Belfast Telegraph

Ulster University lecturer Rikala hit with £10k costs over neglected pets

By Rebecca Black

A senior Ulster University lecturer has been banned from keeping animals after being convicted of neglecting a flea-ridden dog and keeping cats living in faeces.

Dr Taina Rikala was also ordered to pay full costs of almost £10,000 at Lisburn Magistrates Court earlier this week after a dog and four cats were discovered living in poor conditions at her home in Hillsborough, Co Down.

Lisburn and Castlereagh Council said it sent animal welfare officers to the property on Lisburn Street in the village on August 11, 2017, after receiving a complaint.

The council said on arrival the officers found a Labrador-type dog and a number of cats living in "amongst clutter, household rubbish, empty bottles and faeces". The animals were infested with fleas.

Following an inspection the council seized the dog and four cats on the grounds the environment was "totally unsafe and unsuitable for animals".

Dr Rikala, who works at the Belfast campus of the university and is the owner of the dog and cats, pleaded guilty on March 20, 2018 to failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the animals were met as required by the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

On Monday the academic was handed a two-year conditional discharge and a five-year ban from owning, keeping, participating in the keeping of or being party to an arrangement under which she is entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept.

Dr Rikala was ordered to pay full costs of £9,946.38.

The defendant is understood to be considering an appeal.

The council said it gave a "high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and horses", operating a "rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements".

"Animal welfare complaints are investigated thoroughly, and where necessary offenders are prosecuted," it added.

Ulster University said: "Ulster University has been made aware of the outcome of legal proceedings taken against a member of staff.

"We are currently reviewing this; however we do not comment on cases concerning individual members of staff."

Dr Rikala refused to comment.

Belfast Telegraph

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