Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland mum and daughter banned from keeping animals for life after dogs starve to death

By Ashleigh McDonald

A mother and daughter from Belfast who allowed a Jack Russell and a Staffordshire bull terrier to die "painful and miserable" deaths due to starvation were yesterday banned from keeping animals for life.

Sandra Mullen (56) and her 26-year-old daughter Julie Mullen, who have separate addresses at Cambrai Street in the Shankill area, were both ordered to serve 150 hours of community service after they each admitted a charge of animal cruelty.

Belfast Crown Court heard the dogs were found dead at the rear of Sandra Mullen's home after an animal welfare officer from Belfast City Council visited the property on October 3, 2016.

A vet who carried out a post-mortem examination on the dogs noted they were both severely underweight, and prior to a "painful and miserable" death, the bodies of both animals had broken down muscle tissue to stay alive.

The mother and daughter sat side by side as Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told them they were both "utterly unfit" to look after animals due to "wilful neglect". He also told the pair he rejected "excuses" they made in the aftermath of the discovery.

Crown prosecutor Michael Chambers said that while the mother and daughter initially denied a charge of animal cruelty, they subsequently admitted causing the dogs unnecessary suffering over a period from January 1, 2016 to the date the animals' remains were found on October 3, 2016.

Mr Chambers revealed that when the animal welfare officer called at Sandra Mullen's home, she told the officer both dogs were dead and claimed they had died the day before. Julie Mullen arrived at her mother's a short time later.

Sandra Mullen, who admitted cruelty towards the Jack Russell, said she had been putting food and water out for the dog.

She also said she had never taken the dog to a vet as it was not licensed and it had never been vaccinated.

She also claimed the dog had been "playing happily" the day before it died - which Judge Miller branded as "utter nonsense".

Mr Chambers said that when Julie Mullen was questioned about the Staffordshire bull terrier, she "adopted the same position as her mother".

The court heard that when the bodies of the two dogs were taken to a vet for post-mortem examination, both animals were severely underweight.

The Staffy should have been 15 kilos but weighed just seven, while the Jack Russell should have been around five kilos but was only one kilo when it died.As well as determining that both dogs suffered painful deaths, the vet concluded the owners "abjectly failed to protect their welfare" as the "animals would have suffered right through their starvation".

Telling the court it was clear the pair were incapable of looking after animals, Mr Chambers revealed it cost £5,000 to bring the case to court. A defence lawyer for Sandra Mullen said her client had the dog for around two to three years and "there didn't seem to be any difficulty up to that point". He said she came before the court with a clear criminal record.

A lawyer for Julie Mullen revealed her dog was given to her by a neighbour but when it started to become unwell "she believed that if she took the dog to the vet she would be in trouble because the dog didn't have a licence".

Passing sentence, Judge Miller said he did not accept the women were unaware of the suffering the two animals endured.

He said it would have taken "weeks rather than days" for the dogs to starve and that it defied logic that any human would fail to detect this suffering.

Judge Miller also said that while he accepted the pair didn't wilfully seek to inflict suffering, it was clear both women were "utterly unfit" to care for any animals.

They were both ordered to complete 150 hours of community service but warned any breach of the order would lead to a six-month prison sentence.

The mother and daughter were also banned from keeping animals for life and each ordered to pay £250 court costs.

Belfast Telegraph

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