Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has raised concerns about the sentence handed down to a woman convicted of horrific animal cruelty.
The local authority spoke out about the case following a public outcry over the punishment given to 23-year-old Aleisha McLaverty for abandoning a Labrador-type dog in an empty flat and allowing it to starve to death.
At Antrim Magistrates Court last week, McLaverty was given a two month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and disqualified from keeping animals for five years - a sentence one local MLA branded “a slap on the wrist”.
The council, which brought the prosecution against the former Antrim resident, revealed that it had received a number of complaints from members of the public after details of the shocking cruelty case were published last week.
“The council has been contacted by local residents who feel the level of sentence did not reflect this very harrowing case. There has been large scale commentary on social media indicating the public’s dissatisfaction with the punishment handed out in court,” a council spokesperson said.
“The council has been seeking legal advice regarding the sentencing in the case, but we have no further comment to make at this time.”
Reflecting on the outcome of the case, the council’s Head of Environmental Health, Clifford Todd, said: “There is huge public interest in this case and many people have been airing their views on the sentence given. All the agencies involved in bringing this case to court are currently reflecting on the case and the level of sentence handed down.
“Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and horses and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance with legal requirements.”
South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke and his DUP colleague, Cllr Nigel Kells, have written to the Attorney General asking for a review of the sentencing in the case, and for “harsher punishments” in future animal cruelty cases.
Cllr Kells, who branded the sentence handed down to Miss McLaverty “unduly lenient”, said that he will be asking the council to make a similar request to the Attorney General’s Office.
“I have been in touch with a council director and the chief executive and I am waiting for them to come back to me. But it is my intention to request that the council writes to the Attorney General about the sentencing in this case and the need for tougher sentencing in future cases,” he said.
In the wake of last week’s court case, an online petition calling for “tougher, longer sentences for animal cruelty’ has already attracted hundreds of signatories.