ACT News

Belconnen couple sentenced for 'appalling' animal cruelty crimes

A Belconnen couple have been banned from owning animals for five years after being convicted of animal cruelty charges described as abhorrent, appalling and an offence to the Canberra community.

Three dogs under the care of the couple were seized by RSPCA inspectors in late 2014 in a severely emaciated state with illnesses from inadequate worming.

A picture of the conditions the dog was living in at the Belconnen home.
A picture of the conditions the dog was living in at the Belconnen home.  Photo: Supplied

Inspectors were appalled by the dogs' poor living conditions and an unwillingness to provide appropriate care. The couple kept the dogs on chains to stop them attacking each other, with one found with a bloody ear on inspection.

Shawn Hemphill, 32, became tearful when sentenced by Special Magistrate Margaret Hunter in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday afternoon.

Photographs tendered to an ACT court of a Rhodesian Ridgeback severely underweight.
Photographs tendered to an ACT court of a Rhodesian Ridgeback severely underweight. Photo: Supplied

Ms Hunter said the dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and staffy crosses, were found in "a very, very deplorable state" that should have been an immediate concern for the couple. She said the dogs had been living in filth at the back of the property.

"They were supposed to be your family, your pets," she said. "The community finds it abhorrent and quite frankly so do I."


Hemphill said photographic evidence proved there was food available for the dogs despite being severely underweight.

According to a pre-sentence report, Hemphill had admitted to smoking cannabis around the time of the offences and believe the animals had been treated appropriately.

According to a veterinary statement, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was severely emaciated due to starvation and illnesses caused by inadequate worming and no veterinary care.

The court heard Hemphill objected to the seizure of his dogs and he threatened RSPCA inspectors over the phone after they were taken from his property.

Ms Hunter said Hemphill, who is unemployed and receives a Centrelink payment of $285 a week, had a criminal record of threatening behaviours and she was appalled he had chosen to reoffend.

"These inspectors are trying to do something for community and should not be treated in that way," she said. "I take it as a serious matter."

Hemphill was also ordered to serve 350 hours of community service with a three-year good behaviour order.

Hemphill's partner, Samantha Flood, 32, was also sentenced to a two-year good behaviour order and 30 hours of community service, to be completed over two years.

Ms Hunter accepted the dogs did not belong to Flood but found she was responsible for their care and responsible for their poor condition.

She also took into account the fact Flood was employed and was not at home for the duration of the day. 

During the preparation of the pre-sentence report, Flood expressed shame about the way the dogs were treated and became tearful when describing their conditions.