $265,000, with an added $45,000 plus per month, plus veterinarian fees of near $30,000 plus legal fees.

By the time Mariana gets her day in court, most of her animals will have been killed, and the costs could easily amount to over 1 million dollars.

I found all this impossible to put up with, so started butting in and get more involved, I helped demand a FOI (freedom of information) request, and started advising a barrister friend in QLD.

I spoke to the vets, the president of the animal protection society and many witnesses, and I also had a detailed chat with the head of the government department that administered the Animal welfare legislation.

Every party to the case and all the witnesses were on Marianas side.

I note here in SA, no one wants to discuss anything to do with the RSPCA.

My conclusion was the very same as the governments, the use of the warrant to force entry was not correct procedure, and nor should it be, the seizures were unwarranted, and the killing of the first 25 animals that we know of, did not meet the legislative requirement’s and at no time did the RSPCA offer support or advise.

I attended Perth magistrate’s court this week with a friend who is a barrister the RSPCA wish to drop the original charges, which is not appropriate, so the avenues we will take will see costs awarded to Mariana.

The RSPCA now wish to issue new charges totalling 128 charges of animal cruelty, and make this case go on longer, another 12 months would mean near all the animals would be killed, simply because of how they are being housed, (yet that is why they were seized) if they are not already and the costs sort from Mariana would exceed 1 million dollars.

The RSPCA will also as usual try and ensure measures are in place so Mariana can never own animals again.

So to this stage if the RSPCA get their way, a person who has invested her life and hundreds of thousands of dollars rescuing stray and injured animals, will lose her home, her investment property and be out on the street, and banned from rescuing animals ever again, and the RSPCA have tried to argue this is in line with community expectations, I think bloody not.

"As at 9/12/14, the RSPCA WA entered into a contract to drop all charges against Marianna, totaling around $1.6 million dollars, Marianna had to date borrowed over $200,000 and spent that trying to save the animals from the RSPCA, demanding they are released, even if that release is into the hands of non kill shelters, the RSPCA are still refusing". CLICK HERE FOR COPIES OF THE DOCUMENTS SERVED ON THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

Marianna is refusing to give up on the animals, which has already resulted in the possible loss of one if not both of her homes, the RSPCA, DAFWA and the Government are still refusing to enter into talks to ensure the lives of the animals.

The facts of this case appear to mimic most that I have reviewed; one difference here is the government department responsible for the Animal welfare legislation did at least look into the facts of the case.

The correspondence between the government and the RSPCA obtained under Freedom of Information requests, strongly opposed by the RSPCA I must add, exposed all the issues, which are the same as I have seen in most cases from around Australia.

The outcome is simple, the RSPCA have not proven worthy of the powers they are awarded under Animal welfare legislation, they have trouble understanding the law, they make a habit of abusing court process, and their ability to house animals beyond the short term in many cases amounts to animal cruelty itself.

Their excuses used to kill animals is also beyond their legislative powers when the animals are not theirs to do with as they please, raising serious questions as to their chosen kill rates and reasons then limitations are not in place.

While speaking with past and present inspectors and staff, including the previous chief inspector in WA, it becomes apparent that the RSPCA bases all its decisions on the financial outcome, on profit, yet this goes well beyond charity licences conditions and their perceived mandate.

When staff members are sacked by the RSPCA they are expected to sign a clause that forces them to keep their mouths shut, fortunately for animal welfare, many have refused to in recent times.

In most if not all recent raids, the RSPCA promise not to kill the animals, their seizure notices also say the same, yet in every case animals are killed, and most of the time without notifying the owner, another offence under the Act.

It is for these reasons a national inquiry is urgently needed, because we need the likes of the RSPCA in this country, but one that’s primary concern is the welfare of the animals, not one that is obsessed with their powers of prosecution or financial gain.

My preferred series of events goes like this (for every case) The RSPCA arrive, if there is immediate risks or health concerns, indeed seize the animal/s, if there is deliberate abuse, take harsh and immediate action against the abuser.

If they arrive, and there are issues that can be made good, like cleaning issues or discrepancy’s in the build or condition of the enclosures, offer support or provide strict terms. In every case they must start to look at INTENT.

Education and support is always going to be the best way forward, in this case why destroy animals and a rescuer, when a little compassion for both will have a much better outcome.

This article/overview was written in haste for a purpose on the 18th of January 2014, I will go over it, make amendments and add links to the evidence when time permits

Mark Aldridge

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