Larne woman whose dog and 30 fish were taken into care of Council when she was in jail will not have the animals returned

Larne woman whose dog and 30 fish were taken into care of Council when she was in jail will not have the animals returned

A LARNE woman will not get back a dog and 30 fish which were being looked after by a Council whilst she was in jail.

It is believed it had cost a Council around £7,000 to look after the dog and fish during the time the defendant was on remand in custody from last October.

Denise Martin (60), of Drummond Court, was subsequently given a three months jail term for offences including 'assault' on neighbours but with that time already served on remand she is now out of jail.

She had not faced any court charge sheets in relation to the dog or fish.

A recent court heard police received a report that Martin "pulled a handgun out of her dressing gown" and pointed it at neighbours following a "disagreement" on October 23 last year.

However, although the neighbours - a man and a woman - did not know it at the time it turned out to be a "toy gun".

A charge of possessing a 'firearm or imitation' was withdrawn by prosecutors.

Arising out of the same incident, Martin admitted two charges of assault and one of cultivating cannabis.

A previous court was told that when the defendant was originally remanded in custody on the 'imitation firearm', assault and cannabis charges, a dog and 30 fish were at her property and there was no one to look after them in her absence.

A Council then took the dog and fish into their care at a cost of £10 a day to look after the dog and around £40 a day for the fish at  £1.50 a day per fish.

A lawyer for the Council had told a court in Ballymena last week that when it was established last October that no one was caring for the dog and fish with the defendant in custody the Council had seized the animals as in her absence they were "likely to suffer".

He said the dog had been "locked in a room" and alleged the fish were "in such a condition the vet suspected they had been left untreated for some four weeks prior to her arrest."

A judge had asked if there was any finding that Martin had caused suffering to the animals and the lawyer said there hadn't been a prosecution.

The lawyer had said the dog was in a "reasonably good condition but the fish were in a condition were the filter had been blocked, filled with grime and slime, and a number of fish were floating dead on top of the tank".

At that court on March 7 it was said the costs of looking after the dog and fish were "£6,781.50" at that stage.

A defence solicitor had told the March 7 court the defendant had "very complex needs" but that a medical report determined she was "fit".

The Council had made an application to the Court under the Welfare of Animals Act.

The case was then adjourned to Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, on March 15, where Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer said he appreciated the animals had had to be 'housed' "but there should be some urgency in regard to applications to ensure that these are dealt with immediately and that these costs do not mount up to the ratepayers of a particular Council".

The defendant was present in court on March 15 and the judge told her: "Miss Martin I have made the Order that you should not have custody of the dog and the fish again".

However, he said he was not acceding to a prosecution application for costs associated with the case.

The judge said: "Miss Martin has just returned from a period of incarceration for five months. I can't expect her means would even pay for the legal fees. Given the recent release from incarceration the principle is that individual citizens are entitled to some financial respite to get them back on their feet again in society and it would be contrary to that principle to order her to pay any of the costs that have been incurred.

"So I make no Order as to costs in the circumstances".

The details of the Court Order show it referred to a 'Pug cross-type dog' and fish.

The Council was granted possession of the animals and, the Order states, may give them to an 'animal sanctuary' or allow them to be re-homed.

The Order states that if it is not possible to re-home the animals 'due to ill-health or inability to re-home it, the Council may euthanize the animal'.

  • Main picture: Generic image of fish.