SPCA inspector, Dawn du Plooy, reassures a terrified dog that was among those rescued. Photo: Supplied

Durban - A mother of three with previous convictions, who pleaded guilty to 26 counts of animal cruelty, received a R1 000 fine on Tuesday.

“Forget about animals. Don’t love them. When you see stray animals, report this to the correct officials who can assist instead,” Durban Regional Court magistrate Goodwin Radebe told Dianne Ritchie Ingram.

She had taken in 26 stray, sick and abused dogs, but then neglected them.

In response to the fine or one year in prison, the Durban and Coast SPCA said it was “bitterly disappointed with the absurd leniency of this sentence for 26 counts of cruelty”.

Spokeswoman, Caroline Smith, said a much harsher sentence was warranted.

“What kind of deterrent does this serve as? Especially in the light of the fact that this perpetrator has already been found guilty of previous offences in terms of the Animals Protection Act,” she said.

Their inspectorate, she said, had worked on this case for nearly two years and felt the outcome was “pathetic”.

“It seems the courts are more concerned with the perpetrator’s well-being than that of the animals. Our SPCA dealt first-hand with the 26 animals seized from her home, which she had so badly neglected.

“Some of them were in such shocking condition, they were humanely euthanised upon admission.

“The others were rendered veterinary treatment, cared for over many months and eventually re-homed.”

Smith said that because Ingram was a repeat offender, it would be tragic if more animals were to suffer at her hands.

Ingram, 40, declined to comment after her sentence, but said she was upset with the SPCA for not investigating the dogs’ owners. “They didn’t belong to me. I just fed them,” she said.

According to Ingram’s written plea, made in July, she had taken in the dogs, including dachshunds, fox terriers and Labradors, in an effort to rescue and rehabilitate them.

She admitted she had taken on more animals than she could accommodate, and also admitted to not being able to afford them.

She further admitted she was responsible for their welfare, and negligently failed to care for them.

“I was well aware that the animals were in poor condition. I’m truly remorseful,” read her plea.

The Durban and Coast SPCA had laid charges against Ingram after finding the animals on a property she had been renting in Bellair in 2013.

In March, Ingram pleaded guilty in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court to other animal cruelty charges.

These related to taking in about 28 stray, sick and abused animals, which Kloof and Highway SPCA inspectors had confiscated from her home in Escombe, Queensburgh, on November 5 last year.

Ingram was then fined R21 000, half of which was suspended for three years. She was also ordered to pay the Kloof and Highway SPCA about R10 000 for costs incurred, and was also deemed unfit to possess or be in charge of animals for 10 years.

Lisa Gadd, of the Kloof and Highway SPCA, confirmed that Ingram had not paid this money. This was also mentioned in court by the State.

The defence said Ingram earned a salary of R2 000 and had three minor children to support. The court heard Ingram had had a well-paying, full-time job, but was fired because of this matter.

In the light of this, the magistrate said he would hand down a deterrent sentence.

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