Monday 21 October 2019

Mother spared jail after malnourished dog found chained to bathtub

Nikita Somerville, of Peadar Kearney House, Railway Street, Dublin 1 pictured leaving the Four Courts after she appeared before the Dublin District Court.Pic: Collins Courts
Nikita Somerville, of Peadar Kearney House, Railway Street, Dublin 1 pictured leaving the Four Courts after she appeared before the Dublin District Court.Pic: Collins Courts

Tom Tuite

A DUBLIN woman has been spared jail after a malnourished dog was found chained to a bathtub in her home.

Nikita Somerville with an address at Peadar Kearney House, Railway Street, Dublin 1 claimed she had to bring her child to hospital just when she was about to give her dog a bath.

Judge Anthony Halpin said her story seemed “far fetched” but held that she had been reckless and had not intended to neglect her dog Buster who has since been re-homed.

While it was horrific it was not the worst animal welfare case he had dealt with, he said.

He noted she had received hate mail and abuse on social media since the case came before he court. Her barrister said she was giving an undertaking not to own another pet for the next two years.

She pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court today to one count under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.

In an outline of the evidence, Hazel Fannon BL, told the court that on November 14, 2017 Garda Ciaran O’Neill called to the woman’s address and found Buster, a small brown Pomeranian inside chained to the bathtub.

Counsel said the dog had no access to food or water.

The garda contacted the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) which brought Buster to a vet for an examination.

It was found to be under-weight, there had been muscle wastage and he was “effectively malnourished”.

The dog was then placed in the care of the DSPCA and regained weight. He has since been given a new home, DSPCA inspector Liam Kinsella told the court.

Photos of the dog chained to the bath were also handed in to the judge.

A conviction on the charges can result in a fine of up to €3,000 as well as a sentence of up to six months.

The court also has the power to give an indefinite ban on owning any animal.

In mitigation pleas for leniency, defence counsel Patrick Jackson BL, furnished the court with documentation to show his client had got her pet micro-chipped and vaccinated. Photos of the dog taken a number of months before were also furnished to the court by the barrister and the judge remarked that Buster seemed very happy in those pictures.

Mr Jackson said single mother Somerville was from a good family and was supported in court by relatives.

On the day Buster was found she had to bring her child to hospital and gardai entered the home on an unrelated matter at around the same time.

Her intention had been to bathe the dog and for that reason he had been tied up.

When her dog was taken by gardai she later went to Store Street Garda station and agreed to surrender him.

He asked the judge to note the garda agreed the home was a clean dwelling and there was dog food in the kitchen.

Somerville’s first instinct was to fight the case because she had believed she had done her best by her dog and had done a lot of things that were not the normal feature in these type of cases, the barrister said.

A conviction would make it difficult for her to obtain employment and the court heard that she had done a number of courses to find work.

Mr Jackson said Somerville had never come before the courts before and was undertaking not to own a pet for the next two years.

He provided the court with samples of abusive correspondence she had received in the post and online and added that “various threats were made to her”.

The barrister wanted to make it clear it was a case of being reckless which distinguished this prosecution from other similar matters that come before the court.

Judge Halpin asked witness, veterinary surgeon Lorna White, to put the condition of the dog at time of rescue on a scale of one to 10, with one representing bad and 10 being “death’s door”.

The vet placed it at number three.

But the court also heard she placed it at number four on the Tufts scale assessment in which five was equal to emaciated.

Judge Halpin said Somerville’s story seemed “somewhat far fetched” but, he had to accept the court had not heard anything to say otherwise.

He said he did not think the dog was given enough food and it was a case of carelessness and recklessness.

Animals were no different to people and needed care, attention and food, he said.

He took into account the guilty plea and evidence of the care she had previously given the pet and said he would not give her a life ban.

He noted she was promising not to have a pet for the next two years and fined her €200 which has to be paid within six months. She was also ordered to pay €100 toward prosecution costs.

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