I’m getting death threats: Storybook Farm owner
WARNING: This story contains distressing images. Viewer discretion is advised.
THE owner of Storybook Farm has broken her silence to deny claims she mistreated animals and said she has been made to look like a supervillain following the raid of her home for disabled animals.
Lisa-Jayne Cameron, 52, speaking exclusively to the Courier Mail, said she had received threats and was now afraid for her children following the revelations her rented north Brisbane home was raided by the RSPCA on March 20, resulting in 37 animals being seized.
It comes as former landlords reveal she was blamed for damage at two previous properties and evicted from one, which Ms Cameron has denied.
"I've been made out to be some type of supervillain," she said.
"I feel all judgement has been made … and everything I say is going to get twisted.
"I wasn't aware that we'd be tried by media. I found it really abhorrent that the RSPCA put up the story (on social media) within two hours of leaving our property.
"What they are saying about the farm is just absurd."
RSPCA investigators raided the Whiteside property on March 20 and seized the disabled or injured animals, including dachshunds, French bulldogs, Staffordshire bull terriers, a whippet, two parrots, a donkey and a cat from what they described as "squalid" conditions, including faeces and urine over the floor.
Most were disabled dogs who had been surrendered Ms Cameron for special care or who were there temporarily for rehabilitation.
A week earlier, investigators had seized three horses at a nearby property also associated with Ms Cameron.
One horse and a dalmatian were euthanized by RSPCA veterinarians.
Storybook Farm-Sacred Animal Garden, which Ms Cameron started in 2012, became well-known as an option for those struggling to care for their pets who may have had an accident or become disabled due to a predisposed genetic defect, such as with intervertebral disc degeneration (IVDD) in dachshunds.
Ms Cameron moved from Canungra to the larger rental property in Whiteside in 2018.
She has denied all claims that any animals were harmed in her care, that visitors were not allowed into her Canungra home, that her charity was not registered and that they lived in squalor.
WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGE
But past landlords have claimed they were left with thousands of dollars' worth of damage after Ms Cameron had moved out of their properties, including one in Traveston in 2012 and one she was evicted from in Canungra in 2018.
Ms Cameron, who fought back tears as she expressed her concern for the animals taken from her, said all allegations against her were unfounded and that money raised through the charity went to rent, food and medical care for the animals, including an existing vet bill of $13,000.
"They've made out that we're some sort of cold, calculating people who are only here to earn money - to do what with? I've had no holidays, no days off and everybody who knows me knows that," she said.
"I love what I do. I'm passionate about disabled animals."
She said Barry, a dalmatian the RSPCA vets euthanized, arrived into her care about two months ago already with pressure sores due to his paralysed legs.
Ms Cameron said the combination of her own recent health issues plus the stress of trying to find a rental property on acreage with kennels before the Whiteside one was sold by the owner had resulted in her not yet attending to Barry's legs.
"He arrived with some sores, although not as bad as they were and, yes, they got worse over time but we were trying to save his legs," she said.
"They were just pressure sores and they were terrible, I agree. There was no intent to neglect there.
"I would not have put him down, I would have had his legs amputated instead since he can't feel the legs anyway and that's why they sometimes self-mutilate."
Ms Cameron, who said investigators took her phone in the raid, declined to comment on the status of a number of allegedly unaccounted for animals, but said the figure of up to 100 missing animals released by the RSPCA was "highly inflated."
"I don't know who the missing ones are. Until I get my phone back and talk to the families involved I can't comment," she said.
"When I find out, I'll do it old school and will only talk to the families first."
Ms Cameron said, in some cases, if the animals got well it was possible they were adopted out to a new home.
Ms Cameron denied the RSPCA's claims that the animals were living in squalor, saying the paralysed dogs were incontinent but did not wear nappies all the time to reduce the risk of nappy rash.
She said the house was a mess when investigators arrived unannounced at 6am because they had been inside overnight due to threat of thunder storms.
"I had been up incredibly late with storms checking on everyone so I slept in and was woken by the bashing on the door," she said.
"That then frightened the dogs into scooting … which is how a disabled dog moves when they're not in their wheels."
Ms Cameron said had the investigators arrived three hours later, they would have seen a clean house.
"We do not live in squalor because the house is on the market so it is one of the most inspected properties we've ever lived in," she said.
A real estate agent listed on advertisements for the property, which was listed online as for sale until this week, did not return a call from the Courier Mail.
Ms Cameron said she deleted social media accounts as she started receiving numerous "aggressive threats," once word of the raid was revealed.
"We were getting many threats, such as what people would like to do with me, ranging from sexual exploits and bashing to what they're going to do to my children."
Ms Cameron said she stopped allowing people into the family home in Canungra following advice from friends.
"I've been told by friends I am bloody naive and that I was too trusting of letting everyone in the house all the time and that I should set up meetings to do with work outside," she said.
"It's nothing like it has been portrayed, as if I was hiding something.
"People are acting like we've hurt the animals, but they live a quiet, happy little life."
Julianne Tetlow, 59, of Canungra Valley Real Estate said the agency issued a warrant to
took Ms Cameron to court in 2018 following an alleged $22,000 in damages to the house and fences.
She said the court agreed with only $14,800, while Ms Cameron denied the allegations and damages.
Gavin Theodore, 50, from Gympie said he and his wife were left with more than $100,000 in damages after Ms Cameron lived in their 10 acre Traveston rental property for 18 months, starting in 2011, which Ms Cameron also denied.
The mechanic said they eventually had to sell the home to pay off debt from the repair bills.
Both property managers also said the homes had broken doors, fences and that carpets or floors had to be replaced inside the house due to animal excrement, urine and odour.
They also both claimed that plumbing was blocked up to the point that pipes had to be dug up and replaced and that animal bones had been found buried on the properties.
Ms Cameron said she may have unintentionally made some mistakes with her animal sanctuary, but she set out to help disabled animals.
"My intention from the beginning always has been to serve. That's what we do," she said.
"I've probably done some of it wrong, God knows … but I never set out with cold calculation, I set out to serve and help."
She also said Storybook Farm was a registered charity, despite recent reports.
"We are a registered charity but we do not have a tax deductible," she said.
"I didn't set up the paperwork because I don't know how, so another board member did it.
Ms Cameron would not provide the name of the board member.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) said an organisation by the name of The Trustee for Storybook Angels for Disabled Animals was registered, though they could not confirm if it was the same as Storybook Farm-Sacred Animal Garden.
She said ACNC was the national charity regulator and had jurisdiction over 57,000 registered charities.
"Charities are not required under Australian legislation to be registered with the ACNC to operate, but registration with the ACNC is a prerequisite to accessing Commonwealth charity tax concessions," she said.
"Charitable fundraising is regulated at a state and territory level, and charities that undertake fundraising activities may be required to meet obligations to their relevant fundraising regulator.
"In Queensland, fundraising is regulated by the Office of Fair Trading."
A spokeswoman from the OFT last week said the name Storybook Farm was not and had never been incorporated or registered as a charity.
The RSPCA investigation is continuing and no charges have been laid.