SINGAPORE - When businessman Lim Soo Seng's eight-year-old mongrel Chilli died, it was severely emaciated and seemed starved and neglected.
Lim, 76, was yesterday given the maximum fine of $10,000 for animal cruelty, the first time the maximum fine has been imposed by the court for this offence.
The female cross-breed died on May 17 last year, a day after it stopped eating, and Lim had taken the body to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for disposal.
The SPCA vet who examined its body found it was severely emaciated, and a post-mortem showed it might have been starved for months. The SPCA then informed the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).
Lim yesterday pleaded guilty to unreasonably failing to take the dog for timely treatment, causing it unnecessary suffering.
The court heard that he had adopted the dog seven years ago from the SPCA, when it was about a year old.
His domestic helper looked after it as both he and his wife were busy.
The maid said she fed the dog dry food twice a day. A month before its death, she noticed that it was getting rather thin, and told her employer.
Lim's lawyer Anthony Lee said that his client had three other toy dogs and they were well-loved by the family.
Despite being given more than enough food, Chilli had always appeared very lean, he said.
Lim did not take the dog to a veterinarian as he found no change in its appetite.
This was a mistake, Mr Lee said, and Lim accepted that he failed to exercise reasonable care and supervision, and was extremely remorseful.
SPCA executive director Corinne Fong said that the society was pleased with the court's decision, and that Lim should not have pushed the responsibility of taking care of the dog to his helper.
"When you take an animal home, it is your responsibility as the primary caregiver to take care of the animal, not thrust it upon your maid," she said, adding that Lim had reneged on his contract with the SPCA, which included providing proper shelter and food.
"I would hope that with this judgment, owners of animals will be more mindful that their pets require food, shelter and timely veterinary care when required."
Lim could have been jailed for up to one year, in addition to the fine, for the offence.
Anyone who witnesses animal cruelty can contact AVA on 1800-476-1600.
This article was published on April 25 in The Straits Times.
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