Woman (26) convicted of neglecting pet dog
A Co Antrim woman who was convicted of neglecting her pet dog has been hit in the pocket to the tune of £366.
Nakita Coulter (26), from Castlemara Drive in Carrickfergus, had denied failing to ensure the welfare of a Staffordshire bull terrier-type animal.
She was convicted by Laganside magistrates on Tuesday.
Pictures of the neglected dog on the day it was found reveal its prominent bones and small frame.
The charge was brought against Coulter by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011.
The charge of failing to ensure the welfare of the animal related to findings following an investigation by the council's animal welfare officers in April 2013 concerning a dog in Coulter's care.
Coulter was given a conditional discharge for a period of two years and ordered to pay £366 costs to the council.
A Mid and East Antrim Borough Council spokesman said the conviction should serve as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals.
"Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements," he said.
"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."
In a bid to crack down on animal cruelty, the Northern Ireland Assembly recently voted for a change in the 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 the province will have the toughest penalties for animal welfare offences in the UK.
USPCA spokesman David Wilson said that the council should consider appealing the sentence as it could be viewed as not being tough enough. "The USPCA would regard this as being a case where the sentence is very lenient and we feel the council welfare should look again at the court's decision and if possible appeal the sentence," he said.
"The maximum sentence for that type of offence is five years custodial, though I am not suggesting that is applied here, but I do think if sentences are to act as a deterrent they will have to be handed down on that basis.
"It could be pointed out that banning her from keeping pets is available to the court."
Mr Wilson added: "A person who allows an animal to suffer needlessly in that manner should be banned from keeping animals for life."