A Lurgan woman who set up a dog rescue group after dealing with a dog breeder convicted of neglecting spaniels said he should have been sent to jail.
Gordon Laverty was accused of neglecting and causing suffering to his King Charles Spaniels and has been handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence and banned from keeping animals for 20 years.
Sentencing Gordon Laverty at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, District Judge Ken Nixon said he was only being spared immediate imprisonment because of his clear record and guilty pleas.
Laverty, of Red Brae Road in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, admitted 10 animal welfare offences.
They included four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs and six counts of failing to ensure the needs of animals he was responsible for were met.
Laverty’s neglect was discovered in June 2013 after one escaped but severely malnourished dog was taken to a vet.
A microchip resulted in council staff finding a number of animals at his home - all in poor condition.
The King Charles Spaniels were said to be starving, unable to stand, and with badly matted coats.
Lurgan girl and animal lover Catherine Southwell set up the foster charity organisation Cavaliers in Need as a result of the case.
Recalling the state of the dogs, she said: “It was horrific, that’s the only way I can describe it.”
“In Laverty’s case, when we got these dogs to look at , we couldn’t decipher one end of the dog from the other.
“He had two dogs that were well fed. They were his pets. He had made the difference between his pets and these dogs.”
She said: “The conditions these dogs wer in were horrendous. He was using them purely for profit.”
The court heard six dogs were handed over voluntarily.
Defence counsel said middle-aged Laverty, whose age was not given, was sorry for what happened.
Michael Boyd told the judge: “He’s deeply ashamed about what happened to these animals in his care.”
According to the barrister Laverty has a “long record of keeping animals properly and humanely”.
He added that the defendant, who used a walking aid to get into court, has been suffering from a range of medical conditions.
Judge Nixon told Laverty: “It’s only on the basis that you have come to this court with an entirely clear record and entered pleas at an early opportunity that the 10-month sentence of imprisonment is suspended for two years.”
He also ordered: “You are banned from keeping any pets or animals of any kind for a period of 20 years.”
Laverty must pay veterinary costs and legal fees of just over £700 as part of the sentence.
Ms Southwell, who attended the hearing with other Cavaliers in Need volunteers, wept as the punishment was handed down.
Outside court she said: “Obviously we would have liked an immediate prison sentence, but the 20-year ban was good.”
The group she founded has dealt with around 500 dogs over the past two years and runs fundraisers throughout the yearto help cover costs.