Owner of starved spaniels Gordon Laverty given suspended jail term and banned from keeping pets
A Northern Ireland dog breeder who neglected and caused suffering to King Charles Spaniels has been handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence.
Gordon Laverty was also banned from keeping any pets for the next 20 years.
Sentencing him at Belfast Magistrates' Court today, District Judge Ken Nixon said he was only being spared immediate imprisonment because of his clear record and guilty pleas.
Laverty, of Red Brae Road in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, admitted 10 animal welfare offences.
They included four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs and six counts of failing to ensure the needs of animals he was responsible for were met.
Laverty's neglect was discovered in June 2013 after one escaped but severely malnourished dog was taken to a vet.
A microchip resulted in council staff finding a number of animals at his home - all in poor condition.
The King Charles Spaniels were said to be starving, unable to stand, and with badly matted coats.
Animal lover Catherine Southwell set up the foster charity organisation Cavaliers in Need as a result of the case.
Recalling the state of the dogs, she said: "It was horrific, that's the only way I can describe it."
The court heard six dogs were handed over voluntarily.
Defence counsel said middle-aged Laverty, whose age was not given, was sorry for what happened.
Michael Boyd told the judge: "He's deeply ashamed about what happened to these animals in his care."
According to the barrister Laverty has a "long record of keeping animals properly and humanely".
He added that the defendant, who used a walking aid to get into court, has been suffering from a range of medical conditions.
Judge Nixon told Laverty: "It's only on the basis that you have come to this court with an entirely clear record and entered pleas at an early opportunity that the 10-month sentence of imprisonment is suspended for two years."
He also ordered: "You are banned from keeping any pets or animals of any kind for a period of 20 years."
Laverty must pay veterinary costs and legal fees of just over £700 as part of the sentence.
Ms Southwell, who attended the hearing with other Cavaliers in Need volunteers, wept as the punishment was handed down.
Outside court she said: "Obviously we would have liked an immediate prison sentence, but the 20-year ban was good."