Conditional discharge for man who starved and neglected dog
Former prison officer and union activist Craig Clarke starved and neglected an elderly dog to the brink of death, a court heard.
Sapphire the Rottweiler was so sick when an SPCA inspector found her that he thought she was dead.
She was just half the body weight of a healthy Rottweiler, and infested with fleas and worms.
Clarke — who has resigned from his job and as chairman of the Prison Officers Association — escaped being fined or jailed over the cruelty to Sapphire, who eventually had to be put to sleep.
He admitted to a charge of causing or permitting unnecessary suffering to an animal when he appeared at Magistrates Court yesterday.
Prosecutor Susan Mulligan told the court SPCA inspector Glyn Roberts visited Clarkes home on North Shore Road, Pembroke, on May 5 following a complaint from a member of the public that there was an emaciated dog there.
Armed with a search warrant, the inspector entered the backyard and found Sapphire, who was starved to the point that her bones were showing. She was riddled with fleas, worms and tumours and lying flat on her side, tied to a tree.
Ms Mulligan told the court the dog, who was an estimated 12 or 13 years old, did not get up when the inspector and police officers approached.
Clarke signed ownership of Sapphire over to the SPCA who took her to a vet. Ms Mulligan said she responded well when given food and treatment, but eventually had to be put to sleep due to her tumours and advanced age.
Mr Clarke, 44, told the court the dog was dying anyway.
I told the inspector the reason I did not put the dog down was my children. They loved the dog and fed the dog. The dog had water and two kennels, he said.
I fed the dog every day. The dog was dying. It made no sense to take the dog to a vet. The dog was old and I thought I would let the dog die naturally.
Mr Clarke also told the court: I have given up my job and I am no longer in charge of the Prison Officers Association over this matter and another matter.
He is facing separate charges of threatening a police officer over Cup Match, which he denies, and is due to stand trial in October.
After viewing pictures of the neglected dog, Mr Warner inquired of Ms Mulligan: One must remember we are not talking about a human being. When a dog is old and incapacitated, is it the duty of the owner to give specialised medical care or put him down?
Ms Mulligan replied: Its the duty of the owner not to lead him to suffer unnecessarily. The dog was able to gain weight once fed.
The maximum punishment available under the Care and Protection of Animals Act is a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, a lifetime ban on keeping animals, or a combination of those punishments. Mr Warner handed Clarke a conditional discharge, on the condition that he does not own another dog for 12 months.
Speaking after the case, Mr Roberts told The Royal Gazette: When I first saw Sapphire I thought she was dead, as she was lying flat out not moving. She was taken by the SPCA to be examined by a veterinary surgeon, and apart from being emaciated, the most noticeable thing about her was the huge numbers of fleas running through her coat.
The veterinary surgeon ran a series of tests and it was evident that the reason for the dogs condition was that she had been seriously underfed. She weighed just 23.7kg — a healthy weight was suggested by the vet as being between 40kg and 48kg for a dog of her build.
Less than three weeks later, after giving her nothing but appropriate food and in sufficient amounts, Sapphire weighed 27.6kg which meant that she had put on approximately 20 percent of her initial weight in just 20 days.
The tests ruled out any other reason for her to be emaciated such as illness and she received no specialised care whilst at the SPCA other than normal dog food, flea treatment and a medicated bath.
Mr Roberts added: The SPCA are hopeful that the case will send out a message to animal owners in Bermuda that they all have a legal responsibility to provide appropriate care for their animals. No-one is forced to own a cat, dog or horse and if you decide to get a pet then you must look after it properly.
Useful website: www.spca.bm.
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