The trial of a Prospect woman at the centre of what is believed to be the largest-ever animal-cruelty case was called off Wednesday, after she changed her plea to guilty.
Appearing before the Summary Court, Silvia Felicity Lewis, 55, pleaded guilty to a single count of animal cruelty in relation to more than 50 dogs seized by officials last year.
The charges stem from a joint investigation between the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Department of Agriculture that resulted in 53 dogs being seized from a Prospect home on 6 May 2019.
The charge states that “Lewis, on or between 14 and 16 of May 2019, … allowed the suffering of domestic dogs by failing to provide adequate veterinary care”.
Lewis was charged six months after the seizure, and in December she initially pleaded not guilty to five counts of animal cruelty. However, on Wednesday, she was re-arraigned on count two, at which time she pleaded guilty.
“The prosecution is willing to accept Ms. Lewis’s guilty plea to count two,” said prosecutor Darlene Oko. “The acceptance of the guilty plea is on the condition of full facts, and while count two only speaks to failing to provide adequate veterinary care, the agreed facts will take into account the charges that refer to failing to provide adequate food, water and spacing for the dogs.”
The charge Lewis pleaded guilty to is a blanket charge, which means it covers all the animals. Two of the other charges were also blanket charges, while the remaining two charges specifically referenced a Shih Tzu/poodle mix and a Rottweiler.
Shortly after the animals were seized, 11 of the dogs either died or were euthanised. Several of the dogs that were put down had tested positive for the parvo virus – a deadly and highly contagious canine disease. The DoA was assisted by members of Cayman’s animal welfare community, such as the animal shelters, veterinary clinics and grooming services, in rehousing and caring for the other dogs.
“The Crown will be seeking to apply for a costs order,” said Oko. “Following the seizure, several animal welfare groups incurred significant expenses while treating and caring for the animals. The Crown will also be looking to recuperate some of those costs.”
The plea agreement also includes a disqualification and prohibition order that would restrict Lewis from owning or caring for animals for at least 10 years.
“I can indicate that Ms. Lewis would be willingly to accept such an order,” said John Furniss, Lewis’s attorney. “But there are some mitigating factors that we would like to bring to the court’s attention on the day of sentencing.”
Lewis is expected to be sentenced in April. She was released on bail.