Lifetime animal ban for woman who let dog starve to death

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A Belfast woman who admitted letting her Staffordshire Bull Terrier starve to death in a rear yard was has been banned from keep animals for life.

Theresa McGahey, who Belfast Crown Court heard had “significant difficulties looking after herself, never mind animals”, was also handed a conditional discharge for causing unneccesary suffering to the dog.

When the emaciated remains of the dog were found, the animal weighed just seven kg. A vet later determined ulcers were found in its stomach, which compounded with starvation would have led to a “painful and miserable” death in “appalling conditions”.

The remains of the dog were discovered on March 3 last year after McGahey, from Fort Street in Belfast, called the council’s cleansing department to ask that a dead dog be removed from the rear of her property.

Prosecuting barrister Michael Chambers said that when an animal welfare officer called at the property, McGahey claimed her dog had been poisoned.

When the officer was shown to the back of the property, one dead dog was lying in filthy conditions, with a second “extremely skinny” Staffordshire Bull Terrier lying on top of the carcass, alive but in a “poor state”.

McGahey, 35, was spoken to at the scene, and when asked if she had been feeding the dog, she claimed she had, but said she noticed it had been unwell for a couple of days. And when asked why she hadn’t taken the dog to the vet, McGahey said she had no-one to take her, and also she was under threat and couldn’t leave her house.

She also made the case that while she was responsible for the dead dog, her partner – who is now deceased – took care of the second Staffy, which was removed from the property by the council.

Mr Chambers said that the deceased animal should have weighed around 17kg, but was only seven kg when discovered. He also revealed that the dog did not have any diseases, and that death was a result of “starvation due to lack of food”.

Pointing out McGahey’s claims she had been feeding the dog was “clearly not the case”, Mr Chambers said the dog died in “considerable distress” and in “filthy conditions”. He added that as well as starving the dog, McGahey also failed to obtain medical treatment which amounted to “a criminal act that went on over a period of time” as it would have taken the dog “days if not weeks to starve”.

The prosecutor concluded by saying it was accepted that McGahey had “difficulties looking after herself, never mind animals”.

Defence barrister Declan Quinn said McGahey was a woman with personal limitations who was diagnosed with having special needs in her teens.

Citing an inability to care for herself, Mr Quinn spoke of a childhood peppered with violence and neglect, which resulted in psychological problems.

He also said McGahey would adhere to a lifetime ban on keeping animals.

Imposing the ban, Judge Gordon Kerr said that given her own incapabilities, McGahey was not suitable to own dogs, or any other animals. A breach of this ban, he warned, could result in a prison sentence.