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Demands grow to review dog horror woman's sentence

By Nevin Farrell

Published 07/08/2015

Aleshia McLaverty was given a suspended sentence
Aleshia McLaverty was given a suspended sentence

A council that took a woman to court for abandoning a puppy - which got so thirsty it drank from a toilet before dying from dehydration and starvation - says it is "currently reflecting" on the suspended sentence handed down in the case.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council revealed there had been a massive public response locally to the sentence after 23-year-old Aleshia McLaverty walked free from court.

A call has also been made by South Antrim DUP MLA Trevor Clarke for the Attorney General to step in to review the sentencing.

On Tuesday at Antrim Magistrates Court, McLaverty pleaded guilty to a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to the five-month-old Labrador-type dog called Sam.

She was given a two-month custodial term, but it was suspended for two years. She was also banned from keeping animals for five years.

The body of the severely emaciated dog was found hanging upside down from blinds at McLaverty's former ground floor flat at Firmount Drive in Antrim's Greystone estate in April, 2014.

It's thought the dog became entangled in the blinds as it made a last desperate attempt to escape through a window.

The District Judge said the starting point for sentencing was custody, but he had to take into account McLaverty's previously clear record and guilty plea and suspended the prison term. The judge also referred to McLaverty being the mother of a young baby.

As she left court McLaverty refused to offer any comment about the dog and instead abused the media and threatened to sue photographers. She telephoned the Belfast Telegraph again yesterday and in a foul-mouthed rant demanded all copies of the paper carrying her story be withdrawn.

A borough spokeswoman said the council was "aware of the public reaction" to the sentencing.

"The council has been contacted by local residents who feel the level of sentence did not reflect this very harrowing case," she said. "There has been large-scale commentary on social media indicating the public's dissatisfaction with the punishment handed out in court."

Clifford Todd, head of environmental health for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, added: "There is huge public interest in this case and many people have been airing their views on the sentence given. All the agencies involved in bringing this case to court are currently reflecting on the case and the level of sentence handed down.

"Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and horses and operates a rigorous policy to ensure full compliance with legal requirements.

"Complaints are investigated thoroughly and where necessary formal action is taken, which may include the service of improvement notices or, in extreme cases, the seizure of animals.

"This case just highlights the extent of animal cruelty and the difficulties that our officers face in dealing with such horrendous incidents."

Meanwhile, Mr Clarke said: "I have written to the Attorney General about the undue leniency of this case. It sends out a reprehensible message that you can commit such a heinous crime against a defenceless animal and get off with a slap on the wrist.

"This case is horrendous and this sentence does not match the crime."

His comments were echoed by Antrim and Newtownabbey DUP councillor Nigel Kells, who said it had "sickened him to his stomach".

Mr Kells added: "It is impossible for me as an animal lover to imagine the suffering this 'family pet' must have went through.

"How vile and cruel an act do you have to commit on an animal to receive jail time?"

When welfare officers entered the flat at Firmount Drive following a tip-off in April 2014 they were met with a disgusting smell in a faeces-filled house and a swarm of flies as the maggot-infested dead dog was found in an emaciated state, dead.

A post-mortem revealed the dog had been dehydrated and starved to death and had drank the toilet bowl dry in a bid to survive.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said it was a "tragic case of passive neglect" after the house was "abandoned" and had not been lived in for some time.

By her guilty plea he said she accepted she knew the dog was in the house and "effectively did nothing about it".

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