Sep 6, 2021


Sep 6, 2021

The motivations and actions of the RSPCA have been called into question after two pet shop owners were acquitted of more than 45 animal mistreatment charges brought upon them by the animal welfare organisation.

The RSPCA had charged Leichelle McMahon and her husband Shane with a total of 50 offences alleging the couple had failed to properly care for or treat a variety of animals including cats, dogs, turtles and lizards.

The organisation admitted it has spent tens of thousands of dollars prosecuting their case, but ultimately the McMahons were acquitted of all except three of the charges associated with the care of turtles.

Leichelle was also found to have breached a prohibition order issued by the RSPCA limiting the number of animals she could possess.

As a result of these prosecutions, Leichelle and Shane were each ordered to pay the RSPCA costs of $2,805, but no convictions were recorded.[1]

The charges related to events at the McMahons’ Pet Supersavers and Vet Supersavers stores in Kallangur between 2017-19, with the majority alleged to have occurred after the store was severely damaged by a fire in November of 2018.

The RSPCA told the Rockhampton Magistrates Court, and presiding Magistrate Jason Schubert, that they now had no issues whatsoever with the care the McMahons were providing to their animals through their current pet stores.

Ms McMahon, who is veterinary nurse who formerly operated a pet rescue group that worked to rehome animals, said she and her husband had spent more than $100,000 defending the charges. 

She said the ordeal had devastated her, and that she would never intentionally allow an animal to suffer.

The RSPCA had lost touch with its original purpose, she said.

“The RSPCA of Queensland went rogue many years ago, turning their adoption shelter into a $60 million dollar money making machine,” Ms McMahon said.

“Through my experience, I have witnessed first-hand the lengths the organisation will go to in order to prosecute breeders, pet shops, vets, and the general public.

“It devastating – they take  much-loved pets and push the owners to surrender them so they can be on-sold and turned into a profit.”

Ms McMahon said she had brought the issues with the RSPCA to the Agricultural Minister some years ago, but nothing significant had been done.

“It’s taken years and only now the Department of Agriculture have started to listen, after more than 30 victims have come forward and shared their stories,” she said.

Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said while the McMahons were based in the south-east, their story had concerned him.

He said KAP offices had been made aware of alarming allegations from numerous people across the state who had complained about the RSPCA acting in self-interest and without any procedural fairness.

The McMahons story is but one example, and Mr Katter said he was relieved to see justice had prevailed with regards to their case.

Queensland’s RSPCA officers actively prosecute their powers more than any other state in Australia  –  for example in 2019-20 in Queensland there were 1,058 charges laid by the RSPCA compared to 423 in NSW and 120 in Victoria.

“The RSPCA hold immense power in Queensland, with both animal welfare policing and prosecution powers delegated to them via the State’s Animal Care and Protection Act 2001,” Mr Katter said.

“I have great respect for Leichelle and Shane who have challenged the allegations against them at all costs, however not everyone is able to put up such a strong fight.

“I have been made aware of a number of people who instead of feeling capable of standing up for themselves against the RSCPA, feel they have no choice by to give up their animals and be handed down their punishment.

“Then there are instances where even in those court cases that are won against the RSPCA, by the time it’s all finalised the organisation has already on-sold or euthanised their animal.”