An Armagh woman has been banned from keeping animals for five years after a “shocking case of neglect” in which her three-year-old Cocker Spaniel was put to sleep as a result.
Court heard how, upon being assessed by a vet, the dog was found to have a body condition score of zero out of nine – the optimum being five – such was her level of emaciation.
Deidre Sheridan, 49, of Callanbridge Park, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal at the city’s Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Newry, on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, her son, Martin Sheridan, 24, also of Callanbridge Park, also offered a plea to failing to take reasonable steps to ensure an animal’s needs were met.
Prosecuting barrister Malcolm Irvine outlined how on March 13, 2018, a vet at an out-of-hours service was contacted by Ms Sheridan regarding her three-year-old Cocker Spaniel named Chloe.
She informed the vet that her dog had been suffering from vomiting and diarrhea for approximately six weeks. She stated that the dog had been fine that morning but had then collapsed at 3pm before her condition worsened.
The vet told Ms Sheridan to bring the dog to the surgery. She later arrived accompanied by her son, Martin Sheridan, in a taxi with the dog.
Upon examination, the vet found that the dog was emaciated, it had matted fur and smelled strongly of urine.
The animal was assessed as having a body condition score of zero out of nine – the optimum being five.
It was the professional opinion of the vet that the only option was to euthanize the dog and this was done.
The vet had commented that both defendants appeared to have an attachment to the dog, with Mr Sheridan spending a considerable amount of time with the animal after it was put to sleep.
It was submitted by the vet that this had not happened overnight; it would have taken some weeks with her describing it as a “shocking case of neglect”.
She also commented that the dog had been relying on its muscle for energy and could have been saved if it had been brought for treatment at an earlier stage.
Mr Irvine outlined how the vet had contacted the Animal Welfare Service. They identified that the dog in question was registered to Ms Sheridan.
On March 22, 2018, they attended her home and found a Jack Russell which was registered to her son.
Upon examination, this dog was found to be in reasonable condition but was nevertheless seized and with the permission of the defendant has since been re-homed.
It what was described as a “case of passive neglect”, Mr Irvine recommended that a five year ban was issued to Ms Sheridan.
Her defence barrister, Scott McWhinney, informed the court that his client was suffering from personal and mental health issues at the time of this incident
He commented that there was evidence that Ms Sheridan had ordered food online to address the issue of the dog’s body mass but it was accepted as being “too little, too late”.
Mr McWhinney also outlined the defendant’s attachment to the dog, which had been in her care since a puppy. He commented that during police interview she even referred to the Cocker Spaniel as “the child”.
Representing Mr Sheridan, defence barrister Patrick Taggart informed the court that his client did not reside at the address but would have called in the morning to check on the dogs.
He stated that the defendant had been “very distressed by what had occurred”. He called on the district judge not to ban his client from keeping animals as it would affect his employment.
District Judge Paul Copeland stated: “It would have been, could have been, should have been obvious the deterioration in this dog.”
Addressing Ms Sheridan, he commented that other factors “had impacted on her judgement and had almost blinded her”, adding she was not “fit for the foreseeable” to have care or custody of an animal.
In the case of Mr Sheridan, District Judge Copeland stated: “On this occasion you were torn between the condition of the dog and your mother’s difficulties. In this you chose an unusual course not to act.”
Both defendants were ordered to pay a fine of £250, along with costs of £150 each within 15 weeks.
Ms Sheridan was also disqualified from keeping animals for five years.