A MACKAY region musterer who severely neglected five working dogs - which were found emaciated and living in their own faeces - has copped a fine and walked from court without a conviction recorded.
However, Bryson James Watt agreed to pay $25,000 to RSPCA Queensland for its treatment of the dogs and professional costs.
The 43-year-old Kuttabul man pleaded guilty to six charges of breaching duty of care to animals - dated between January 13 to January 20 - when he faced Mackay Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Watt, who had no lawyer, had previously faced 32 charges, but 26 of them were dropped as the prosecution offered no evidence.
Prosecutor Patrick Cullinane, on behalf of RSPCA Queensland, told the court RSPCA inspectors had visited Watt's property near Mackay in January.
Members of the public had reported the dogs - named Bozo, Hank, Charlotte, Choice and Diamond - had been left unattended at the property for days at a time, the court was told.
The dogs had been fed and watered by unknown citizens, who likely kept them alive in Watt's absence.
Mr Cullinane added that all five dogs were found cooped up in metal cages, which restricted their ability to exercise and display normal canine behaviour.
They were provided inadequate shelter from the weather and their cages were described as grossly unhygienic due to a build-up of dog faeces.
The five dogs were seized and taken to RSPCA Queensland's Townsville shelter, while Watt was charged with breaching duty of care.
Once seized, the dogs gained up to three-quarters of their original bodyweight when fed commercially available dog food.
Diamond - a white and brown coloured entire female English bull terrier type dog - was discovered by inspectors with a bloody tail tip.
She had wagged her tail against an exposed corrugated iron sheet wall in her cage and had smeared a wall with her blood.
Another dog, Bozo - a brindle brown coloured entire male English mastiff-cross dog - was tethered in a swampy enclosure and could not reach dry ground.
Mr Cullinane described the dogs as riddled with heartworm and hookworm, which are easily prevented by good animal care practices and preventative measures.
In court, Watt said he'd treated the dogs for worms, though it was noted the medication he had shown the RSPCA had been six years out of date.
Additionally, the dogs were suffering from dental disease, fleas and were emaciated, or starving, among other medical ailments.
In his defence, Watt told the court the dogs had been lost in scrub for 10 days, resulting in their poor condition - after previously telling the RSPCA the dogs were lost for four days.
Magistrate Damien Dwyer did not accept that claim, describing Watt's neglect as "disgraceful" and "disgusting".
He said "even if it was the case" that the dogs had been lost for a time, their living quarters were "terrible".
Mr Dwyer questioned why the RSPCA was only seeking to have Watt prohibited from owning an animal for three years and said it "seems very lenient" for "very nasty behaviour".
Watt did not have a history of similar animal neglect or cruelty offending and had gained "some insight into his offending now" by way of guilty pleas, Mr Cullinane explained.
Mr Dwyer fined Watt $4000 (of which $2000 will go to the RSPCA) and the musterer was banned from owning any animal for three years (without RSPCA permission), as requested.
Watt, who was described as using and breeding dogs for contract mustering, agreed to pay $25,000 to the RSPCA for the dogs' treatment and for professional costs.
The dogs were officially forfeited to the RSPCA and have been placed in foster care, where they've made good recoveries.
None of the dogs will be able to be worked again due to their heartworm infections remaining without treatment for so long.
After the sentencing hearing, RSPCA Mackay Inspector Gavin Davis described the court outcome as a good one for the RSPCA and the wider community.
"This case shows that it is not acceptable to leave any dogs, let alone working dogs, in poor conditions without hygienic and safe shelter and without adequate food and water," he said.
"The community expects people to care for their animals appropriately and the court has endorsed that expectation today.
"All five of these dogs are now being treated and rehabilitated in loving foster homes and will be adopted as soon as they are returned to good health."
The RSPCA urged anyone who observes animal cruelty or neglect to phone 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).