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Sunday 4 December 2016

Cruelty on the rise as eight horses are starved to death

Gordon Deegan

Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed Picture: Tom Burke
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed Picture: Tom Burke

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has confirmed 60 animal cruelty cases have been brought by his department before the courts since new legislation was introduced.

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In a written Dáil reply to Sinn Féin's Jonathan O'Brien, the minister said most of the cases are before the court but stated that 23 convictions have been recorded to date.

The highest amount of cruelty cases have been recorded in Cork and Meath since the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 was introduced in 2014.

Mr Creed confirmed single convictions have also been recorded in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Louth, Waterford and Westmeath.

The most recent animal welfare case the Department brought to court came before Ennis District Court last week where eight horses were left to starve to death on a farmer's land in Co Clare earlier this year.

In the case, 79-year-old bachelor farmer Thomas O'Neill must pay the Department costs of more than €14,000 in removing the starving horses and carcasses from his farm.

In the case, a Department of Agriculture official, Aileen Tighe, told how she came across eight horse carcasses on a farm owned by O'Neill.

In evidence, Ms Tighe told the court that she was "quite shocked" at the state of the animals when first inspecting the farm owned by O'Neill in January of this year.

Ms Tighe said there were a total of 46 horses running wild on two parcels of land owned by O'Neill with a number being emaciated.

She first visited the farm on January 8 on foot of a complaint and saw that the land was completely bare where the horses were.

She said: "There was no grass whatsoever and the horses had started to graze the bushes because no grass was available."

Ms Tighe said she arranged feed for the horses and served notice on O'Neill concerning the horses' welfare.

Ms Tighe carried out a number of visits to the land in January and February and in a visit in February, she saw eight carcasses of horses that had died in the previous month, the carcasses of two other animals that had died some time ago and bones strewn across the land.

Ms Tighe said that it cost the Department €14,022 to have all of the horses removed from the farm and an additional €397 for the remains of the dead horses to be removed.

O'Neill of Caherea, Lissycasey, pleaded guilty to five separate animal neglect charges at Ennis District Court.

O'Neill - who required a crutch to get in and out of court - has also pleaded guilty to permit the carcass or carcasses of an animal or part of an animal to be on his land on February 19.

Solicitor for O'Neill, Daragh Hassett said that it was a very sad case and that the statements in the case make for very grim reading.

He said O'Neill lives in squalor himself and "has lived a life of seclusion".

Mr Hassett said the Department of Agriculture acted very swiftly and professionally in the case.

Judge Patrick Durcan said the investigation must have been a harrowing experience for Ms Tighe.

Judge Durcan wants O'Neill to fully compensate all of the money spent by the Department in the case and adjourned it to May 10 next for sentence.

Irish Independent

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