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Man who treated pet so badly it had to be put down avoids jail

By Allan Preston

Published 26/03/2016

The neglected Highland terrier was put down to end its suffering
The neglected Highland terrier was put down to end its suffering

A man who neglected his Highland terrier so badly it had to be put down has been handed a suspended jail sentence.

Francis McErlain, from Church View in Randalstown, was sentenced at Antrim Magistrates Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to causing the unnecessary suffering and failing to ensure the welfare of the animal.

The 59-year-old was charged following an investigation by animal welfare officers, who discovered the shocking state his dog was left in.

The animal was found to be living in filthy conditions, severely underweight and with a coat heavily matted in its own faeces.

It also had severely overgrown nails that were digging into its paws.

After being examined by a vet, it emerged the terrier was suffering from dental abscesses and a chronic skin condition.

The decision was then taken to euthanise the dog to prevent further chronic suffering and pain.

District Judge Whyte imposed a two-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Mr McErlain was also banned from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay a fine of £241.

The USPCA welcomed the punishment that was handed out.

A spokesman from the animal welfare charity said: "There is no excuse under the sun for neglecting an animal's wellbeing and not feeding them. The USPCA supply pet food through food banks across the province. If anybody is struggling from a financial point of view there's an outlet they can go to and get support for their pet."

The spokesman added that he was "delighted to see the 10-year ban" and the possibility of a custodial sentence.

"It sounds proportionate, but then again is anything proportionate for doing that to an animal?" he asked.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, which brought the charges against Mr McErlain, said it hoped the sentence would serve as a warning.

A spokesman said: "We give a high priority to the welfare of pets and operate a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure compliance of regulatory 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.

"The council may also prosecute for offences such as in this particularly harrowing case, which I hope serves as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals."

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