Suspended jail term for Ballymena man who ‘left dog to die’

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A Ballymena man has been given a suspended jail sentence and banned from keeping dogs for life after he “left a dog to die”.

Paul Sempey, (37), of Queen Street, had moved back to his mother’s home “abandoning” the Staffordshire Bull Terrier type dog at his former house.

Ballymena Magistrates Court heard today that the Borough Warden had attended the property in January to follow up on a non-payment of a dog licence.

Supported by Mid and East Antrim Council’s Animal Welfare Officer, they returned to the property and found the dog in a garage.

Prosecution outlined to the court that the garage door had been open and the officers entered, to find the “severely emaciated” dog barely alive, lying on a sofa.

The court was told that the dog was unable to get up and when officers approached the dog he was “cold to the touch”.

When the animal welfare officer touched the dog’s stomach, the animal winged in pain.

The dog was taken to a local veterinary practice but had to be put to sleep due to its condition.

Prosecution added that it had been noted that the dog’s temperature was so cold, that its “blood was beginning to decompose”.

District Judge Des Perry described it as a “bad, bad case” of animal neglect, something which Sempey’s barrister Michael Smyth agreed.

Mr Smyth provided a medical report to the Judge about his client, adding that Sempey had “educational issues”.

“The reason this arose was because he moved back to live with his mother and she did not want him bringing the dog to her house,” Mr Smyth said.

He added: “He had no alternative arrangements.

“He effectively abandoned the animal.”

Sempey was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to animal, and three months’ imprisonment for a charge of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of an animal were met, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Sentencing Sempey to a total of three months’ imprisonment, Mr Perry said it was a clear case of “passing the custody threshold”, though he opted to suspend the sentence for two years.

Mr Perry said he would also put in place a lifetime ban on Sempey from owning any “warm blooded animal” such as a dog or cat.

Sempey was also ordered to pay £116 court costs.

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and horses and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements.

“Complaints are investigated thoroughly and where necessary formal action is taken, which may include the service of Improvement Notices or, in extreme cases, the seizure of animals.

“The Council may also prosecute for offences such as in this particularly harrowing case, which I hope serves as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals.”