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Dog trainer fails in appeal against animal business ban after deaths of dogs she left in car boot

Dog trainer fails in appeal against animal business ban after deaths of dogs she left in car boot

French bulldogs Chocoby and Hunniby died after being left in a car boot for one-and-a-half hours. (Photo: National Parks Board)

SINGAPORE: A dog trainer who was disqualified from running any animal-related business for six months because two French bulldogs died in her care has failed in her appeal against the disqualification order.

Sabrina Sim Xin Huey, 30, was fined S$8,000 in June for leaving the dogs in her car boot for one-and-a-half hours as she was distracted by a social media post. 

The dogs, Chocoby and Hunniby, later died from heat stress. Their owners had imported them from Australia to Singapore and hired Sim to train them. 

Sim parked her vehicle at an unsheltered spot in an open-air car park in August 2020 and left the dogs in the boot after turning off the engine and air-conditioning as she was distracted by a social media post. 

As part of the court's sentence, Sim was also banned from running any animal-related business for six months.

However, Sim appealed against the disqualification order, and it was stayed while the appeal was heard.

In a judgment released on Tuesday (Sep 27), Justice Vincent Hoong dismissed Sim's appeal.

Sim had contended that a court ought to impose such disqualification orders only "in the most serious cases of animal abuse", when an offender intentionally inflicts harm on an animal.

Justice Hoong rejected this argument. He pointed to the wording of the Animals and Birds Act to say it did not support Sim's argument.

"The court is empowered to impose a disqualification order if a person is convicted of an offence under (various sections) of the Animals and Birds Act, which offences are not limited to intentional acts," said the judge.

He pointed to an example of how a person failing to make a reasonable effort to recover a missing animal constitutes an offence.

The judge also rejected the argument that the disqualification order against Sim was unwarranted because the offence was rooted in her negligence.

"The disqualification order also seeks to punish the appellant for her negligence, protect other animals and their owners by disqualifying her from being a person in charge of any animal in the course of her employment with any animal-related business for a period of time and sound a stern warning to other persons that such negligent conduct will attract a significant period of disqualification," said the judge.

He rejected the argument that the duration of the order was "manifestly excessive", and said the length of the order "gave adequate weight to the fact that the appellant's negligence led to the death of two dogs".

Sim had asked for the disqualification order to be backdated "to treat the disqualification period as 'spent'", but the judge again rejected this.

"This would render the disqualification order wholly nugatory and undermine the objectives of a disqualification order ... particularly as the appellant continued taking on customers and providing dog training services after the material incident," said Justice Hoong.

Source: CNA/ll(zl)
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