'Bird lady' avoids jail for animal cruelty

Mark Russell
Brenda Marney would keep injured animals at her home for months before getting vet treatment

An elderly NSW woman who grabbed a pelican and shoved it into the boot of her car claims she hates animal cruelty despite police accusing her of torturing wildlife.

An emotional Brenda Dorothy Marney told Forster Local Court on Thursday she loved animals and they were her life.

"I hate cruelty - I hate to see them suffer," Marney said.

The 74-year-old pleaded guilty to six charges including committing an act of cruelty on a pelican, failing to provide veterinary treatment to the injured pelican and an injured magpie to alleviate pain, not having a licence to keep wildlife and illegally possessing protected animals.

But she claimed she always felt like she was doing the right thing.

Asked by defence lawyer Roland Day if she had a love for animals, Marney replied: "It's been my life."

Marney - who spent 84 days in prison after breaching her bail conditions - kept the injured animals at her home for more than 12 months despite them needing urgent treatment.

Police say that effectively amounted to animal torture.

Magistrate Ross Hudson said there were rumours and innuendo surrounding Marney's handling of a number of animals but no direct evidence of widespread mistreatment.

Mr Hudson said the fact she'd grabbed a pelican and placed such a large bird in the boot of her car on one occasion raised concerns about her moral culpability.

He said he had to make it clear that inflicting harm on animals was unacceptable.

Marney was convicted, placed on a 12 month community corrections order and barred from keeping or taking possession of any animal for a year.

She'll also be assessed for any underlying mental health issues which may need treatment.

Mr Day had earlier told the court Marney's actions might have been cruel but did not constitute torture.

"She was thinking she could care for animals better than veterinarians," he said.

Detectives said Marney - known as the "Bird Lady of Tuncurry" - would keep the injured animals at her home before taking them to the vet where they often had to be euthanised due to their pain and suffering.

When police went to her Tuncurry home in May, they found two magpies and a rainbow lorikeet in wire cages in the lounge room.

One magpie was missing the top of its beak, the second magpie's beak was disfigured but the lorikeet had no visible signs of injury.

Police said the loss of a bird's beak would cause it significant pain and Marney's denial of veterinary assistance was "tantamount to torture".

Marney in late April was spotted holding out a fish to a pelican before forcibly putting it in her boot. She then accidentally closed the boot on the bird's wing.

When stopped by police, Marney claimed she was trying to help the pelican as it had a fish hook in its left wing.