A mentally ill woman living with 62 animals has escaped harsher penalties and had 26 charges dropped after she left a dog's injury untreated and kept lizards in such poor conditions that led to one dying.
The Lyneham woman appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court via video link from hospital on Wednesday when she pleaded guilty to one count of failing to provide an animal with appropriate treatment for illness, disease and injury.
Facts tendered to the court state that she kept lizards, turtles, fish, rabbits, cats and dogs at her premises.
She also had uncaged birds.
During one visit by RSPCA inspectors in January 2019, she told them she had not taken a Kelpie, named Kia, to a vet to treat a leg injury.
She indicated she had been trying to clean the wounds using lukewarm water and sea salt.
When the inspectors told her they were going to seize the dog and 15 lizards living in poor accommodation, the woman became aggressive and tried to stop them.
The inspectors called the police before the animals were seized.
A vet who examined Kia said there were several cuts and puncture wounds with dried blood.
The vet also said the lizards were found to be in poor health conditions, including a thin one with a forelimb being twisted and having its tail missing.
Another that had eyelids stuck together later died at the RSPCA.
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The court on Wednesday heard the woman was suffering from a number of mental illnesses, including animal hoarding disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and had an intellectual disability.
Magistrate Glenn Theakston said she was "predisposed to taking comfort in the company of animals".
"The more animals she had, the more difficult it was for her to cope," Mr Theakston said.
"It had a self-amplifying runaway effect."
Mr Theakston dismissed 26 other similar charges after defence lawyer Alice Zhang applied for it.
These included 15 counts of failing to provide shelter and seven of failing to provide food and water.
The magistrate said the defendant was "well and truly affected by the mental health condition, which reduces her moral culpability significantly".
"She should not be used to be made an example of to the community," Mr Theakston said.
He said the best way to avoid her reoffending was to participate in treatment.
However, he said there was also a need to protect animals and said setting boundaries rather than a ban was the most appropriate.
Mr Theakston did not record a conviction for the charge and ordered her not to purchase, acquire, keep, care for or control more than three animals at any time.
She must also not have more than one species of each of those three animals at a time.
Those aforementioned orders, in place for five years, can be exempt with the written approval of the RSPCA.
She was also placed on a good behaviour order for six months.
The court heard that senior prosecutor Chamil Wanigaratne conceded that the defendant suffered from mental impairment and agreed to the other charges being dismissed.
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