Tag Archives: rspca

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.

 

Man fined for goldfish neknomination stunt

Taken from the BBC

Taken from the BBC

Gavin Hope, aged 22, pleaded to an Animal Welfare Act 2006 offence and was sentenced on 23 April 2014.

The law

The RSPCA prosecuted Hope for, presumably, under section 4 of the 2006 Act – that of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. We presume it is under subsection

(2) A person commits an offence if:

(a) he is responsible for an animal,

(b) an act, or failure to act, of another person causes the animal to suffer,

(c) he permitted that to happen or failed to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as were reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent that happening, and

(d) the suffering is unnecessary.

The offence is a summary only offence, triable therefore only in the Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence is a £20,000 fine and/or 6 months’ imprisonment.

The facts

The BBC reported that the RSPCA Chief Inspector said:

“The video shows Mr Hope prepare a pint glass with lager, chilli, tequila, a fresh egg and fish food.

“He picks up another glass containing a small amount of water and the goldfish, which is swimming around, and shows it to the camera before drinking it down, and following it with the pint.

“A vet report advised that the stomach would be a completely unsuitable place for a goldfish and that the fish would have died in time, the cause of death being a mixture of suffocation and acid ph levels in the stomach, as well as the alcohol he drank.”

It was said that it was after the decision to flush the fish down the toilet that Hope decided to drink it as a part of the Neknomination craze and that the decision was impulsive.

Sentence

Hope was fined £300, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £431 in costs.

The starting point is to look at page 40 of the guidelines. As usual, it can fairly be said that the offence does not fit into any of the three categories.

Whilst it was ‘one impulsive act’ (a descriptor in category 1 – the lowest category), it was also an attempt to kill – in fact it did kill – the fish (a descriptor in category 3 – the highest category). The sentencing range is from a Band B fine to 26 weeks’ imprisonment.

A Band B fine is 100% of relevant weekly income (range, 75-125%). Relevant weekly income is calculated from information provided by the offender on a means form, which they are required by law to complete.

In the event, Hope was fined £300. There is no information about his income and therefore it is difficult to say whether the fine was in accordance with the guideline. It is possible to say however, that the decision to impose a Band B fine – if that is the decision of the court – seems fair, considering Hope’s guilty plea. This is because to impose a Band B fine, the court would have started significantly higher than that level before giving a reduction for his guilty plea.

On a minor issue, the victim surcharge – a point often missed or incorrectly calculated by the courts – was correctly imposed in this case. Where an offender is fined, the surcharge is 10% of the fine.