SINGAPORE - A dog owner who did not take her three unwell dogs to a veterinarian for treatment, causing them unnecessary suffering, was on Tuesday (Feb 23) sentenced to 10 days' jail.
Chng Leng Khim, 43, who had kept her dogs without a valid licence, and failed to comply with an order by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to help in its investigations, was also fined $3,100.
She pleaded guilty two weeks ago to two charges of animal cruelty, two counts of keeping a dog without a licence, and a charge of failing to comply with an AVA order.
Another count of animal cruelty and another charge of keeping a dog without a licence, were considered in sentencing.
At a sentencing hearing last Friday (Feb 19), however, Chng told the court that she wanted to retract her guilty plea. Her lawyer also applied to discharge himself.
The hearing was then adjourned to give a second lawyer, whom Chng had engaged, time to prepare for sentencing submissions and Chng's mitigation plea.
But on Tuesday (Feb 23), Chng again told the court that she wanted to retract her plea of guilt. Her second lawyer also applied to discharge himself.
District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim did not accede to Chng's request on both occasions, noting that she had understood the nature and consequences of her plea of guilt.
The court had earlier heard that Chng moved out of her Paya Lebar Crescent landed home in June 2013, along with her three children, after she stopped paying rent of $1,500 a month.
She left behind a five-year-old bull mastiff and chow chow, which were found by the landlord in the house two days later. Both were thin and unwell, infested with ticks, and surrounded by their urine and faeces.
Chng's eight-year-old poodle was also found near her former home the day she moved out. It was traced back to her through a microchip, but attempts made by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to contact her were unsuccessful.
The poodle was severely emaciated, malnourished and tick-infested. Its fur was severely matted and even bald in some areas. It also suffered from a severe urinary infection, among other ailments.
An AVA veterinarian found the home to be "filthy and not well-ventilated", with all the windows and doors closed. The floor was also filled with faeces and urine, and there was no sign of food or water.
The chow chow and poodle were rehomed to Voices for Animals. But the bull mastiff's condition deteriorated in November 2013 and it was euthanised two months later because of a failing heart and other conditions.
On June 20, 2013, AVA officers met Chng at Ang Mo Kio Police Division. She denied abandoning her dogs, and agreed to turn up at AVA's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control at a later date. But she did not do so and did not answer the AVA's calls.
The next month, at the same police station, she acknowledged a letter requiring her to give a statement to the AVA at its premises, but she never complied with it.
Chng, who has not had a permanent home since moving out in June 2013, remained out of contact until March last year, when a warrant of arrest was issued. She was arrested on June 30.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Yanying urged the court to impose at least two weeks's jail and a fine of $4,000.
She said the increasing prevalence of animal cruelty offences warranted a deterrent sentence. Within the last five years, she noted, the number of such cases handled by the AVA has surged by more than 65 per cent.
The DPP also pointed out that the Animals and Birds Act has been amended to stiffen penalties for causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal. With effect from Jan 16 last year, the maximum punishment for first time offenders is 18 months' jail and a $15,000 fine.
Chng is out on bail of $10,000, pending an appeal. For causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, she could have been jailed for 12 months and fined $10,000. For failing to comply with an AVA order, she could have been jailed for six months and fined $10,000.
For keeping a dog above three months old without a licence, she could have been fined $5,000.