MP Ian Paisley slams dog cruelty sentence
Paisley writes to the Attorney General after man who let pet starve to death avoids prison
Ian Paisley has raised serious concerns over the leniency of a sentence in a case of animal cruelty with the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.
The North Antrim MP slammed a decision not to jail a man who allowed his pet dog to starve to death and he called for this specific case to be reviewed after the 46-year-old from Portglenone walked away with a fine.
Jeffrey James Greer was given a conditional discharge at Ballymena court after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the welfare of his rottweiler cross.
The dog, an eight-year-old called Bailey, was found dead at Greer's Hitonstown Road property in the Co Antrim town in November 2013.
Mr Paisley said he sent a letter to Attorney General John Larkin last Friday after reading a report of the animal cruelty case in the Belfast Telegraph.
"To treat an animal like that is utterly atrocious and it has to be dealt with," he said.
"Most people would agree that someone who treats an animal under their care like that really needs to be made an example of.
"A small fine and a non-custodial sentence is not being made an example of.
"I've written to the Attorney General telling him that this is a classic case where there should be a review of this specific sentence.
"I've also asked him to pass this on to the relevant authorities and seek a review of the sentence imposed because I think it's far too lenient."
Greer was convicted on June 2 after pleading guilty to one charge of animal cruelty at Ballymena Magistrates' Court.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council confirmed that it had initially brought two charges against him under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011 but said the first charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a rottweiler cross-type dog was dismissed.
Greer did plead guilty to failing to ensure the welfare of the dog, which was found dead during an investigation by the council's animal welfare department.
He was given an 18-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £274 costs to the council, while a previous interim disqualification order granted in October 2015 was revoked.
Mr Paisley called for tougher sentencing in animal cruelty cases in general and he said he hoped the ruling in this particular case would be overturned and replaced with a punishment that fitted the crime.
"We need to send a signal to anyone who has animals under their care that they have a moral duty to raise that animal properly and to show that animal respect so that it has enjoyment of its life," the DUP man said.
"There needs to be a review of this sentence to see if it was too lenient and I sincerely hope they would recognise that it needs to be changed."
He added: "People need to be shown that they can't get away with being cruel to animals."
Mr Paisley said that he hopes to have a response from Mr Larkin within four weeks.
This is the first significant animal cruelty case to come up since last month's Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty demonstration in Belfast - attended by UUP leader Mike Nesbitt - during which the campaign group called for stiffer sentences for animal abusers.
Referring to its outcome, Mr Nesbitt said he would be pressing for a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, given his new power to refer sentences considered to be unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal.
He added: "There should be zero tolerance of those who commit cruelty against animals in our society."