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Mother who chained malnourished dog to bathtub is spared jail

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Nikita Somerville

Nikita Somerville

CollinsPhotoAgency

Nikita Somerville

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

Nikita Somerville, of 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 hadn't intended to neglect her dog Buster, who has since been rehomed.

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

He noted that Somerville had received hate mail and abuse on social media since the case came before the court.

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

Food

Hazel Fannon BL told the court that on November 14, 2017, Garda Ciaran O'Neill called at Somerville's address and found Buster, a small brown Pomeranian, 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 to be examined.

He was found to be under-weight, there had been muscle wastage and he was "effectively malnourished".

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

Photos of Buster 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.

In mitigation pleas for leniency, defence counsel Patrick Jackson BL provided the court with documentation to show his client had got Buster micro-chipped and vaccinated.

Photos of the dog taken a number of months before were also handed to the judge who 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.

After Buster was taken by gardai, Somerville went to Store Street Garda Station and agreed to surrender him. Mr Jackson asked the judge to note that the garda agreed the home was clean and there was dog food in the kitchen.

Somerville's first instinct was to fight the case because she believed she had done her best by her dog, the barrister said.

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

Mr Jackson said Somerville had not come before the courts previously 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 and added that "various threats were made to her".

Emaciated

Judge Halpin asked veterinary surgeon Lorna White to put the dog's condition at the time of rescue on a scale of one to 10, with one representing bad and 10 being "death's door". She 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 he did not think the dog was given enough food and it was a case of carelessness and recklessness.

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

He took into account the guilty plea and evidence of the care that Somerville 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 two years and fined her €200. She was also ordered to pay €100 toward prosecution costs.


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