Jessie the dog lived in Great Yarmouth with Tony O’Neil (55) and Donna Lynch (44). Last year Jessie, who was 13, had a neurological condition and was taken to the vet by her two humans. The vet gave them some medication and off they went.
In May 2013, the two humans ran out of the medication and instead of going back to the vets, they gave Jessie Ibuprofen. Not only did this not help Jessie, it may have been harmful to her. Despite her being in enough distress to chew her own hind paw off, it took several weeks before the humans took Jessie back to the vet.
By this time it was too late and Jessie had to be put down. There was a trial in which both Mr O’Neil and Ms Lynch were convicted. They were sentenced on 4th June 2014.
Offence and Sentence
It’s not clear what offence the couple were charged with. Probably, s9 Animals Act 2006 : “A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.”
It could also have been under s4 which requires, among other things,
(a) an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer,
(b) he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so,
There is an offence (s7 of the Act) of Administrating a poison to an animal, but this requires knowledge that this was a poison, or at least is should have been objectively clear that it was, and it is not clear that this would be the case.
Mr O’Neil was fined £625 (plus the surcharge which amounted to £63 according to the news reports, but should probably have been rounded down) and ordered to pay £500 costs. Ms Lynch was fined £260 (with the surcharge) and also ordered to pay £500 costs.
There is no indication as to whether an order was made prohibiting them from owning animals in the future, but it would not be surprising if one was made.
This was a pretty grim offence. The Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines apply (page 22). The fact that there was a fine indicates (especially as there appears to have been a trial) that this was put in the lowest category – ‘short term neglect’.
There’s no definition of when neglect is ‘short term’ versus ‘medium term’ or ‘prolonged’, but some might find this pretty generous. It’s not often that I will criticise a sentence for being too lenient, but I would have thought that the suffering caused would have merited a Community Order.
Giving the Iburprofen was obviously stupid, but it wasn’t necessarily obvious that this would have caused harm. However, given that Jessie was in obvious pain, not taking her to the vet was a deliberate omission, seemingly over a period of weeks. I would have put that as at least ‘medium term’ neglect.
Still, we don’t know any of the other factors that may be present in the case, in particular what mitigation was put forward. It may be that this would explain it.