by JENNY MONROE
Natalie and Martin Agnew with Lagan Valley MLA Paul Glean
THE Assembly must take a firm stand on animal cruelty, according to a local politician.
Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan called for tougher sentences for those who attack animals.
Mr Givan had met with Martin and Natalie Agnew, owners of Codie the border collie who was put to sleep following horrific injuries after being set alight last month in Maghaberry.
Speaking in the Assembly Mr Givan said: "Northern Ireland people are renowned for being animal lovers and for having pets. I have had pets before in my home and I know that when you lose one of those animals it is as though you have lost a family member to whom your children become very attached. The incident that brought this issue to public attention was clearly the attack on Codie the collie. That attack took place in the village of Maghaberry, where I live, so I am familiar with the impact that it had on the community.
It was a particularly barbaric attack to douse a dog in lighter fluid and set it on fire. The mindset of people who can attack a defenceless animal in the way that this dog was attacked is very disturbing for society.
"The necessary deterrents should be in place to prevent individuals who carry out these attacks from doing it again. It is paramount that those individuals, who are on bail, should have charges brought against them and that they should be brought before the courts."
Mr Givan continued: "Our issue is that, when they are brought before
the courts, which is what we hope for, there will not be sufficient
legislation or a sentencing framework in place to give them the type of
sentence that, I think, the vast majority of the public believe they
should be given for
carrying out such an attack.
"We do not believe that a six-month summary maximum sentence in a Magistrates' Court is sufficient, nor do we believe that a two-year maximum sentence, which is available to the judiciary, is sufficient.
"Let us be leaders in this field and demonstrate that we see the welfare of animals as a key priority for the Assembly rather than follow the minimalist approach that other jurisdictions have taken to the issue," Mr Givan added.