I am outraged by the results of one of our most recent animal cruelty cases. As published in The Canberra Times today, Lyons resident Domaneco Zizi escaped conviction after attacking a possum with a pole and eventually killing it.
In this case, our RSPCA ACT inspectors received actual video footage of the attack.
Furthermore, although we were unable to locate the body, Mr. Zizi confessed to killing the possum in the inspector interview and later pleaded guilty in court.
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Despite this evidence, the magistrate said that while the incident was “unpleasant,” the court had seen no evidence of harm or injury caused to the possum.
I have no idea what further evidence our inspectors would have had to collect to result in a conviction. RSPCA ACT spends a ridiculous amount of time and money responding to complaints, investigating matters and preparing documents to be submitted to court to prosecute. We do not prosecute every valid complaint, we only prosecute those that we feel we can win and that would be in the public interest to do so.
I would personally like to ask the magistrate if her decision would have been different had the possum been a dog or a cat instead.
The Animal Welfare Act does not discriminate. It does not say that a person over the age of 80 is exempt from being a criminal. It does not say that the value of one animal life is higher than another. And regardless of whether or not people like possums as much as puppies, all animals deserve a humane death – not one that involves a lure, an absolute beating and then a final blow.
All of us at RSPCA ACT feel completely defeated by this case. The magistrate’s decision signals to every other person that despite being a protected species, the life of a possum doesn’t matter. If you want to use them as piñatas, apparently we can’t stop you!
I can only hope that the Canberra community is as outraged as we are.
Tammy Ven Dange is CEO of RSPCA ACT.