A Co Antrim woman seen hitting and throttling a cat in a video clip has been given 80 hours community service. April Thomas, 28, was also banned from keeping any further felines for 10 years. The mother-of-two, from Thornhill Parade in Ballyclare, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a cat.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that a city council animal welfare officer received a complaint in May 2021 about an incident at the defendant’s home. A video clip sent with the complaint showed Thomas grab a white cat from a crate and hold it up by the neck. In the footage she appeared to apply pressure in a strangling motion while shouting: “See this week neck, shut up.” A council solicitor said “She then strikes the cat on the head and face and calls the cat names.” The animal, which does not belong to Thomas, could be seen grasping and moving its jaws in pain before being shut back into the crate. District Judge George Conner was told the incident had been reported after Thomas sent the video to a relative. A vet who examined the clip confirmed the cat would have suffered from being choked and struck. Thomas initially denied the allegations until she was shown footage. At that stage she claimed the cat had bitten her. Animal welfare officers subsequently located the pet and returned to its owner, who received an improvement notice not to leave it with Thomas again. During interviews she claimed to have given the cat “a smack because it wouldn’t shut up and attacked me”. A photograph of an alleged bite mark on her hand was also produced. Thomas acknowledged her behaviour had been inappropriate but stated that she suffers from depression. Defence barrister Paul Burns acknowledged the seriousness of an incident he argued had lasted “a couple of seconds”. Stressing his client’s previous clear record, he told the court her IQ has been assessed in the bottom one percent of the general population. “She is clearly a lady with very significant anxiety and various other difficulties,” Mr Burns added. Imposing community service, Mr Conner further granted the disqualification order sought by the Council. He warned Thomas: “It prohibits you from keeping cats, from looking after cats or being involved in anything to do with cats for the next 10 years. “Any breach of that would be a criminal offence.” She was also ordered to pay £172 in legal costs.
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