RSPCA in court over $1m compo order

The RSPCA wants to appeal after it was ordered to pay more than $1 million in compensation for euthanising more than 100 cattle in western Victoria.


Inspectors destroyed 131 Murray grey cattle at a property near Warrnambool in 2003, after investigating reports of starving animals.

They claimed it was appropriate to euthanise the cattle, saying they found them effectively abandoned and emaciated.

But the cattle owners, James Holdsworth and Heather Ellison, said the cattle were not in a condition where they needed to be put down and sued the animal protection agency.

The Victorian County Court last year agreed.

Judge John Bowman found the RSPCA inspectors acted “hastily and negligently” in destroying the cattle, which included two bulls and three calves.

The RSPCA was ordered to pay Mr Holdsworth and Ms Ellison $1.167 million in damages.

More than $990,000 of that sum was for lost business profit, while the other portion was awarded over a proposed artificial insemination venture that was not yet operational.

The RSPCA came before the Court of Appeal on Thursday in a bid to dispute the sum of damages payable to Mr Holdsworth and Ms Ellison.

The animal protection agency challenges the calculation of damages suffered by the cattle business, and the proposed artificial insemination venture.

“Damages are not recoverable for pipe dreams that have no or only a very limited probability of eventuating,” the RSPCA’s barrister Dan Christie said in written submissions to the court.

Legal representatives for Mr Holdsworth and Ms Ellison say Judge Bowman correctly calculated the compensation owed to them.

The destroyed cattle were part of a herd agisted on land owned by the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust after they were moved from drought-stricken southern NSW.

The court has reserved its judgment.