Man who kept animals in horrific conditions gets suspended sentence, €25,000 fine

Some of the animals could not be saved and one of the dogs had to be put to sleep due to the state it was in

A 41-year-old man has been sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for four years and fined €25,000 after he was found guilty of mistreating a large number of animals at a farm in Mosta.

He was also found guilty of attacking and injuring police officers who had gone to take custody of his animals.

Inspectors Nicholas Vella and Colin Scheldon had arraigned David Pace in court, accusing him of keeping the animals in inadequate conditions and causing them unnecessary suffering.

He was also accused of insulting and threatening police officers and violently resisting them, attacking two sergeants and two constables.

Pace was also accused of recidivism.

The animals included 16 emaciated horses, 15 dogs on short leads, with sores caused by tight-fitting collars and “in a very bad condition,” turkeys, rabbits, chickens and pigs, were all being illegally kept at the farm, held in pitiful conditions and were not being given adequate food or care. Some of the animals could not be saved and one of the dogs had to be put to sleep due to the state it was in.

Animal welfare authorities, conducted two inspections at the farm over the span of five months and had noted a deterioration in the overall conditions of the animals.

Several of the dogs found were later adopted by the public and a number of the horses recovered were drafted into the police cavalry section and are today in very good health.

A senior veterinary officer from the Veterinary Regulations Directorate, confirmed the police’s suspicions. He told the court that he was executing an eviction order together with the police when he found the animals being kept in miserable conditions.

Pace was contacted and asked to come to the farm and take his belongings, but he had started to insult and threaten the police. As the animals were being loaded onto transport vehicles, the accused had arrived and started hitting the windscreen and spitting.

Police from the Mounted Section had tried to restrain Pace, who then grabbed a policeman by the neck and bit him.

In his statement to the police, Pace explained how he had been contacted by the Lands Department and told that he would have to leave the farm in the Biżbiżija area.

He mentioned how an inspection by the animal welfare department had drawn his attention to his emaciated horses and unchipped dogs and told him to feed them with dry food.

Pace said he was out of pocket from feeding the animals.

On the day of the incident, Pace said had received a phonecall from the police to go to the farm as his father was creating a disturbance there.

He said that he had gone to the farm and found the police slamming his father against a wall and had panicked.

He alleged that he had been manhandled by the police in front of his son and mother.

Pace denied attacking the police and claimed to have suffered various injuries.

However, that version was not corroborated by any of the animal welfare officers and Lands officials who witnessed the scene, noted the Court.  They said that the accused’s father had attempted self-harm by banging his head against a wall and flinging himself on the ground.

The court noted that Animal welfare and Lands Department officials who had been at the site had all testified that the accused’s father had not been manhandled and said that the accused’s version of events was hard to believe.

The court decried the pitiful conditions in which the animals were being kept.

The accused himself had testified that he lacked the financial resources to maintain all the animals, observed the Court, adding that he had failed to entrust his animals to the competent authorities as he was obliged to do in that case.

The prosecution had also proved the aggression by the accused upon four policemen.

Having seen the evidence, the Court, presided over by magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, noting that the accused was not a first-time offender, that the illegality had had spanned a long time period, and the considerable number of animals involved, condemned the man to a 2-year jail term suspended for four years and a €25,000 fine.

He was also banned from holding a dog licence for 15 years. The court also ordered that all his animals be taken into custody by the Animal Welfare Department.

The Court ordered notification of the judgment to the Agriculture Minister and the Justice Minister in view of the fact that the Court had no power to revoke any permits issued under the Animal Welfare Act.

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