A woman who lied that her pet dog had been illegally seized by the local council has been convicted of animal cruelty.
Claire Lines launched an online petition and gave media interviews after Mid and East Antrim Borough Council took one of her Staffordshire bull terriers into care because it had suffered numerous injuries.
It later emerged that the 38-year-old, from the Circular Road in Larne, had been unable to prevent her two Staffies, Jack and Jock, from fighting.
Finding the defendant guilty of causing her pets unnecessary suffering on September 18, 2019, District Judge Nigel Broderick told the court that Lines was responsible for so many lies "she couldn't remember" them.
He added that she "had the look of someone caught in the headlights" when she was subjected to cross-examination in the witness box.
The court was told that Lines carried Jock into a vet's surgery in Larne, claiming that after he had been attacked by a labrador, she covered his wounds with Sudocrem that she happened to have in her handbag at the time.
Horrified vet staff contacted the council's animal welfare officer when they uncovered multiple scrapes, puncture wounds and bite marks, both old and new, after shaving off Jock's hair to treat his injuries.
The dog was in such a terrible condition that the animal welfare officer ordered his seizure.
When officers took a closer look at Jock, they discovered 70 bite and puncture wounds to his face, chest and legs, again both old and new.
While Lines initially agreed to the animal's seizure and handed him over, she later publicly claimed that the council had illegally seized her pet.
She repeated this fictitious allegation in the witness box, but her account was exposed as a sham after it emerged that she had written to an animal charity complaining her dogs had been fighting - a point underlined by the fact that more than half of Jock's wounds were old. Lines told her barrister and the local council that her dogs "only had a barking match", but she said in a message to the dog re-homing charity: "Long story short, my two Staffies have been fighting flat out for two weeks. I don't know what to do anymore."
In court, the defendant denied this account. "I didn't say that. I never said that. The council is lying," she said, adding that she only contacted the charity to get help with her dogs.
When a prosecution barrister asked why Lines would need help if the dogs were not fighting, she had no answer.
District Judge Broderick said he was satisfied the dogs had been fighting and their injuries had not been treated, which meant that the defendant had caused them unnecessary suffering.
Freeing her on bail, he said he would pass sentence on March 24, by which time a probation report regarding the defendant should have been completed. The case is not the first time that a member of the Lines family has appeared in court over the treatment of pet dogs.
Last November, Claire Lines' 40-year-old sister, Christina, a part-time teaching assistant, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a Pomeranian called Poppy and a Jack Russell cross called Odie.
Poppy had a 10cm tumour on her abdomen that was rupturing and required emergency surgery.
Her nails were also grossly overgrown and fleas were found in her coat.
The breed of the second dog was at first difficult to determine because he had chronic hair loss and his entire body was affected by a condition known as lichenification.
The disorder, which causes thick, blackened skin, similar to that of an elephant, is often caused by fleas.