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She abandoned her starving dog in a flat where it was found dead hanging from the blinds, but yesterday this woman avoided jail

By Nevin Farrell

Published 05/08/2015

Aleshia McLaverty leaves Antrim Court after pleading guilty to dog cruelty yesterday
Aleshia McLaverty leaves Antrim Court after pleading guilty to dog cruelty yesterday
Shocking image of Labrador Sam

A woman who cruelly abandoned her black Labrador in a flat where he was found dead hanging from blinds after a desperate bid to escape through a window has avoided a prison sentence.

Aleshia McLaverty (23) admited a charge of cruelty after the starved, maggot-infested Sam, who was so thirsty he drank a household toilet bowl dry, was discovered by shocked animal welfare officers at a flat registered to her in the Greystone estate in Antrim.

She was given a two-month jail term at Antrim Magistrates Court, suspended for two years, and is banned from keeping animals for five years.

She pleaded guilty to charges of permitting unnecessary pain or distress to a dog under her control and being the keeper of a dog without a valid licence.

McLaverty no longer lives at Firmount Drive where Sam was found, and the property is now occupied by a woman with no connection to her.

Outside the court mother-of-one McLaverty refused to comment.

Malcolm Irvine, prosecuting on behalf of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, said after receiving a report from a member of the public about a dead dog at a property, animal welfare officers gained entry to the Firmount Drive address in April last year to be met with a "pungent" smell and a house full of flies with floors covered with dog faeces.

The emaciated Labrador-cross was found dead hanging upside down from a blind cord with maggots in his mouth and eyes.

Mr Irvine said there was no food and the toilet bowl was dry, suggesting the dog had drank from it, and there were scratch marks on packets of food consistent with the dog trying to find something to eat.

A post-mortem revealed Sam died of dehydration and starvation and was likely in his death throes when he tried to jump through a window in a last gasp bid to escape.

During interviews McLaverty first said the dog belonged to her sister.

She also stated she did not live in the house as she had gone to stay with her mother, but later in court she pleaded guilty to the offences.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said it was a "tragic case of passive neglect" and said the house was registered to McLaverty but she took nothing to do with it and her sister had lived in the address at some stage.

He said although McLaverty owned the dog she did not have direct control of it, and the house was "abandoned" and had not been lived in for some time, and Sam was trapped in the house when she became pregnant and went to live with her mother.

He said it was the sort of tragic case that "captures the ire of the community", and he said McLaverty, who now lives with her partner and their child, was "very emotional and distressed" and came to the court with a "good character" and with a clear record.

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

Suspending her two-month jail term for two years, District Judge Alan White said he had to give credit for the guilty plea, her clear record and the fact she had a "new baby" and he ordered her to pay costs of £119.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police, and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.

At a previous court, Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes said pictures he was shown in the case were "the worst photos I have ever seen of cruelty to an animal".

In the Greystone estate, people expressed their disgust at the death of the dog. One resident who did not wish to be named, and who had seen inside the house, said: "It was a disgrace what happened to that dog."

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