A Scottish veterinary nurse at a private clinic who deliberately poisoned her pet dog in a bizarre case of animal cruelty has been spared jail.
Georgina Bretman, 28, injected her black-and-white cocker spaniel, Florence, with a drug that made the animal collapse and suffer from convulsions and seizures.
The damage was so severe that the two-year-old dog could have ended up in a coma or even dead.
Bretman was convicted - after a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court - of causing the animal unnecessary suffering on June 23, 2013 by injecting her with insulin.
Although no explanation was offered as to why the vet nurse had harmed her pet, the court was told that she was an “attention-seeker”.
On one occasion her employer gave Bretman an evening off - then correctly predicted that, within a few hours, the dog would suddenly become ill and be brought back to the surgery requiring emergency treatment.
In what is understood to the first prosecution and conviction of its kind of an owner harming their dog in such a way.
Sheriff Joan Kerr found Bretman, of Rhu, Helensburgh, guilty of a charge under the Animal Health and Welfare Act, of injecting Flo with insulin resulting in her requiring immediate treatment to “avoid coma or death”.
Florence the dog has been under the care of the SSPCA since the allegations against Bretman came to light and has since returned to good health.
Today Bretman was handed a community payback order as a “direct alternative” to jail, with the condition she must carry out 140 hours of unpaid work.
Sheriff Kerr said: “Flo was vulnerable and completely dependant on you for her care.
“Your motivation to cause her this suffering may never be known, you have chosen not to shed any light on that when you spoke to a social worker.
“You have expressed no remorse for causing Flo such suffering.”
The sheriff ordered that Flo is not returned to her care but is sold or re-housed as the SSPCA see fit, and that she is disqualified from owning or possessing a dog for two years.
It was noted Bretman harmed her own pet in her leisure time, not any animals she worked with and is not banned from working with animals.
Vets at the out-of-hours practise Pet A&E where Bretman worked became suspicious after Florence was brought in for emergency treatment on several separate occasions - always suffering from the same mysterious symptoms.
She started working as a veterinary nurse in 2011 for the clinic in the Kinning Park area of Glasgow which provided care for animals outside normal working hours.
Her former employer Lesley Herd grew suspicious after the dog needed emergency treatment on several occasions after collapsing, twitching and vomiting. Every time, tests showed a low glucose level.
During Bretman’s trial, Mrs Herd said: “The dog was fine between episodes so I really didn’t know what was going on with the dog at all, we couldn’t understand why she was having these episodes.”
Mrs Herd said that, on one occasion, she took blood samples from Florence to send to the Glasgow University Vet School for testing. Although Bretman volunteered to deliver the samples, they never arrived.
Mrs Herd said: “Initially she didn’t want any bloods taken to the vet school, then agreed it was really the only way forward if we were going to find out what was going on.
“She volunteered to take the blood to the vet school. Later I found out the blood had never arrived at the vet school.”
She told the court: “Because of the pattern of collapse and low blood glucose on each occasion and the fact that the dog was normal between episodes, I was suspicious insulin had been administered to the dog.”
The court heard that on an evening Bretman was given off work in June 2013, Flo collapsed and they had to come in for treatment.
She described Bretman as “quite attention seeking” and added: “I had said to my partner she will find an excuse to come in to the clinic because she’s not happy about having the night off and I said ‘I bet Flo collapses tonight’, and it did happen.”
Bretman was later suspended and sacked from her job.
Mrs Herd contacted the SSPCA because of her concerns.
In evidence Bretman denied the charge and said she wasn’t responsible and only ever wanted to find out what was wrong with Flo.
It was put to her during her evidence: “It might be suggested you took a dislike to the dog, that’s why you harmed her.”
Bretman said: “Not at all, I put a lot of energy in. She was my companion.”
Defence counsel Craig Findlater handed 18 pages of references to the sheriff for consideration before his client was sentenced.
He told the court she is now unemployed and has moved back to her family home.
Mr Finldater said: “She has grown up with animals around her. She is educated to degree level and gained employment within her chosen profession, that is caring for animals.”