SINGAPORE: A foreign domestic worker was jailed for four weeks on Wednesday (Jul 8) for throwing a dog over a balcony and causing injuries that made it necessary for the animal to be put down.
Indonesian Giyanti Wulandari, 28, pleaded guilty to one charge of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the 11-year-old Toy Poodle named Dou Dou.
The court heard that Giyanti worked for the dog's owners since December 2019, and was tasked with housework and caring for two children, two birds and two dogs.
At about 9am on May 13, Giyanti went to the third-floor bedroom of her employer's terrace house to feed a bird and clean its cage.
The dog was in the room and Giyanti felt "annoyed" because the birds were noisy and Dou Dou was barking continuously at her, court documents said.
As Dou Dou continued to bark, Giyanti opened the glass door leading to the balcony, picked the dog up and threw it down from the third floor.
The dog landed on a grass patch at the front porch of the house. Giyanti ran downstairs to check on the dog, before telling her employer that Dou Dou was bleeding from the mouth at the ground floor.
Giyanti's employer immediately took the dog to a clinic where it was found with multiple injuries. It had to be put down a day later due to its critical condition, in order to reduce its pain and suffering.
Giyanti's employer later reported the case to the National Parks Board (NParks), suspecting that the accused had thrown his dog out from the third floor.
An NParks vet performed a post mortem examination on Dou Dou and found significant blunt-force injuries to its vertebral column and visceral organs, likely resulting from an external traumatic incident.
During investigations, Giyanti said she was "under a lot of stress" at the time as her boyfriend had just broken up with her. The man had told her that his parents were against the relationship and he had no choice but to marry another woman in 2021, her lawyer said.
The father of Giyanti's employer, who usually helped with caring for the children and pets, had returned to Hong Kong, and she had to manage more work alone.
MAID WAS FATIGUED, UPSET FROM BREAK-UP: DEFENCE
Earlier this year, Giyanti began suffering back pains and told her employer about this. Defence lawyer Louis Lim said that the employer did not take Giyanti to a doctor, citing the COVID-19 "circuit breaker".
Instead, the employer's wife used medicine, medicated rubs and plasters on Giyanti. The maid did not have sufficient sleep, claimed Mr Lim, and had suffered from physical and mental fatigue.
"Thus on that very unfortunate day when Dou Dou was barking non-stop for whatever reason, the accused snapped and committed the said offence," said Mr Lim.
He added that Giyanti will regret this act "for the rest of her life", and cannot explain why she did what she did but that she "is just very sorry".
NParks prosecuting officer Packer Mohammad asked for five weeks' jail, citing similar cases.
Mr Lim, who took on the case pro-bono, asked for a minimal fine, saying that Giyanti was "not used to working in this environment".
He said that "there was just too much work compared to her previous employment", and that she had told her employer that she was feeling unwell and was not able to sleep.
He said that the employer suggested for her to self-medicate and bought melatonin for her, which has side effects.
"Overall, much as she is remorseful and sorry for what she had done to the dog and the pain caused to the employer, I wish to highlight that foreign domestic workers are vulnerable people and in her situation, this was not fully accounted for," said Mr Lim.
He said Giyanti has written a letter of apology to her employer, and that this was a one-off incident and not prolonged torture.
"Her mind flipped - and she threw the dog," said Mr Lim.
The prosecutor said imposing a fine "cannot be possible", as this was "something that a reasonable person even under stress should not have done".
NO EVIDENCE OF EMPLOYER TREATING HER UNFAIRLY: JUDGE
District Judge Adam Nakhoda stressed that it is not correct to say or suggest that Giyanti's employers were unfair to her or had not treated her well as there is no evidence to show this.
"I accept that perhaps the work she had to do was more than she expected, but that is the reality," he said. "If this was something she was not able to manage, then perhaps she should have looked at different ways to resolve this, including perhaps finding different employers."
He said that past cases where animals were thrown from height and injured in ways that resulted in death drew custodial or short jail terms, and that the prosecution "has been quite fair" in seeking a jail term for Giyanti.
For committing an act that caused unnecessary pain and suffering to the dog and causing it to be put down, Giyanti could have been jailed for up to 18 months, fined up to S$15,000, or both.