Protesters feel strongly about the daschund that starved to death. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

“How could you just leave your dog locked in your car for six months?” demanded the protester. “What kind of person does that? I want you to explain how you could do that.”

Margarita Rusbridge didn’t answer, and rushed through the corridors of the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court while her lawyer shielded her.

“Leave her alone,” he barked. “Shall I call the police on you?”

Rusbridge stands accused of animal abuse.

Last year, she parked her car at OR Tambo International Airport and boarded a flight to Norway. Her daschund was locked in the boot. She didn’t return for another six months. The daschund starved to death.

Rusbridge claimed she was mentally ill at the time of the offence. She was released on a warning.

On Monday afternoon, activists from an animal rights lobby group, People for the Liberation of Animals (PLA), protested outside court.

“If somebody left their child locked in a boot, how many more people would be outraged?” asked PLA spokeswoman Miranda Jordan.

“If a person bleeds, an animal bleeds in the same way.

“If a person starves, an animal starves in the same way. The same feeling is there.”

Defence lawyer Bongani Dlodlo argued that Rusbridge was institutionalised – “not by choice” – in Norway.

“She couldn’t leave for six months,” he said.

“She was evaluated by a psychiatrist in Norway and again by one in the UK – both submissions confirmed that she is a paranoid schizophrenic.”

The State, however, has rejected both submissions, and the case was postponed until a date could be established for Rusbridge to be evaluated at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital.

The PLA is demanding tough action, concerned about the leniency with which animal abuse is treated by the justice system.

Forget fines. They want Rusbridge to serve time.

“She needs to be an example so that people won’t do this anymore,” explained Elaine Friedland.

“The fact that she was let out on a warning and not even made to pay bail shows the leniency towards animal cruelty,” she said. – The Star