Belfast Telegraph

Slap in wrist for dog owner who neglected her boxer so badly he couldn't be saved

By Lesley Houston

The owner of a boxer dog which had to be put down after vets said it was too ill to be saved has received a conditional discharge in a Co Antrim court.

Nichola McAvoy appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday when she admitted failing to ensure the welfare of her boxer-type dog called Barney.

The 42-year-old received a conditional discharge for a year and was ordered to pay court costs of £169.60 to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council which prosecuted the case.

The charge was brought against Ms McAvoy, formerly a resident of Dunclug Park in Ballymena, under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011.

The case against her arose following an investigation by the council's Animal Welfare Officers in March 2014 after the dog was found straying in the Ballymena area.

The dog, who had been microchipped and was known to wardens for previous straying, was found to belong to McAvoy.

Speaking after the case, a council official said the animal had been assessed by an animal welfare officer who found that it was in such bad health it was not possible for a vet to save it.

It was put down on April 14 last year.

"It was a very old dog and had some ongoing medical needs which hadn't been attended to," she said.

"So due to the dog's condition it was euthanised in its own interests."

The spokeswoman added that McAvoy had been invited to two interviews, under caution, but that she failed to attend them.

She was then sent official letters, again under caution, which she did respond to.

"However, her response was inadequate, hence it proceeded to court."

She said McAvoy had been represented in court by a barrister, pleading guilty, but no mitigation was offered.

Last night, the Belfast Telegraph tried to contact McAvoy for comment about how the dog came to be in such bad health and was allowed to stray but was unable to.

A family member who declined to be named said that "there are two sides to the story and her side hasn't been told here at all" but commented no further.

A Mid and East Antrim Borough Council spokeswoman said: "Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full 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 challenging case, which I hope serves as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals."

The case follows recent news that the Public Prosecution Service was to be given new powers to refer unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal.

The move, revealed in February this year, followed the more serious case of four Belfast men who received suspended prison sentences in 2014 for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

The foursome had admitted keeping or training animals in connection with dog fighting, in a case involving video evidence of a cat being attacked and killed by dogs.

Legislation has now been tabled at the Northern Ireland Assembly to change the law.

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