Local farmer fined $50,000 for mass cruelty to sheep was repeat offender
A TOODYAY farmer fined $50,000 last month for mass cruelty to sheep was a repeat offender, the RSPCA has revealed.
Clinton Wheatley was previously convicted in Geraldton for cruelty to sheep 17 years ago, an RSPCA spokesman said.
There is no official tally of the number of sheep that starved to death in the latest incident but a statement of facts to the Perth Magistrate’s Court noted “unnatural piles of bodies around the property”.
Mr Wheatley pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a total of $20,000 in costs, taking his total penalty to $70,000.
He was also given a four-year conditional probation order to reduce his flock and have it undergo monthly assessments by an animal husbandry expert.
The case was reported to the RSPCA aniaml cruelty hotline on 1300 278 3589 after a large number of sheep dead or dying were seen in a bare paddock (pictured above) north of Racecourse Road in March 2014.
A vet who attended said some were in such bad condition that they could not be saved.
The sheep were so starved that they had started to break down muscle tissue after being deprived of adequate food for a prologued period, the vet said.
RSPCA inspectors mounted a rescue operation, and a farmer from West Toodyay use his fire truck to help them water and feed the surviving sheep.
The RSPCA said the sheep were directly across the road from another paddock owned by Mr Wheatley where there was sufficient feed to have kept them alive.
The case made national news and was reported by some overseas news services.
Mr Wheatley told The Herald later that he had pleaded guilty to animal cruelty only because of a “technicality under the Act”.
“I’m a bit cranky about it,” he said.
“The law says you have to cater for the whole flock, and there was feed just over the hill on the other side of the paddock but only the leaders went to it – the tail didn’t go.”
Mr Wheatley – who lives in the Swan Valley – claimed the RSPCA had “overstated” the case against him and that only eight of his flock of 300 sheep had died after being put down by RSPCA inspectors.
He said the rest were moved to a paddock across Racecourse Road, shorn and sold.
“Other farmers need to be very careful about the nutritional regulations defined in the Act,” Mr Wheatley said.
He said the fact that he had a previous conviction for cruelty to sheep was “history” and had nothing to do with the latest case.