ON August 26, 2012, the life of Cody the Collie dog changed forever. It also turned the lives of her owners and family upside down.
That Sunday morning, Cody followed two boys who were out still drinking or trying to sober up from the night before near her home in Moira, Co Down.
Cody was not causing any harm or offence. She was just a curious dog who thought no harm would come to her if she went for a walk with them.
As the lads approached a quarry, Jamie Downey decided he needed to relieve himself of his night’s drinking.
When he turned his back, his thug pal Andrew Stewart took lighter fluid from his pocket, poured it over Cody and then set her on fire.
On hearing Cody’s screams, Downey turned round and shouted: “What the f**k did you do that for? She wasn’t doing any harm.”
Instead of turning Stewart in to the police, Downey went along with a concocted alibi for his drinking pal.
Today, at Belfast Crown Court, Andrew Stewart was jailed for ten months for animal cruelty. He will serve another 10 months on supervised licence following his release.
Jamie Downey got six months for perverting the course of justice.
Stewart’s sentence for his “evil and vile” attack on the poor defenceless Cody is just simply not long enough.
A person can get more for kicking a police riot shield or throwing missiles at police lines during public disorder.
A person can get more for taking a car without the owner’s position.
A person can get more for peddling drugs.
A person can get more for stealing thousands of founds from a bank.
The list goes on and on and on.
Cody meant the world to her family. She was part of the family and they loved her and miss her greatly.
The judiciary should reflect long and hard on animal welfare sentences because Northern Ireland is a nation of animal lovers and they expect the courts to reflect the public’s revulsion at such crimes.
The public want to see that those who inflict wicked cruelty and unnecessary suffering to animals to be made an example of to those who think it is perfectly normal to mistreat animals for so-called fun or sport.
When the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 was passed, the public was promised that the new legislation would “provide tougher penalties for serious animals welfare sentences”.
Ten months in jail for dousing a dog with petrol and then setting it alight is not a tough enough sentence.
The maximum sentence is two years under the 2011 legislation.
Frankly, our well paid Assembly members should take the legislation back to the floor of the Assembly andhave the maximum increased to a minimum of five years.
Andrew Stewart should have got no credit by the judge for his guilty plea as his trial was about to start.
He denied these offences when he was arrested; he denied them when he was charged; he denied them when he was arraigned; he denied them even when a jury was a sworn in to hear his case.
For a gutless coward who ended the life of a much loved family pet he should have received the maximum of two years in jail.
It would have sent out a clear and unequivocal message that the courts will come down extremely hard on those who abuse, mistreat or causing unnecessary suffering or harm to them.
Cody only got a partial justice today at Belfast Crown Court.
It is up to the public to bring pressure to bear on their fat cat MLAs to review the Welfare of Animals Act 2011 law and have the maximum term of imprisonment for animal cruelty upped to a minimum of five years.
All animals needs protection from the warped and the twisted who think they are expendable, to be used in blood sports or can be attacked for loutish fun.
Don’t let Cody’s horrific death be in vane.
Lobby your MLA today and ask him or her to support a motion for the legislation to be toughened.
Do we as a society really want animal welfare offenders to receive ten months in a cushy prison surrounded by Playstations, X -Box consoles, HD television, Astro turf football pitches and a ready access to recreational and prescription drugs.
Cody deserves better. All animals deserve better.
At the end of the day, we, the public, are their voice to end the unnecessary and barbaric suffering meted out to them for no good reason at all.