She’s been all over the news, has received threatening letters, lost her job, had to drop out of a university program, had to sell her house and saw her relationship with the father of her child end.
Carlene Lovell has already suffered enough as a result of her animal cruelty case and doesn’t deserve to be in jail, a judge has ruled.
Instead, Judge Lynn Spracklin gave Lovell a suspended sentence of a year’s probation and ordered her to pay $200 in restitution.
“I’m not minimizing the impact on an individual of losing an animal or … the (seriousness of) failing to fulfil her duties,” Spracklin said in sentencing Lovell Tuesday in provincial court in St. John’s.
“But (Lovell) has already suffered significant consequences. … This would be adequate as a general deterrent.”
One of the conditions of the probation order is that Lovell cannot care for another person’s animal for a year.
She was found guilty in January of failing to care for two cats — Tabatha and Snuffy.
The 29-year-old Paradise woman was a contract employee with the now-defunct Creature Care and was hired to care for the cats while their owner, Iain McGaw, was out of town from April 27 to July 4, 2010.
But the cats disappeared.
Police say Lovell neglected the animals and they died, although the bodies have never been found. Throughout the investigation, Lovell gave three statements to police — each a different version of what happened.
She initially denied allegations of any wrongdoing. Shortly afterwards, Lovell said the cats had escaped during one of her visits when she opened the front door. A month later, when questioned again by the police, she said the cats died after she went almost two weeks without visiting. She said she disposed of the bodies in a remote area off Thorburn Road and even took officers to the site, but they found nothing.
But during the trial, Lovell testified that she had fabricated that story.
Crown prosecutor Glynne Faulkner recommended a jail term of between three and six months, with a period of probation.
She pointed out that McGaw endured a great loss — his beloved pets. She said he trusted Lovell to care for them while he was away, but she breached that trust.
“The public needs to know there are consequences for hurting vulnerable animals,” Faulkner said.
But Lovell’s lawyer, Bob Buckingham, said an absolute or conditional discharge would be more appropriate.
He said Lovell has been through enough stress with all the publicity the case attracted.
She was once a respected member of her veterinarians’ association, with an education and background in the field, he said.
“But all that’s gone.”
He also pointed out that she had been enrolled in the nursing program at Memorial University but was asked to leave as a result of her conviction.
“What greater punishment and deterrent can you give this woman?” Buckingham said.
“She’s had some major setbacks in her life.”
As Buckingham spoke, Lovell wiped tears from her eyes with her scarf.
Buckingham said the entire thing has been overblown.
“We’re not dealing with children here … or human beings,” he said.
He said the media attention has resulted in Lovell being the target of harsh criticism on media websites.
“Miss Lovell had to deal with this publicity campaign and was subject to more vilification than most people who’ve been before this court, including those charged with murder” Buckingham said, adding it wasn’t a case involving violence towards the animals.
“She made a mistake and it’s been blown out of proportion.”
The judge agreed that Lovell has already received some punishment for her crime.
“Hopefully, Miss Lovell, you can get on with your life,” Spracklin said at the end of proceedings.
McGaw was in court throughout the trial, but wasn’t there Tuesday for Lovell’s sentencing.
Meanwhile, the question of what happened to the cats has yet to be answered definitively.
In a strange twist, outside court Buckingham handed reporters copies of a letter that he said was recently mailed anonymously to Lovell.
The writer of the letter claims to have Tabatha and Snuffy. The person said they were out cleaning their car on July 3, 2010, and the cats wandered into their Kenmount Road area home.
The letter-writer plans to move out of the province with the cats and hopes the letter will help Lovell in sentencing.
“It’s a bizarre letter,” Buckingham acknowledged.
“It causes us great concern because the cats may be alive.”
Buckingham said he brought the letter to the attention of the Crown before sentencing, but said Faulkner refused to ask police to investigate since the letter could’ve been written by a supporter of Lovell’s.
“If it’s a hoax, it’s a disgusting hoax for Mr. McGaw and Miss Lovell,” he said.