Puppy farmer's premises described as 'Animal Auschwitz'

Tullamore man accepts lifetime ban from keeping animals

Court reporter

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Court reporter

Puppy farmer's premises described as 'Animal Auschwitz'

A puppy photographed by inspectors at the farm in Tullamore

THE owner of what was described as an “animal Auschwitz” will learn on Thursday if a five-month prison sentence previously imposed on him is being suspended.

An appeal hearing this afternoon (Tuesday) was told that Brendan Deegan, Clonminch, Tullamore is accepting an order disqualifying him from keeping animals.

The disqualification order was imposed on the 56-year-old puppy farmer in January when he pleaded guilty in the District Court to animal cruelty, failing to safeguard the welfare of animals, permitting the carcasses of animals on land to which other animals have access, and failing to provide sufficient food or water to animals.

A five-month prison sentence, with one month suspended, had also been imposed on the man and he was ordered to pay €5,000 in costs. The maximum sentence which could have been imposed was six months.

Mr Deegan was in the Circuit Court on Tuesday afternoon appealing against the severity of those penalties but prosecution counsel Helen Johnson, BL, told Judge Karen Fergus he was consenting to the disqualification order.

The court heard that in spite of another order from the District Court, that he not have any animals on his land, there were currently 35 horses and 15 foals there.

Judge Fergus was told he was undertaking to sell his remaining animals and return others to their owners.

Five horses owned by his wife, from whom he is estranged, will be permitted to remain on the land, said Ms Johnson.

The offences had been committed between August 3, 2018 and February 1, 2019 and witnesses detailed at the appeal hearing what they had seen during a number of inspections.

Lisa O'Donovan, senior inspector with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), said she found dogs in sheds which were dark and bleak and in some cases their food and water was contaminated.

Most of the dogs had flea infestations, including nursing dogs and pregnant bitches.

One section of Mr Deegan's premises was a piggery which was used to house dogs and the food there was “horrendous” and “crawling with maggots”.

There were pieces of bones and old rotting, smelling, meat present; dirty water and very little ventilation.

Three dead puppies were found, two discarded on a bag and another in a pew with maggots crawling on it where a nursing bitch was also present.

A son of Mr Deegan immediately began cleaning the area where the dogs were following a conversation with Ms O'Donovan.

Of 57 dogs present, 39 were seized and of those 39, 25 had to be brought to the ISPCA centre in Mallow, Co Cork to be cared for properly. Others were taken by Offaly County Council.

At a subsequent inspection Ms O'Donovan met Mr Deegan and some of the premises had been cleaned out and dogs had been given fresh food and water.

However, at another visit the inspector was of the opinion things had slipped and when she followed up on a report about a terrier being unwell, she found the dog dead.

A veterinary surgeon, Ita Walsh, gave evidence of inspecting the dogs in Mallow and said there were a number of different breeds, including dobermans, spaniels, terriers, a labrador and bichon frise.

The outstanding issue was an overwhelming flea infection which resulted in the dogs, some of whom were depressed, constantly scratching and moaning.

Five of the dogs had to be put on antibiotics because of infections and two of them had tumours.

One spaniel had a maggot on a lesion on its head and a bichon frise had gone bald because of fleas.

Ms Walsh said flea treatment is very simple but in the cases she saw, the flea infestation was longstanding as indicated by secondary infections.

Asked if the dogs could be valued, the vet said she did not trade in the animals but had heard a Jack Russell terrier pup could be worth €100 and a labrador pup €800.

Arthur O'Connor, an inspector with the Department of Agriculture, told the court about other animals on Mr Deegan's premises, including horses, poultry and pigs.

He found a plethora of bones in yards and in fields and there were piles of bones near the pigsty where dogs were kept.

On one visit he saw evidence of a hole having been dug to dispose of bones, a practice which would be contrary to legislation.

Mr O'Connor said he found a horse in a very bad state in a stable and he concluded she had septicaemia, probably caused by aborting a foal. She was unable to move and had to be put down and subsequently the inspectors did not get a receipt from a knackery in relation to disposal of the dead animal.

While a lot of the horses were in good condition, Mr O'Connor drew the court's attention to a portion of a horse's neck which had been found.

When it was examined a microchip was found and the inspectors discovered that the animal was registered to Brendan Deegan.

Adult pigs were foraging on the premises and goats were gnawing at bones.

Mr O'Connor said it was his opinion that Mr Deegan was not competent to manage any animals and he said it appeared to him he worked very hard outside of the farm.

On a visit to the farm on Monday (June 15), Mr O'Connor found 35 adult horses, 14 or 15 foals and 10 or more poultry, some of whom were hatching.

The inspector also said when he was with Mr Deegan on the farm on Monday they were followed by two gentleman, John Butterfield, a farmer, and Noel Higgins, a retired garda and neighbour, who said they were there to accompany the Clonminch farmer.

Mr O'Connor said he thought Mr Butterfield was taking pictures or making videos of him with a phone when the phone was pointed at him, a claim which was denied in evidence later by Mr Higgins.

Mr O'Connor also said Mr Higgins told him that if someone pointed a gun at you it did not mean they were going to shoot you.

The inspector said he found that a strange thing to say and he believed he was being intimidated.

Mr Higgins told the court what he said had been taken out of context and he was not there to threaten anyone.

Mr O'Connor said Mr Deegan was very co-operative with him.

Video footage from Mr O'Connor's inspections was shown in court and summing up for the DPP, Ms Johnson said the evidence spoke for itself and stated Mr Deegan's farm was “best decribed as an animal Auschwitz”.

Willie Penrose, BL, for Mr Deegan, said the appellant's mental health was one of the mitigating factors Judge Fergus should consider. He had spent a period in hospital and a medical report was handed into the court.

Mr Penrose also referred to Mr Deegan's difficulties with his marriage, his lack of any previous convictions, the fact that he had ceased farming and his record of hard work in the construction industry which left him little time to look after the farm.

A father of four, Mr Penrose said a rational person would not have come to the level of offending to which Mr Deegan had come so he asked for the sentence to be suspended.

He said the €5,000 would be paid if Mr Deegan was given time to do so.

Judge Fergus reserved her decision until Thursday (June 18).

The court also heard Mr Deegan can apply at a later date to have the disqualification order varied, if, in the words of Ms Johnson, “he behaves himself”.