A PART-time teaching assistant has been sentenced after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to dogs including one pooch which developed ‘elephant skin’.
Christina Lines (40) was sentenced at Ballymena Magistrates Court after previously pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering and failing to ensure the welfare of her two dogs, a Pomeranian known as ‘Poppy’ and a Jack Russell Cross known as ‘Odie’.
The charges were brought against the defendant by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011.
Proceedings followed an investigation by Council’s Animal Welfare Officer who visited Lines’ property in September 2019.
Due to the conditions observed, officers requested that a vet attended the property.
Poppy had a ten centimetre diameter tumour growth on her abdomen which was rupturing, her nails were grossly over grown due to lack of wear and fleas were found on her coat.
The tumour was considered an emergency, therefore Poppy was taken into possession by Council, who arranged for surgery that same day, in addition to the vet trimming Poppy’s hair and nails.
The breed of the second dog, Odie, was at first difficult to identify, due to a severe chronic hair loss and skin condition, known as Lichenification, which was all over his body and was accompanied with blackening, resembling elephant skin.
This condition is allergy based and is often caused by fleas.
Odie was also taken into possession by council and sedated to treat the skin condition and the cutting of the dog’s extremely long nails. The vet concluded that both of these dogs were suffering.
A defence barrister admitted to the court some “re-education” was needed with the defendant who had been “treating the dogs with homeopathic remedies, none of which had prescribed by a vet, and there was a suggestion that was because of a degree of financial distress at the time”.
Since the case came to light, he said the defendant had made progress in terms of how to look after dogs.
He said she and her son (17) now have two dogs.
He said financial distress was no longer an issue as the defendant had taken out pet insurance and she had engaged a behavioural therapist and had also engaged the services of a dog walker.
The barrister said she had made “quite remarkable progress”.
The court heard there had been kenneling and veterinary costs of £2,109 and the defence lawyer said that was because of delays in the case caused by the pandemic.
There were also legal costs of £400 and court costs of £152 and the lawyer said the defendant was not in a position to pay it all.
The defence lawyer said if the defendant was banned from keeping dogs it would send out a message to the public that “if you re-educate yourself and make progress during the course of a council investigation it will bear no fruit”.
He said the defendant was “quite distraught” at the prospect of having her current dog taken from her.
Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer imposed financial penalties totaling £500, and ordered the defendant to pay £500 towards Council’s veterinary and kenneling costs and £400 towards legal costs.
An application by Council to disqualify the defendant, from Bengore Gardens in Larne, from keeping of animals was refused by the Court.
The Council said the dogs removed from Lines’ care were successfully rehomed.
Commenting on the case a spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council told ‘Ballymena Daily’: “Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements.
“Complaints are investigated thoroughly and where necessary formal action is taken, which may include the service of Improvement Notices, or in extreme cases, seizure of animals.
“The Council may also prosecute for offences such as in this case which I hope serves as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals”.