A JUDGE expects "a thorough investigation" into the "curious and disturbing manner" in which four horses impounded by South Dublin County Council were put down.
The comments were made by the High Court's Mr Justice John Hedigan, who ruled that the horse's owner, Gerard Burke, was entitled to damages, to be quantified at a later date, because the council had not disposed of the horses in accordance with the law.
The judge was also critical of the lack of information about what had happened to the horses and where they had ended up after they were killed. He said that all the court was told was that the horses were put down at a slaughterhouse.
"In an age where traceability and transparency are bywords in the production and integrity of the food chain this complete dearth of information is unacceptable," he said, adding that he expected the Department of Agriculture to investigate the manner of the horses' disposal.
Mr Burke had sued the council for impounding and later destroying his horses, which he said were either stolen or wrongly freed by unknown people from the lands at Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin in June, 2011. The council had denied the claims and had opposed the proceedings.
Mr Burke claimed that the horses – a show jumper and three prized Connemara ponies – were wrongly put down by agents of South Dublin Co Council after he had failed to pay an impounding fee.
Mr Burke, of Pineview Road, Tallaght, Dublin, discovered the horses were missing from his land in June 2011.
After making inquiries, he was told they were in a pound and that he would have to pay €3,300 for the rounding up and impounding fees.
Mr Burke argued that as the horses had got out as a result of a criminal act, he should not have to pay the fees.
The council argued that it was entitled to dispose of the animals under the Control of Horses Act if they were not reclaimed and the fees paid within five days of the round-up.
In a letter dated July 28, 2011, Mr Burke was informed by the council that the horses were alive and had been rehoused. He later discovered that in fact they had been killed in July.
In his ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Hedigan said there was a clear procedure for the seizure and disposal of stray horses. These had not been adhered to and no explanation had been offered as to why the council had failed to abide by its own rules, he said.