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Govt: Case should have never been before the courts

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Government claimed that an animal cruelty case thrown out of court yesterday should never have been prosecuted in the first place. However, the SPCA said that Government’s attitude showed they cannot rely on them for support, and will have to look elsewhere for assistance.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for dog wardens, said: “The dog Venom was brought to the department’s attention in December 2010 as the result of a complaint. The SPCA inspector and an animal warden responded, and found the dog to be ill and unlicensed. The owner was given instructions to seek veterinary care, which he did, and to have the animal licensed, which he did not.

“The SPCA inspector and the animal wardens revisited this animal in January 2011. At that time, the dog was confirmed to be still under ongoing veterinary care, its body condition had not deteriorated, but its attitude was much brighter and facial wound had healed. Thus the animal wardens preferred to monitor the animal’s progress, but the SPCA preferred seizure. Thus the animal wardens seized the animal for non-licensure, but once the licence issue was rectified, the wardens had no cause to hold the animal, and were willing to return the animal to Mr Dowling and monitor progress in the animal’s health.”

However, the spokeswoman continued: “Being unhappy with this approach, the SPCA seized the animal with a view to prosecute the owner. The wardens advised the SPCA that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter in court; however that advice was not heeded and the whole matter was turned over to the SPCA. The case was the SPCA’s to win or to lose. The wardens were called to testify in the matter. In the end, the court has agreed with the department’s officers (and the verdict was) not guilty.”

While the SPCA stated that it does not wish to see Venom returned to Mr Dowling, and Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo refused to order that, the Government spokeswoman said: “The case is now over. The dog has been in the custody of the SPCA for over a year and now, due to the outcome of the court’s decision, must be returned to its lawful owner immediately.”

The SPCA accused the Government of failing to prosecute animal cruelty cases. The last case that they worked with Government on was in 2005.

The Government spokeswoman said: “The last cruelty case that the SPCA had in court resulted from a joint effort between that organisation and this department in 2005. We won a conviction. Since then, the SPCA has had no persons before the courts. However, the department has recorded at least 15 convictions and one acquittal over the last four years for various offences, including at least three cruelty convictions.”

She added: “The department’s officers are well respected in the community, even by those they have prosecuted. Their first course of action is usually educating the owner and following up to ensure corrective measures occur. The department has a small contingent of wardens that provide a 24-hour service.”

Vice president of the SPCA Sarah Haycock said on behalf of the charity’s committee: “The SPCA is obviously not happy about losing the court case as it is clear that this dog suffered with untreated injuries and was severely malnourished. As an old dog, being chained on boat chain and left outside is irresponsible at best. What this case has demonstrated is a lack of protection for dogs like Venom when an owner simply claims not to be the caretaker, or leaves the dog with another equally irresponsible person. Compound this with a lack of cooperation from other agencies that should be assisting with these prosecutions, and it is not surprising that cases like this are difficult to win. The SPCA is meeting with the Minister of Environment in the near future and this case will be used as an example of some of the issues we face prosecuting cruelty cases. We need changes to legislation so that people residing at residences where cruelty like this occurs are equally responsible for allowing it to happen.

“What is clear is that the SPCA cannot at present rely on support from the police or other government agencies when it comes to prosecuting these cases. As such, the organisation would be keen to talk to anyone in the legal community who might be willing to assist us with these important cases. We must be able to send out a clear message that such cruelty will not be tolerated and prosecution will occur.”

Venom the pit bull was found emaciated and injured by the SPCA, tied up by a thick chain in a yeard. He was said to have endured unecessary suffering by a Magistrate who ruled on a cruelty case yesterday. However, the man accused of cruelty walked free from court as the Magistrate said there was not enough evidence to prove who was supposed to be caring for the dog.

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Published February 28, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated February 28, 2012 at 9:22 am)

Govt: Case should have never been before the courts

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