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Oakes Estate man pleads guilty to starving six dogs

Darren Hawkes pleaded guilty to failing to provide appropriate and adequate food and water to six dogs in his care. He was sentenced to two 12 month good behaviour orders including nine months of supervision, ordered to pay $100 in court costs and has been disqualified from keeping any animal for two years under section 138A of the Domestic Animals Act 2000.


In 2016, RSPCA ACT Inspectors visited the premises of Mr Hawkes after receiving a complaint regarding the condition of the animals living at the home.


Upon arrival, RSPCA ACT Inspectors sighted multiple dogs, all malnourished and with varying degree of wounds on their bodies. Due to their condition, the decision to seize the dogs was made with all six receiving a medical examination by a veterinarian.


The medical findings found that all of the dogs were either emaciated or significantly underweight with musculoskeletal movement showing signs of muscle wastage. All dogs presented with fleas, with some having puncture wounds consistent with dogfighting. Blood work demonstrated indicators of liver stress and anaemia consistent with chronic starvation.


Further medical examination showed at least two of the dogs had their growth stunted, likely due to malnutrition. A stool sample taken from one of the dogs showed blue fibre leading the veterinary team to believe that the dog had ingested material in response to its severe hunger.


One of the dogs looked to be approximately four months old, but, upon further examination of his teeth, the RSPCA ACT Veterinarian concluded he was at least six months of age.


Starvation or heavy parasite infestation may have stunted his growth, which would explain why he appeared significantly smaller than expected. While in care for just three weeks he almost doubled his presenting body weight reinforcing the RSPCA ACT Veterinarian’s conclusion that there was no medical reason the dog would not thrive with basic care, diet and parasite control.


RSPCA ACT Chief Executive Officer provided her thoughts about the case, “It’s always quite confronting to see the animals that our Inspectors bring into the Shelter, but the size of the poor pup, in particular, was deplorable. It’s probably amazing that we even found him alive. Fortunately, we have been able to rehome all of these dogs to better families, and I only hope that a two-year animal ban is enough to ensure that this owner has learned the lesson and does not hurt any other animal in his care in the future.”


All animals have since been rehomed.