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Environment official to meet with SPCA over Venom the pit bull

Venom, the Pit Bull at the centre of an animal cruelty case.

The SPCA is due to meet a top Government official to discuss concerns over an animal cruelty case.The Royal Gazette reported yesterday how the charity accused Government animal wardens of failing to do their jobs and “showing no interest” in the case of a man accused of cruelty to a dog.Kurt Dowling was cleared at Magistrates’ Court on Monday of causing suffering to Venom the pit bull, who was found starving to death, chained up outside with a puncture wound to his head.Mr Dowling, 30, from Farm Lane, Warwick, denied owning the unlicensed dog and said it was not his yard the creature was found in.Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said there was no doubt the animal suffered, but prosecutors failed to prove Mr Dowling was responsible as there had not been a “proper and full investigation” into the ownership issue.Vice president of the SPCA Sarah Haycock told The Royal Gazette after the case that the charity had to push for it to go to court after Government wardens failed to act.She alleged the wardens are failing in their duty to prosecute animal cruelty cases and refusing to cooperate with the SPCA on such investigations.She added that the charity would like to see changes to the legislation so people living at residences where animal cruelty takes place are responsible in law for allowing it to happen. Government hit back saying the case should never have gone to court as there was not enough evidence to secure a prosecution.After the charity approached Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Environment Derrick Binns with their concerns, Mrs Haycock issued a statement yesterday saying: “The Permanent Secretary has indicated an openness and willingness to meet with the SPCA to discuss the Venom case and the larger issue of the ongoing relationship between the society and the animal wardens.“We appreciate his expressed commitment to assist the society in achieving resolution on both points and look forward to meeting with him as soon as possible.”During the trial, the Magistrate heard evidence that Mr Dowling was the last person who held a licence to keep the pit bull, but that licence expired on January 31 2010.Venom has been cared for by the SPCA since he was seized from the yard on January 21 2011. Mr Dowling was allowed by Government wardens to get a new licence for the dog within hours of the seizure.However, the charity got a court warrant allowing them to keep Venom in their care since he was the subject of a cruelty investigation.A question mark remains over Venom’s future following the conclusion of the court case. Mr Dowling’s licence has expired for the dog but he indicated through his lawyer that he wants him back.Mr Tokunbo refused to make a court ruling that the SPCA has to hand the dog back over, and the charity later stated that it does not wish to do so.Mrs Haycock confirmed that Venom remained in the care of the SPCA as of last night.Animal welfare officer Debbie Masters, who investigated the Venom case, stressed that he has gained weight since being cared for at the charity and is being looked after.“He has been very happy for a year and two months in our kennel. He has been loved and looked after,” she said.Miss Masters added that she wished to thank all the members of the public who expressed concern for Venom, both before the court case and since.“The support has been phenomenal. I want the public to know that there are a lot more ‘Venom cases’ out there and that they can call the SPCA and I will always keep their names confidential,” she said.“We are there for the animals and will continue to work hard.”