By Danielle Kutchel
The RSPCA has warned the community to be careful not to read too much into social media claims of animal cruelty, after photos of a tethered Lynbrook dog went viral.
The photos first surfaced some months ago and appeared to show a dog without access to water or shelter, tied with a chain outside a property.
They attracted hundreds of comments from community members and animal activists alike, many of whom were concerned at the German Shepherd’s apparent living conditions and the fact that he appeared to be chained up on a patch of concrete.
However, Lisa Calleja, team leader of major investigations at the RSPCA, said it had been confirmed that the dog had access to an adequate water source and that his tethering was not an offence.
There was further criticism of the dog’s owners for apparently leaving the animal chained during a run of hot days – however Ms Calleja said on these days the owners had taken the dog inside into the air conditioned house.
“…the dog’s owners … confirmed the dog [had] been inside all day in the air-conditioning. They also provided visual evidence that verified this,” she said.
“There is no welfare risk to this animal and no breaches of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA) have been identified. Photos being circulated on social media are historic and do not reflect the dog’s current situation.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that there will always be issues raised on social media, many of which have no truth or merit to them. We are so grateful that the community is concerned about animal welfare, however we also ask that consideration is shown when publicly commenting on such cases, especially when there may not be first-hand information available.”
When visited by Star News Group, the dog’s owner, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear for the safety of his property and family, confirmed that the dog was tethered to stop him escaping as the property was not fenced at the time.
He said he and his family had been shocked by the level of vitriol directed towards them in person and on social media.
His address was posted in several places on social media sites, and “vigilantes” trespassed multiple times, smashing car windows and attempting to take the dog.
In a video seen by Star News, another person abused the family from their car.
The owner said he had seen social media comments in which people said he “deserved a bullet”.
He and his family have taken out several restraining orders against trespassers.
“We’re paranoid, we’ve been intimidated. It’s stressful,” he said.
He added that while he respected people’s right to an opinion, the dog, named Taro, was safe and well looked after and authorities had handled the complaints from the community.
The City of Casey’s manager safer communities, Caroline Bell, said the council was first contacted by a resident concerned about the dog’s welfare in early December, and again in January.
“The concerns raised were taken seriously and investigated by our Local Laws officers in order to identify if there were any breaches of the Domestic Animals Act, 1994 or the Casey Community Local Law 2018 in regard to the keeping of a dog, and of any potential risks to the community,” she said.
The council suggested that the property owner “erect a suitable fence” to contain the dog.
The fence has since been completed and the owner assured Star News Group that Taro will no longer be tethered now that he has a contained backyard of his own.