Hillsborough pet owner convicted of animal welfare offences

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A university lecturer from Hillsborough has been banned from keeping pets for five years after being convicted of animal welfare offences.

Dr Taina Rikala was also ordered to pay costs totalling almost £10,000 after a flea-infested dog and four cats were found living in “totally unsafe and unsuitable” conditions at her Lisburn Street home last year.

Animal Welfare Officers from Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council responded to a complaint on August 11, 2017 concerning the welfare of cats and dogs being kept in a property in the Lisburn Street area of the village.

“On arrival at the property the officers found a Labrador-type dog and a number of cats living amongst clutter, household rubbish, empty bottles and faeces. These animals were infested with fleas,” a council statement explained.

“The council seized the dog and four cats from the property as the environment was totally unsafe and unsuitable for animals.”

Dr Rikala, a senior lecturer at Ulster University, pleaded guilty on March 20 to failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the dog and cats were met as required by legislation - an offence contrary to Section 9 of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

On April 23, Dr Rikala was given a two-year conditional discharge and a five-year ban from owning, keeping, participating in the keeping of or being party to an arrangement under which she is entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept. She was also ordered to pay full costs of £9,946.38.

According to the Courts Service, Dr Rikala has lodged an appeal against the sentence and an appeal hearing has been listed for May 29.

Commenting on the case, a spokesperson for Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council stressed that the local authority gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic animals.

“The council operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements. Animal welfare complaints are investigated thoroughly and where necessary offenders are prosecuted,” she said.

An Ulster University spokesperson said: “Ulster University has been made aware of the outcome of legal proceedings taken against a member of staff. We are currently reviewing this, however we do not comment on cases concerning individual members of staff.”