Belfast drug dealer kept pit bulls in cages so small they could not sit down
A convicted drug dealer who crammed pit bull-type dogs into small cages in a derelict house has walked free from court with a suspended sentence after being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to animals.
Francis Milliken (41), from Weavershill Road in the Ligoniel area of north Belfast, was banned from keeping dogs for two years at Antrim Magistrates' Court yesterday.
Police raided an address registered to Milliken at Donore Crescent in Antrim town's Greystone estate in January this year.
There was barely any furniture in the uninhabited house, but officers found 10 dogs in faeces-covered cages so small some of them could not sit down.
The animals were also without water and proper bedding.
The house was described as having a "putrid" smell, and some of the animals had cuts and scars and were in a generally poor state of health.
The court heard that five of the dogs were in such a bad condition, they were taken from Milliken.
Three of them may have to be put down, but there is hope that they can be re-homed.
District Judge Alan White told Milliken the dogs were in a poor condition and it was a "serious matter".
He said the defendant would have to let go of any dogs he currently has as he imposed a four-month sentence, suspended for two years.
A prosecutor said that when police forced entry to the Donore Crescent house, they found two adult dogs in cages too small for them to sit in, and they had scars and wounds.
There were a number of newly born pups in another cage, there was no water and no bedding, and the animals were all "poorly looked after".
Ten dogs were seized, and the five charges brought against Milliken concerned those deemed "extremely badly looked after". Defence barrister Chris Sherrard said his client is a "dog lover" and always had them as pets since he was young and wished to apologise for the way he kept the animals. "It is not something he is proud off," added the lawyer, claiming that it was due to "passive neglect".
Mr Sherrard said five of the dogs had been returned to Milliken after the police raid, and the authorities monitored his care of them closely and there were no issues.
He continued that his client had a bad drugs record and said over the years when drug searches took place no mistreatment of animals was ever found.
At the time of the dog offences, Mr Sherrard said Milliken's elderly mother had been in hospital and he was visiting her regularly and "things got on top of him, he became over-run".
He said one of the dogs fell pregnant and he was not planning on having so many dogs in the house.
At the same court last year, in an unconnected case, a woman was given a suspended jail term and was banned from keeping animals for five years in relation to permitting suffering to a dog which was also found in the Greystone estate.
It had drank the toilet bowl dry and was starving before it was found dead, entangled on a window blind, during what was believed to have been a desperate bid to escape the house at Firmount Drive.