Dog owner fined €2,500 after St Bernard went rogue killing 40 sheep

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Stock photo

Court Reporter

A Myshall man was ordered to pay out €2,500 in compensation after a St Bernard dog went rogue and caused “devastation” to local farmers when he killed over 40 sheep.

Judge Colin Daly said in Carlow District Court last week that the dog had “effectively been abandoned by his owner” before it went wild and mauled the sheep.

Judge Daly found that even though Patrick Nolan from Myshall wasn’t the legal owner of the dog, it had been in his care and so therefore it was his responsibility to keep the dog under control.

He also said that at least three people knew that the dog had been abandoned by its owner and that they’d let the situation escalate to the extent that it went rogue. It took local farmers weeks of hunting it down before the dog was eventually shot and killed with the help of a gun club after first wreaking devastation in the area.

“This should not have been allowed to happen in an area of sheep farmers,” Judge Daly remarked.

He found sixty-nine-year old Mr Nolan guilty of being the owner of a dog that was worrying livestock on 14 and 15 March 2018 in Cranmore, Kildavin. A third, similar charge at Aclare, Myshall on 21 March was dismissed.

Patrick Kitt, a sheep farmer from Cranmore, Kildavin gave evidence of first seeing a dog mauling his neighbour’s, Tom Murphy’s, sheep on 14 March. He said that he recognised that the dog was a St Bernard and that he rang Mr Murphy to tell him what had happened.

The following day, he said, Mr Murphy phoned him to tell him that the dog had returned, had killed more sheep and was on his way over to Mr Kitt’s land. Mr Kitt saw the dog for a second time and said he was determined to protect a flock of pedigree sheep he had but that six of his other flock had been killed.

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Mr Kitt told the court that he became “adamant to get the bugger” after that and followed the dog for “days on end to catch him”. He added that he had “no doubt” that the dog was a St Bernard that belonged to Mr Nolan, a neighbour who had a shop in Myshall and a coal yard in Rosslee where he also lived. He also said that Mr Nolan had offered to help look for the dog but that they enlisted the help of a gun club because “as sheep farmers, we needed to get that dog”.

“Devastation” was how Mr Murphy described the state of his livestock after the St Bernard mauled or killed 33 of his sheep. He said that he saw the dog himself when he returned for “the second kill”.

A third farmer, John Baily from Kildavin, also gave evidence of seeing the dog a week later crossing his uncle’s land before some of their sheep were killed or were drowned in a nearby stream.

He continued that he “tried to capture the dog on numerous occasions” but that the next time he saw it was when it was shot dead and brought into Myshall village in the back of a trailer.

Garda Vincent Collins said that he investigated the matter after receiving several phone calls about a St Bernard dog killing sheep in the area. He said that the dog had been owned by a man called Brian Case who had lived beside Mr Nolan in Rosslee, a townsland near Myshall.

He continued that when Mr Case left the area, he left the dog behind and that Mr Nolan used it as a security dog in his coal year.

However, he said that the dog got out and strayed onto a farm where it was shot and wounded by the farmer. Garda Collins said that the dog went “wild” after that and went on to kill sheep.

Under cross examination by solicitor Elizabeth Cass, Garda Collins said that he contacted the dog’s owner, Brian Case who told him that he’d sold the dog to Mr Nolan. Garda Collins said that Mr Nolan paid €100 for the dog and that he was to pay more money when the dog’s paperwork was completed.

Inspector Seán O’Meara pointed out to the court that under legislation, the person who’s in charge of the dog is the one who’s responsible for it, regardless of its owner.

Mr Nolan then gave direct evidence himself in which he said that when Mr Case left the area, the dog came to be in bad shape and that he started to feed it because he didn’t want to see it starve.

He said that it wasn’t his dog, it was still Mr Case’s dog and that when he heard it was killing the sheep, he tried to contact Mr Case.

He said that he went to see Mr Case in Leighlinbrige where he now lived but that he didn’t get to meet him. He added that another neighbour, Richard Vickery, looked after the dog as much as he did and that Mr Vickery spent hours out at night, calling the St Bernard to try to get it to home.

Mr Nolan’s solicitor, Ms Cass, said that her client had assumed care of the dg as an act of a Good Samaritan.

Judge Daly noted that Mr Case had “effectively abandoned” the dog when he left the area and that Mr Nolan and Mr Vickery took care of it but that it was while the dog was under the care of Mr Nolan that he killed the sheep.

He continued that at least three people knew that the dog had been abandoned and it had to go out “scavenging for food”. He said that the situation had “escalated” and that it shouldn’t have been allowed in an rural area with so many sheep around.

Judge Daly was told that Mr Murphy’s suffered over €5,000 worth of damage to his livestock but most of that had been covered by insurance while Mr Kitt was down €1,500. Judge Daly then ordered Mr Nolan to pay €1,500 to Mr Kitt and €500 to Mr Murphy while also donating €500 to the St Bernard Dog Sanctuary in County Kildare.

He adjourned the case until 2 October.

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