A MAN who repeatedly punched his young puppy, twisted its ears and threatened to throw it in the Murray River, has been jailed and banned from owning an animal for five years.
Several children were left traumatised by what the magistrate described as an “outrageous” case of animal cruelty, which happened mid-afternoon at popular Jaycee Park.
Beau Whitford was yesterday sentenced to eight months’ behind bars after pleading guilty to a string of charges in the Mildura Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard Whitford was seen punching his six-month-old puppy repeatedly between the eyes at the Mildura riverfront park before he became abusive to two women who asked him to stop.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Kristen Simm said the drunken Whitford responded by saying: “I’ll treat my dog how I want,” before he held the dog in the air by the throat and threatened to kill it and throw it in the nearby river.
Forty minutes later, other witnesses saw Whitford throw the puppy on the ground, lean on it and hold it down by the face and neck.
Sen-Constable Simm said witnesses heard the puppy yelping as Whitford seemingly tried to suffocate it.
The incident happened about 4pm on Friday, September 22 – the last day of the school term.
Police arrested Whitford, who was on bail at the time with a requirement not to consume alcohol, after finding a wine bladder in his backpack.
A Mildura Council ranger took the dog, which required extensive treatment for a fractured back leg, a broken front leg and possible internal injuries.
The volunteer-run Sunraysia Animal Rehousing Group, which relies on donations from the community, had to foot the $1765.43 bill for the puppy’s surgery.
Sen-Constable Simm said the injuries were likely to affect the dog for a long time.
She said Whitford was “irrational and erratic” when arrested.
Whitford also pleaded guilty to separate charges including resisting emergency workers on duty, in relation to previous incidents in August when he resisted police efforts to detain him while he was drunk in public.
The court heard he ended up in South Australia while on bail and was also arrested drunk in public there, just 2 ½ weeks before he beat his dog.
Sen-Constable Simm said the incident could leave the children who witnessed it with long-term trauma and called for the magistrate to make an order under animal cruelty legislation, banning him from owning or having responsibility for an animal for up to 10 years.
Defence counsel Peter Delorenzo said Whitford’s offending was linked to alcohol abuse and asked Magistrate Gregory McNamara to consider placing him on a corrections order so he could receive treatment.
Mr Delorenzo said Whitford had battled recent periods of homelessness in Mildura and noted that while the offences were serious, the court did not always impose jail terms for offences that carried higher maximum penalties.
But Whitford, who was already on a good behaviour bond with a condition he undergo alcohol treatment, ran out of chances.
“My view is that prison is a last resort and in the Magistrates’ Court, especially we can usually avoid sentencing people to prison but this offending is so serious that only a prison sentence is appropriate,” Mr McNamara said.
Whitford was sentenced to six months’ jail for the animal cruelty charge and a further two months for using obscene language in public and resisting police.
He was also fined $200 and ordered to pay full compensation for the puppy’s medical treatment.
Mr McNamara also disqualified Whitford from owning an animal for five years.
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