Woman who retracted plea of guilt for neglecting 3 dogs convicted after trial

·Senior Reporter
Singapore State Courts (AFP Photo/Mohd Fyrol)
Singapore State Courts (AFP Photo/Mohd Fyrol)

A woman who previously retracted her plea of guilt for neglecting three dogs under her care was convicted on Wednesday (24 January) following a trial.

Chng Leng Khim, 44, was found guilty on three counts of failing to bring her dogs – a bull mastiff, a poodle and a chow chow – to a veterinarian, causing them unnecessary suffering, one count of failing to comply with a lawful demand by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and three counts of owning the dogs without licenses.

Chng’s three dogs were found sickly, tick-infested, and emaciated, after they were left behind by Chng, who had moved out of a rented property.

Passing the verdict, District Judge Kessler Soh told the court that it was clear from photo evidences that the dogs were in a poor condition and should have been taken to a vet.

He noted that Chng had a dispute with the landlord of her rented property and that her supply of water and electricity had been disrupted. But he added, “The dogs were entirely dependent on you. You had no reasonable reason not to bring them to the vet.”

Chng was originally sentenced to 10 days’ jail and a fine of $3,100 in February 2016 after she admitted to two counts of animal cruelty, two of owning unlicensed dogs and one of failing to follow an AVA order. One count of animal cruelty and one of owning an unlicensed dog was taken into consideration for her sentencing then.

However, Chng later appealed to the High Court to have her plea retracted, alleging that she had only pleaded guilty out of “fear and extreme pressure”.

The court allowed her to retract her plea in October 2016 and sent her case back to the State Courts for a trial. The prosecution proceeded with all seven charges against Chng instead of the five charges that she pleaded guilty to previously.

Chng had rented a portion of the landed property at 45 Paya Lebar Crescent in January 2013 but eventually moved out of the house on 11 June the same year after failing to pay the rent for some three months.

At the time, Chng told Khoo Kim Cheng, the landlady of the property, that she would hand over the keys and pick up the dogs the next day. However, on 13 June, Khoo visited Chng’s rented portion and found the chow chow and bull mastiff roaming the dirty premises.

Khoo notified the AVA, which sent its officers down to the premises. Officers who visited the place found the two dogs thin and infested with ticks. The chow chow had a lot of missing fur and matted fur on parts of its body.

Meanwhile, the poodle was found in the vicinity of Paya Lebar Crescent by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on 11 June. By that time, the poodle was emaciated and its body covered in all sizes of ticks, according to court documents. Medical checks conducted on the poodle indicated that it had been sick for months.

Chng was later served a letter requiring her attendance at AVA’s premises on 26 July 2013 to provide a statement regarding the dogs, but Chng did not show up.

After some two years and several failed attempts to locate Chng, AVA obtained a warrant of arrest for her. Chng was arrested at Geylang Road on 30 June 2015.

During the trial, Chng testified that she did not sent the dogs to a vet because she felt they were healthy. She claimed that she had always cared for the dogs. She also added that she tried to de-tick the dogs but was hampered in doing so as she did not have water and electricity.

According to past media reports, the chow chow and poodle were rehomed to animal welfare group Voices for Animals while the bull mastiff was euthanised in January 2014 due to health conditions, including heart disease.

The case has been adjourned to 21 February for the prosecution to submit its sentencing position and Chng’s mitigation.

For causing unnecessary pain or suffering to her dogs, Chng faces a maximum jail term of 12 months and a fine of up to $10,000 on each count.

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