The maltreatment of a diamond python named Alice may help spark a change to animal cruelty legislation after a man pleaded guilty to being in charge of an animal and failing to provide vet treatment in Moruya court earlier this month.
Robert Harold Hodge, 59, was charged on three counts of animal cruelty, but two were withdrawn after his lawyer Wayne Boom argued discrepancies in the NSW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
"Section 8(1) [of the act] talks only about proper and sufficient water to drink, but this animal needs a pool of water to immerse itself in to prevent dehydration," he said.
"[Mr Hodge] provided sufficient water for the animal to drink, but did not provide a pool of water, but that is not in breach of Section 8(1) which he was charged under."
In November 2020, an animal welfare inspector attended Hodge's address where they found a mixed breed dog named Thunder, two white doves and Alice the diamond python.
After assessing the snake, which was found to be dehydrated and had a suspected parasite infestation, Hodge was given written directions to have it assessed by a vet.
He was also told to buy a UV light and to provide the snake with sufficient water for bathing as well as drinking.
A week later, Hodge presented the snake to a local vet for examination, where it was found to be underweight at 2.2 kilograms.
Hodge was told to clean the enclosure to remove any urine and faeces immediately, provide a larger water source, ensure the snake had adequate sun exposure and provide a food source every month.
In March 2021, Hodge volunteered for the snake to be transferred to the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra for re-assessment by two vets.
The snake had lost weight, weighing only 1.95 kilograms, and was severely dehydrated. It was then formally seized from Hodge.
Mr Boon said Hodge had owned the snake for five years and admitted he did not know it needed a bath of water.
"Although he pleads guilty for the dehydration and malnutrition, I suggest it's not the worst case," he said.
Magistrate Doug Dick said the case had given everyone a lot to think about on the animal cruelty matter.
"It is still a very serious matter, and I thank the RSPCA for working with you rather than against you," he said.
Hodge was convicted and fined $800 and instructed not to acquire, purchase or possess any animal for two years other than Thunder and the two doves at his property.
"It's all about learning, don't make the same mistake again," Magistrate Dick said.