Plea for courts to take pet cases seriously
The chairman of the SPCA shelter has called on the courts to take animal-related cases more seriously, claiming they often “get shoved down the ladder”.
Veterinarian Andrew Madeiros spoke to The Royal Gazette yesterday after charges against the owner of a boxer, who killed his neighbour’s dachshund, were dismissed on a legal technicality. Dr Madeiros said he had experienced difficulties bringing cases to court — and described dachshund owner Amy Ponnampalam’s situation as a “real tragedy”.
“It’s an issue that needs to be taken more seriously,” the owner of Ettrick Animal Hospital said.
“These cases get shoved down the ladder. I do know from personal experience that getting dog cases to court is very difficult. I don’t know exactly what happened here, but it is extremely unfortunate that a case like this didn’t get to court because of a technicality.”
Ms Ponnampalam’s dachshund, Annie, was killed in a dog-on-dog attack in November last year.
Her neighbour’s three boxers were able to get on her property because the electric fencing around his property had not been maintained.
But the charges against owner John Tomlinson were dismissed in Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday because prosecutors failed to bring the matter to court within six months of the offence.
Ms Ponnampalam described this as a “major operational failure” on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The DPP has not responded to requests for comment since the case was dismissed, although a Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment spokeswoman said that animal wardens had “discharged their duties as expected and in accordance with established protocols”.
She said yesterday that they had appealed the decision of the magistrate to the Supreme Court and hoped it would be listed shortly.
Dr Madeiros said: “I’m sure they have a thousand reasons why dog cases aren’t prioritised.”
He added that the biggest issue was getting the matters to court in a timely fashion and finding prosecutors that were familiar with such cases and the relevant legislation.
He said prosecutors often seemed to find themselves pitched against knowledgable defence lawyers and that the cases “fizzle out” as a result.
Dr Madeiros said that while he was not familiar with dog-on-dog attack legislation, there was leeway in the law to deal with animal attacks on people and other animals.
He urged dog owners to ensure that pets are properly contained, for their protection and the safety of other animals.
“Your dog may be the nicest dog in the world, but you still have to keep it safe from other animals,” he said. “Your dog might be nice, but there is no guarantee that another dog won’t enter your property.”
Mr Madeiros advised that dogs should be kept inside or, if they stay outside, they should be supervised at all times or be kept in a fenced-in area.