Pet owner set fire to flat with seven dogs inside during animal welfare check

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A pet owner burned down his house with seven dogs inside during an animal welfare check by the SSPCak.

John Malcolm started the fire after inspectors from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals visited his apartment in Edinburgh.

Malcolm, 52, disappeared inside after telling inspectors, “I’m going to do something now.”

Soon smoke billowed from the property, but firefighters were able to save Malcolm and the dogs.

The city sheriff’s court heard that the incident happened shortly after Malcolm’s partner died of Covid-19 while drinking heavily.

Malcolm pleaded guilty in court Tuesday to one charge of arson in the Pilton area on September 18.



SSPCA inspectors were checking the welfare of the dogs.

He admitted to setting household garbage on fire, causing a fire that put his safety and life in danger, that of firefighters, other residents of his building and his dogs.

Tax MP Jennifer McLaren told the court how SSPCA inspectors came to her home at around 3 p.m. to perform welfare checks on the animals in Malcolm’s care.

She said inspectors requested access to the house but Malcolm withdrew and locked himself with the dogs inside.

Inspectors phoned Scottish Police because they were “concerned” about Malcolm.

Ms McLaren said smoke began to “rise” from the house shortly after and inspectors called 999 for the fire department.

She said firefighters arrived “almost immediately” and launched a rescue operation as they battled a “large amount of smoke”.

The fire had been started in the living room at the back, she added, and firefighters put it out. Malcolm was found in the kitchen and later taken to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary as a “precaution”.

Malcolm’s defense officer Ms Lech said her client consumed alcohol to “mask the pain” after her partner died from coronavirus.

She said Malcolm, who now lives in the Leith neighborhood, was in a “bad place” and has no recollection of the incident.

The lawyer admitted that Malcolm’s actions were “appalling” but added that he was suffering from poor health.

Sheriff Nigel Ross called the case “serious” and postponed the sentence until next month for reports.


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