A COUPLE have been banned from keeping animals for ten years after three emaciated dogs ‘with protruding bones’ were living in “appalling” conditions at their home.
Amy Louise Harrison and Stephen McAllister, of Brook Street, Coleraine, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a ‘Brindle/white boxer type dog’ and also pleaded guilty to a second charge of failing to take steps to ensure an animal’s needs were met on July 15, 2016.
They also both received two months in prison, suspended for two years.
Coleraine Magistrates Court was told how a Causeway Coast and Glens Council animal welfare officer visited the property and discovered three underweight dogs “with protruding bones.”
The rear garden was covered in dog faeces and a soiled duvet cover was being used for the animals’ bedding.
One of the dogs, a boxer called ‘Bouncer,’ was severely underweight, with a vet giving the lowest body score; just one out of 10.
The other two dogs were also examined and given a body score of two out of 10. The defendants handed over the most underweight animal and the other two dogs were seized during a search the following day.
All three have since regained weight and been rehomed.
The council asked for a disqualification order after a legal representative told the court how another visit to Brook Street almost two years later had confirmed that the defendants had “new animals” and faeces had been seen throughout the property.
In 23-year-old Harrison’s defence, the court was told that her and her partner’s benefits had been “drastically reduced” and this had led to “severe financial hardship.”
They had been forced to buy “inferior food” and make sacrifices, accepting that the dogs had been in “poor shape” when the inspection had taken place.
But they had handed over the dogs voluntarily and co-operated fully with the council.
Harrison had been looking after her mother’s and sister’s dogs when the second council visit took place and the dogs were “completely healthy.”
She suffered from mental health problems and walking the dogs had “given her something to get out of bed for in the morning,” the court heard.
In McAllister’s defence, the court heard that the neglect had not been “a deliberate act” and “due to the fact that they couldn’t afford to pay for food for themselves, let alone the animals.”
He was embarrassed and had found the whole experience “very stressful.”
After viewing photographs of the conditions in which the animals had been kept, Deputy District Judge Austin Kennedy said: “It is quite simply appalling.
“Two years after the initial inspection they had made no attempt to clean up the mess; to ask any dog to live like that is just shocking.
“These matters cross the custody threshold,” he added as he imposed two month prison terms, suspended for two years.
The court heard how keeping the dogs in kennels had cost the council more than £5,000. Both Harrison and McAllister were ordered to pay £170 costs.