Two-week jail term for man who let dog starve to death
Chandra Wong and Donald Asprey
A construction worker who left his Pomeranian dog to starve to death was given a two-week jail term yesterday - the heaviest sentence so far for animal abuse.
But the ruling failed to please animal rights groups, who condemned it as 'far too lenient' and urged the government to mount a public awareness campaign. They said proposed tougher penalties would be useless if courts continued to be lenient.
Yu Kai-sun, 21, who was also fined HK$1,000, was freed immediately because he had served his time on remand awaiting sentence.
He pleaded guilty in Eastern Court to four charges of animal abuse, including cruelty and failing to provide sufficient food and water to an animal, both carrying maximum penalties of an HK$5,000 fine and six months' jail.
The court heard he had left the animal caged in a room he left because he would not pay the rent.
'The dog was abused and died, so why can't the judge give the highest sentence?' said a spokeswoman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Rebecca Ngan Yee-ling said. 'What is it exactly that you have to do to an animal to receive a HK$5,000 fine and six months in jail?'
Ms Ngan said raising public awareness was the best means of preventing animal cruelty, instead of 'meaningless' increases in the maximum penalty.
'The government has suggested raising the maximum penalty to HK$10,000 and a year's imprisonment, but we would rather they step up public education. If the penalties were raised but judges continued to give these lenient sentences, it would have no meaning.
'We would also like the government to understand that animal cruelty includes neglect and not just violence. If you leave a dog on a rooftop without shelter or food it is still a form of animal cruelty.'
The court heard that in early June, Yu caged the dog in his rented room in Aberdeen before he fled from his landlord as he could not pay the rent. He left the dog with two bowls of food and a bottle of water.
On June 17 neighbours complained to police about a foul smell from the room and police found the dog motionless inside the cage. Veterinary reports said the dog died of starvation.
Sentencing Yu, Eastern Court Magistrate Alan Wyeth said cases of animal cruelty drew great concern from the community and therefore a deterrent sentence was essential.
He said the cruelty stemmed from negligence and indifference rather than the defendant intentionally inflicting harm, but the dog died in pain and distress as a consequence of his action.
Defence counsel Yuen Ching-pong said Yu, who felt sorry about the dog's death, had been unable to return to the room because the landlord changed the lock.