EXCLUSIVE: Petting Zoo owner, Daniel Brighton, faced Campbelltown Local Court late last week over accusations he pitchforked, strung up and beat to death a dog who attacked his camel six years ago. His lawyer defended his actions, comparing the dog to the dingo that snatched Lindy Chamberlain’s baby. Nour Ahmad reports.
“Love can make you do crazy things,” defence lawyer Marcel Sahade said in court last Thursday, referring to his client’s alleged abuse of a dog who attacked his pet camel Alice.
The incident occurred in Minto Heights on 14 January 2016. At 3am Brighton – who has previously been dubbed Australia’s “Joe Exotic” – awoke from his sleep at his Farm Friends facility. The court heard Brighton would go on to stab the bull terrier six times with a pitchfork. He left for approximately an hour to retrieve pain killers for his camel before realising the dog was still alive. Brighton then tied and tethered the dog to a tree, and proceeded to strike the animal with a mallet a number of times.
Brighton, 33, was originally convicted of animal cruelty charges in 2019, and was sentenced to three years and four months behind bars. However, this conviction was overturned due to a legal technicality as the magistrate mixed up the definitions of “pest animal” and “extermination.” Last year, RSPCA NSW successfully appealed this decision, and a hearing took place.
Last week, on Thursday, May 19, the RSPCA urged Magistrate David Degnan to consider full-time prison custody for Brighton, giving several reasons why the accused had intent.
“The expert evidence is that the pitchfork and asphyxiation was the cause of death and likely caused prolonged suffering,” the prosecution stated.
The prosecution argued that Brighton tried to conceal the crime, and that his extensive knowledge and experience with animals contradicted his excuses for the dog’s painful death.
“[He made a] decision to leave the pitchfork protruding out of the dog while he went to retrieve painkillers for the camel which took approximately an hour,” they submitted.
“All of these factors weigh in against a ‘snap’ and was a decision to do something brutal and unnecessary to this animal.”
The prosecution likened the brutality of the abuse to a case where two men tortured a kangaroo for a Snapchat video. The incident, which also occurred in 2016, involved one man repeatedly throwing a knife at the kangaroo while the other laughed and filmed. The man then posed with the kangaroo when it died.
“I wouldn’t argue it’s different,” the prosecutor said.
Brighton’s lawyer rejected these notions, maintaining the RSPCA had mischaracterised the dog as a “beloved pet” when it was really a “noxious pest”.
Mr Sahade then posed a daring question to the magistrate.
He then proceeded to pin the blame of the night’s events on the dog.
“If the animal hadn’t come Mr Brighton would have been in his bed asleep,” the defence lawyer argued, “He took the law into his own hands in an act of retribution.”
Mr Sahade admitted his client should have called someone to give the dog a lethal injection, to which Magistrate Degnan replied he had the option to and was advised to by people less experienced than him.
At the time of the incident, the mobile zoo owner was with two other people. One was former employee Alana Doel, who testified against her then-boss.
Mr Sahade responded with, “They didn’t love the camel as much as he did.”
The defence lawyer also stated Brighton “gave the pest a bit of extensive honesty.”
The magistrate asked for further clarification, to which Mr Sahade replied “he killed it.”
Before the incident, Brighton worked as an Animal Studies TAFE teacher, teaching students how to care for animals. However, the court heard NSW TAFE is seeking to suspend his license and Brighton is no longer allowed to be in contact with animals.
“He’s lost his license, business, his ability to support his family and has no other trades or skills. He had plans to study further education in veterinary science but this will no longer be possible,” Mr Sahade said of his client’s professional ramifications.
‘Can’t support his family’: Daniel Brighton with his mother (Image: Supplied / Facebook)
The prosecution earlier argued that there is concern for Brighton reoffending, however Mr Sahade refuted this revealing his client remained in the community after the offence and has complied with all rules.
Mr Sahade then made a last-ditch effort to defend his client, “He’s only an ordinary person, relatively young. He has lost his career and now it’s up to your Honour if you want to ruin his life.”
Magistrate David Degnan shot down this remark and the lawyer began to speak over him.
“Mr Sahade do not raise your voice at me and do not talk over me,” Magistrate Degnan warned.
Mr Sahade went on to revise his earlier statement, “I withdraw it … if Your Honour was to send him to jail it would be as if his life was destroyed.”
The decision was made to adjourn the case, and proceedings will resume again at Campbelltown Local Court on July 11.
True Crime News Weekly is aware the Animal Justice Party is watching the case closely. When approached for comment, a spokesperson for MP Emma Hurst made it known she was unavailable for comment until after the case is decided.