Belfast Telegraph

Addict fails in appeal bid against prison term for 'appalling' cruelty to pet puppy

By George Jackson

A judge has described as "appalling" the cruelty inflicted on a terrier puppy by a heroin addict that was recorded on CCTV cameras in a shop in Londonderry.

Judge Philip Babington made the comment during an appeal by Patrick Collins, who was jailed for three months and ordered to pay kennelling and veterinary costs of £909 at the Magistrates Court in Derry last February.

Collins, from Lower Nassau Street in Rosemount, had admitted one charge of animal cruelty and one charge of animal neglect.

At his appeal against the sentence and costs yesterday, CCTV of the offending inside and outside a Spar shop at Park Avenue near his home on August 1, 2015, was played in court.

The footage showed Collins swinging and dragging the limp puppy on a lead inside the store, and on the footpath and road outside.

Staff challenged Collins about the way he was treating the animal before reporting the matter to police.

When officers called at Collins' home he denied the allegations, but in front of the police he lifted the puppy by its ears.

A Derry City and Strabane District Council official told the court that officers were so concerned for the well-being of the animal that they immediately took it to a veterinary clinic.

There, the dog was found to be unresponsive and with a slow heartbeat.

It had difficulty breathing and it had cuts and grazes to its four paws. When Collins was interviewed by police, he alleged that the injuries had been inflicted by council officers who had called to his home.

The council official said that, initially, staff at the vets thought the puppy would not survive.

But following treatment, which included keeping the animal in an oxygen tent, the puppy recovered, and has since been rehomed.

Appeal barrister Eoghan Devlin said he conceded that the CCTV footage was "shocking, horrifying and surreal".

He said at the time Collins was a drug abuser addicted to heroin.

He added Collins was living a zombie-like existence, was separated from his family, who had disowned him because of his lifestyle, and was unable to look after himself because of his addiction.

Mr Devlin said Collins had since turned his life around.

The barrister added that Collins was now drug-free and was undergoing addiction treatment and counselling.

He said that he had also re-engaged with his three children and with other members of his family, who would not condone him relapsing into his former lifestyle.

"His behaviour alone in front of the police officers beggared belief," he added.

"He was like so many other people in this city plagued by the scourge of drugs, some of which, like heroin, are profoundly dangerous.

"He has put that time behind him and has been drugs-free for the last year."

Judge Babington said that he and other people in the court had just had the misfortune of having to watch what Collins did "to that poor dog".

He said the animal in the CCTV was more or less limp or unconscious.

"You continued to treat the puppy in this way after you were, quite properly, challenged by staff in the shop," he said.

"They contacted the police and when they called at your house you mistreated the dog in front of the police. It was an appalling way to treat any animal.

"Try as I do, I cannot understand how you treated the dog in the way you did. I can increase the sentence, but I affirm the sentence of three months and the costs of £909."

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