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Mother and Son Sentenced for Animal Welfare Offences

Ms Nicola O’Neill and her son Mr James McWilliams, of Felden Place, Newtownabbey, received their sentencing at Laganside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 6 February after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the welfare of a number of dogs at their property.

The charges were brought by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011, following an investigation by the Council’s Animal Welfare Officer, who visited the property in March 2022.

The Animal Welfare Officer encountered distressing scenes arriving at the property. Outside the property, they witnessed multiple malnourished dogs living in filthy conditions without access to water or bedding. Inside the house they found five underweight puppies in a soiled crate covered in faeces and urine.

In the rear garden of the property they found one underweight deceased dog, its breed unidentifiable due to partial consumption by two other malnourished dogs living amidst accumulated faeces.

All of the rescued dogs were successfully rehomed to an Animal Charity.

District Judge Conner handed Ms O’Neill a suspended 4-month custodial sentence, valid for 12 months, along with a fine of £340. Mr McWilliams was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay £590 in costs. Additionally, both individuals were disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years.

Commenting on the case a spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said:

“The Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and horses and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements. Complaints are investigated thoroughly and where necessary formal action is taken, which may include the service of Improvement Notices, or in extreme cases, seizure of animals.The Council may also prosecute for offences such as in this case which I hope serves as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals”.