Horse owner awarded €10,000 in damages for animal destruction
A HORSE owner is entitled to €10,000 in High Court damages from a local authority for unlawfully destroying four of his animals which had been rounded up on a public road.
Gerard Burke claimed the horses had been stolen or wrongly freed by unknown people from the lands at Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin, in June, 2011.
South Dublin Co Council had them impounded and they were destroyed a month later when pound fees of €3,300 were not paid. The council
claimed it was entitled under the Control of Horses Act to destroy the animals if fees are not paid within five days.
Mr Burke, of Pineview Road, Tallaght, Dublin, sued claiming the horses were on the road because of a criminal act and the council, as well as failing to tell him what had happened to the animals, had wrongly destroyed them.
Last April, Mr Justice John Hedigan found the horses had been unlawfully destroyed in a "curious and disturbing manner" and Mr Burke was entitled to damages.
The council had failed to abide by its own clear procedures for the seizure and disposal of stray horses, he ruled.
Yesterday, following another hearing to assess damages, the judge awarded €4,000 in relation to the value of the horses, comprising three Connemara ponies and a show horse.
He also awarded €6,000 to Mr Burke in general damages as a result of shock he suffered from the horses being put down.
He rejected his claim for punitive damages as he accepted the horses had to be rounded up and there was no bad faith on the part of the council in doing what it did. However, he hoped the "mal-administration" which had led to these horses being destroyed has since been remedied.
He also awarded the costs of the liability hearing earlier this year to Mr Burke but said he would only give him costs for one day in relation to the assessment of damages hearing.
He said the matter could have been resolved in one day had the amount being sought by Mr Burke not been "wildly exaggerated."
Earlier, the judge said Mr Burke's evidence in relation to the value of his horses was greatly exaggerated in relation to the pedigree of the animals.
He accepted the "careful and measured" evidence given by an expert in Connemara ponies, including that only one in 1,000 (Connemara) foals go on to become high performance animals.