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Sentence for man who starved husky to death 'too lenient'

By Cate McCurry

Published 08/03/2016

Robert Porter outside court
Robert Porter outside court
The body of Prince which was found by a council official

A man who starved a pet dog to death and left his decaying body in his kitchen for four months has avoided a prison sentence.

Robert Porter admitted to charges of animal cruelty after his underweight husky was found with mould in his mouth and surrounded by empty tins of dog food by an animal welfare officer at his former home in Co Londonderry.

Porter (30), whose address was given as Ballysillan Drive, Belfast, appeared at Magherafelt Magistrates Court yesterday where he was convicted of causing the dog to suffer unnecessarily and failing to take steps to ensure the needs of the animal were met.

He was handed a probation order of 12 months, ordered to serve 80 hours of community service, and banned from keeping pets for five years.

However, his sentence has been slammed by the USPCA. The animal welfare body described the penalty as "too lenient".

The court heard that on May 20, 2014, the then Magherafelt District Council received a complaint from the Housing Executive about a dead dog it had found while visiting Porter's home.

The council's animal welfare officer went to his former address at King William III Crescent in Maghera.

Inside the council worker was immediately struck by the smell of a decomposing dog.

He found the animal lying on the floor of the kitchen close to the back door. He could see that the husky was very thin with its ribs and pelvis prominent.

The court heard that the dog had not received any food while in the house, which was in a state of disarray. Empty and dry tins of dog food were found along with empty bags of nuts and empty dog dishes.

The court was told that Porter had been living at the house, but he had since moved to a different address and left the dead dog there.

A post-mortem examination found that the husky was severely underweight at 11kg - the normal weight of this breed would be 27kg.

The dog, who had no other evidence of disease, died from starvation.

He had been dead for some time, his skin was dry, there was thick mould inside his mouth, and there was no food in his stomach.

Porter admitted the offences during a police interview and said the dog had been dead for four months while he had been living at the house.

District Judge Alan White had previously described the incident as "shocking" and that pictures of the decomposing dog were "disgusting". Porter's solicitor Enda McKaigue told the court that Porter had owned the dog for four years from the age of eight weeks old.

"He has taken a long, hard look at himself over this case," he said.

"There are other pictures which show this was a happy and healthy dog.

"But this was a deplorable last couple of months for the dog.

"There was clearly a change in circumstances. He was going through a difficult period of time after the death of his grandmother. He took a number of months off work. He was on antidepressants and never spoke to anyone.

"He should have rung for help or contacted the USPCA. Clearly this was a man who was not capable of looking after himself, never mind a pet."

Mr McKaigue described it as "passive" mistreatment of a dog.

After the case, USPCA spokesman David Wilson argued the sentence was soft.

He said: "While we would welcome the fact he has been banned from keeping animals, the actual penalty seems to be too lenient.

"We distribute hundreds of food parcels for pets across Northern Ireland. We supply Trussell Trust with food boxes, so there is no reason for an animal to starve."

In a bid to crack down on animal cruelty the Assembly recently voted for a change in law that will increase the maximum penalty for the most serious offences from two years in jail to five.

When the new legislation comes into effect it will mean that Northern Ireland will have the toughest penalties for animal welfare offences in the UK.

Mid-Ulster District councillor Christine McFlynn, chair of the council's environment committee, said: "This was a harrowing case and one which we would all hope would never occur and we would never have to prosecute.

"However, the reality is that cases like this do happen, and when they do we will investigate and we will take appropriate action, whether that means serving a notice or, in extreme cases, seizing an animal.

"I hope lessons will be learned from the outcome of this prosecution and sentencing."

Belfast Telegraph

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