SINGAPORE — A 42-year-old man who repeatedly tortured his pet toy poodle and filmed the abuse was sentenced to eight months' jail on Thursday (7 October).
Clement Chia Tian Xiang was also banned from owning pets for a year – the maximum disqualification an offender can get under the law.
At times, Chia would get his cousin, Chia Yong-Quan, 38, to film the cruel acts, which involved binding the wet poodle's front legs and forcing it to stand on its hind legs before an operating fan.
Chia earlier pleaded guilty to four charges under the Animals and Birds Act for torturing the poodle named Leslie. The offences were committed between October 2016 and November 2017 in his Farrer Park Road flat.
Two charges of owning the poodle in breach of licensing requirements and failing to bring it to a vet to obtain the necessary medical attention were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
In his mitigation to the court on Thursday, Chia's lawyer, Foo Ho Chew, said that Chia's judgment was affected by the death of his father, which happened a while before the offences. Chia had told him before the court mention that he had been "nursing a mental condition" for a decade, Foo added.
Chia handed the lawyer a doctor's memo from Tan Tock Seng hospital, dated 19 April 2012, for a "chronic condition" of schizophrenia. He had used the same memo for his divorce case at the Family Justice Courts a while back.
However, when District Judge Lorraine Ho asked Chia if he was fine as he did not go for follow-up appointments, Chia replied "ya".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Norine Tan said, "We must be careful not to let some unfortunate event in one's life become an excuse for offending, or become a way to get a low sentence especially in a case like this where no link has been shown or proven at all.
"It is not a case where he was frustrated or depressed, it is a case where he appeared to have derived joy from acts that were to him casual activities," added the DPP.
According to the prosecution, Leslie's new owner, who adopted it in 2017, said that Leslie appeared to be in "normal physical and emotional condition". The pooch's new owner is Chia's ex-girlfriend.
DJ Ho agreed with the prosecution that Chia's acts were not only "inhumane and vicious" but that Chia had "derived sadistic pleasure" from tormenting Leslie.
From the videos, he had a "look of happiness and satisfaction" when he saw Leslie in anguish, noted the judge. Leslie had looked distressed and had been seen repeatedly hitting its head against a bed in one video.
"The fact that the videos surfaced a few years after is clear indication that animal abuse is difficult to detect as the animal has no voice of its own to raise," added DJ Ho.
"Had there been an actual victim impact statement by way of representation (from) the new owner I would even be minded to impose a higher sentence."
After the hearing, Chia asked to defer his sentence to Monday to bring his mother to the hospital over the weekend.
Video clips of torture played in court
The offences came to light in July last year when six video clips of Chia torturing the poodle went viral. Two of these were filmed by Yong-Quan. Several members of the public alerted the Animal and Veterinary Service of the National Parks Board of the abuse.
In a 76-second long clip where the poodle was standing before the fan, Chia can be heard threatening the poodle by saying “One more time down..I slap you” before commenting in Mandarin that the poodle’s eyes were wet as it was tearing.
The poodle grew so weak that it eventually fell and was unable to stay upright. Chia then scolded and threatened Leslie, pulled its ear and neck to force it to stay upright before the fan again, and said that he would punch the poodle.
In another clip, self-recorded by Chia, he posed for the camera before pulling the poodle up by its ears, and repeatedly punching its face. He then grabbed the poodle by its hind legs and swung it, while smirking at the camera.
Leslie was around four years old at the time of the offences and was bought by Chia some time in 2016 for $2,000.
Yong-Quan was earlier fined $4,500 for failing to stop his cousin from committing the abuse. He was also disqualified from owning pets for a year.
Each of Chia's charges carries a sentence of up to 18 months' jail and/or a fine of up to $15,000 for first-time offenders.
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