Belfast Telegraph

Dogs in east Belfast cruelty probe get last-ditch reprieve

By Ashleigh McDonald

Three dogs seized from two properties in east Belfast during a high-profile investigation into animal cruelty have been given a last-minute reprieve and will be placed in the care of an animal rescue sanctuary.

A total of five adult dogs and four puppies were taken from the Kirkwood family home at Island Street in the city in November 2011, while another dog was seized from a house at McAllister Court.

The four puppies were successfully rehomed while three adult male dogs taken from Island Street were almost immediately put down as they were self-harming and aggressive.

However, a court order was made in March this year recommending that the two female lurchers and the whippet cross Staffordshire taken from McAllister Court be destroyed. At the same time their owners were appearing in the dock on charges of animal cruelty.

Jeremiah Kirkwood (43), sons Christopher (23) and Wayne (20) of Island Street and their co-accused Jamie Morrow (19) of McAllister Court were each sentenced to six months in custody, suspended for two years, after admitting various roles in a series of animal cruelty incidents.

A Crown application to vary the previous court order on the dogs was granted yesterday by Judge Donna McColgan which offered the three animals a lifeline.

Before granting the application, Judge McColgan QC was told by Crown prosecutor Joseph Murphy that it was initially believed that the three dogs presented a risk to the public and could never be resocialised or rehomed, but that after several assessments, an alternative outcome to the animals being destroyed was being sought.

The court heard that following a series of assessments, the vet concluded: "In my professional opinion, in the hands of a responsible owner, the risk to humans in relation to this dog attacking or biting is low."

After hearing the submissions on behalf of the Crown, Judge McColgan granted the application be varied from a destruction order to a disposal order on the grounds that all three be placed into the care of the animal centre.

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