Tuesday 22 August 2017

Man convicted of the 'vilest example of premeditated animal abuse' found keeping dogs

Jeremiah Kirkwood outside court
Jeremiah Kirkwood outside court

A man who was at the centre of one of Ireland's most notorious animal cruelty cases is facing a new probe after dogs were discovered at his home.

Jeremiah Kirkwood, who admitted what was described at the time as one of the "vilest examples of premeditated animal abuse", is the subject of the new welfare investigation.

In 2014 Kirkwood and his sons Chris and Wayne admitted allowing a cat to be torn to shreds by dogs trained to fight.

They also pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to four puppies and having equipment connected to animal fighting. A fourth man, Jamie Morrow, admitted similar charges.

At the time the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) branded their actions "wickedness at its worst".

There was a public outcry when the four avoided jail, being handed six-month suspended sentences.

They were also disqualified from keeping, owning or controlling animals for 10 years.

The PSNI at the time expressed its "disappointment" at the outcome of the case.

Belfast City Council has launched a new animal welfare investigation into Kirkwood snr.

Police conducted searches of his Island Street home on Wednesday accompanied by council officials.

Kirkwood snr was cautioned over "animal welfare issues".

Two dogs were found in the house.

That would be a breach of the court-ordered ban.

It is not known if any animals were removed from the house.

A quantity of class C prescription drugs was also seized. A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "An animal welfare officer attended this scene at the request of the PSNI. An animal welfare investigation is ongoing into this matter."

The 2014 case was brought after months of investigation into the family by police.

Officers uncovered the cruelty after they seized a mobile phone belonging to Morrow for an unconnected reason.

Detectives found three video clips from 2011 that showed four dogs attacking and killing a cat.

A subsequent examination linked the dogs in the video to those seized from the four.

The USPCA has encouraged the public to be vigilant and report any animal welfare concerns they might have.

A spokesman said: "The suffering of animals abused for the sadistic pleasure of individuals addicted to the infliction of pain and injury is abhorrent to the USPCA.

"The veterinary staff members at our animal hospital are regularly left to pick up the pieces of lives destroyed by sickening abuse.

"This charity welcomes the scale of sentences at the disposal of the courts and the ongoing efforts of the agencies responsible for the enforcement of our animal welfare legislation.

"We would encourage the public to refer their animal welfare concerns to the relevant agency for investigation.

"By acting collectively we can prevent further appalling suffering and ensure those responsible for the vilest of abuses are put before the courts."

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