Tag Archives: animal

Dog chews her own paw off after being given Ibuprofen – couple fined

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Introduction

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.

 

Comment

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.

 

Photo of a dog. Not the dog.

Photo of a dog. Not the dog.

 

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Laura Cunliffe jailed for microwaving kitten to death

Image from Daily Mail

Image from Daily Mail

In the Daily Mail on Friday 21 February 2014, it was reported that unemployed Laura Cunliffe, 23 from Barnsley, pleaded guilty at Barnsley Magistrates’ Court to causing unnecessary suffering of an animal.

On 13 March 2014, she was sentenced to 14 weeks’ imprisonment.

The offence

Animal Welfare Act 2006 s 4 creates the offence of causing unnecessary suffering. It is a summary only offence meaning it can only be tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence is 6 months and/or a £20,000 fine.

Facts

The Mail’s article, which contains some disturbing pictures, can be seen here.

She had a 4 month old kitten – Mowgli.

Mowgli reportedly ‘attacked’ Ms Cunliffe’s goldfish. Ms Cunliffe then appears to have placed Mowgli into the microwave and set it to cook for 5 minutes.

Mowgli reportedly was still alive when Ms Cunliffe removed him from the microwave, but was struggling to breathe. Ms Cunliffe then took Mowgli to a relatives house. He died some 90 minutes after Ms Cunliffe removed him from the microwave.

RSPCA

The prosecution was brought by the RSPCA, who reportedly said: ‘The main reason the RSPCA took this case in order to achieve disqualifications in order to protect animals and prevent further suffer in the future.’

The deputy chief inspector said: ‘It is particularly horrendous because of the period of suffering for the kitten which would have been awful.’

She said that the exposure to the radiation in the microwave would have cooked the animal’s internal organs.

She said: ‘It is an horrific case in the fact that the death of the cat would have been prolonged and it is unimaginable what it would have gone through taking some time to die.

Mitigation

Prior to the sentencing hearing, her defence advocate reportedly said that Ms Cunliffe had suffered from psychosis and depression, having been detained under Mental Health legislation ‘several times’.

The BBC reported that in mitigation, her solicitor said that Ms Cunliffe had longstanding problems with psychotic depression and had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 20 times.

Sentencing guidelines

There are guidelines which apply to this offence. See numbered page 22 [40 of the PDF]. There are three categories and arguably this offences does not neatly fall into any of them.

The bottom category describes ‘One impulsive act causing little or no injury’ which this is clearly not.

The middle category describes: Several incidents of deliberate ill-treatment/frightening animal(s); medium term neglect’ which doesn’t seem to fit either.

The top category describes: ‘Attempt to kill/torture; animal baiting/conducting or permitting cock-fighting etc.; prolonged neglect’ which on balance isn’t a perfect match either, as one presumes Ms Cunliffe pleaded guilty on the basis that she did not intend to kill or torture the animal.

Judge’s comments

The BBC reported: District Judge John Foster said “This was an act of utterly horrendous cruelty on your part on an animal that, as far as I could see, had come to trust you and rely on you.”

Sentence imposed

14 weeks’ imprisonment, and a disqualification from owning or keeping etc. animals, under Protection of Animals Act 1911 s 2, for life.

Comment

The starting point for the top category in the guidelines is 18 weeks. Ms Cunliffe pleaded guilty and so some credit (presumably 1/3) would have been given for that. Her mental health issues provide strong mitigation and so despite the seriousness of the offence, 14 weeks immediate custody appears to be over the top (even with the aggravating factor that the kitten died). Perhaps a suspended sentence might have been more appropriate and proportionate, considering Ms Cunliffe’s difficulties. It would appear that treatment, not abandonment, is what is required.

The disqualification order seems entirely appropriate.