Man gets six months in jail for setting dog on fire

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 7:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 8:43pm

A magistrate on Thursday sentenced a man to eight months in jail for dousing a dog with paint thinner and setting it alight, calling the action the worst case of animal cruelty he had seen in 20 years on the bench.

Computer technician Mok Chung-ting, 30, had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty at Tuen Mun Court for setting the six-year-old dog, named Siu Wong, on fire.

Before sentencing the Acting Principal Magistrate Li Wai-chi said, “the defendant had been extremely cruel and cold-hearted to the animal” and therefore he felt it necessary to hand down a deterrent sentence.

While cruelty to animals carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of HK$200,000, the highest reported sentence in an animal cruelty case is six months’ imprisonment.

Senior public prosecutor Franco Kuan Bak-on said that Mok’s sentence was the heaviest handed down for such a crime.

The dog’s owner, surnamed Chan, told Cable News after the ruling that Siu Wong had been a good dog and that it was still difficult to think about the incident.

“As for whether the sentence is light or heavy, that’s up to the judge,” he said. But he added, “If you had seen it [the injured dog], you too would be frightened.”

The dog suffered burns to its face, head and body. A veterinarian who examined the dog judged it to have very little chance of surviving its painful injuries and it was euthanised.

The incident occurred on the evening of September 1 last year when the family pet was in a backyard in Kei Lun Wai, Tuen Mun, about 140 metres from Mok's apartment on the15th floor of a block in Siu Hong Court.

Mok had earlier claimed that the dog’s barking had disturbed him, and that, despite two reports to the police on the matter, it had not stopped. The night before the incident Mok told the court the barking had prevented him from sleeping.

However, the magistrate noted that the dog’s location had not been directly next to Mok’s residence.

“A dog barking is very normal,” the magistrate said. “In the New Territories, you’ll hear dogs bark, birds chirping. Not being able to sleep does not mean you can harm them.”

He later added: “Animals, like humans, have a right to life… We have to respect their right to live. What’s more, this is man’s best friend.”

The degree of suffering that the canine had to endure, he said, was “hard to put into words”.