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Cattle and sheep farmer (87) told ‘age does not mean you can stay out of prison’

A court order is preventing an 87-year-old woman from keeping or caring for all domestic animals for life.

Mary Kelly, Boley, Ballylynan, Co Laois appeared before Athy District Court in Kildare on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021.

Kelly faced 24 charges under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 (AHWA) relating to alleged offences dating from July 2019.

Court order

Judge Desmond Zaidan requested the full facts, and Ann Cooke from Kildare Animal Foundation (KAF), who was present on July 15th, 2019, gave evidence.

Cooke described entering Kelly’s home, along with An Garda Síochána. She outlined how she found several dogs in cat carriers stacked on top of one another.

She said that they were underweight, soaked in urine, without water, and some were dehydrated.

Recounting the condition of individual dogs, Cooke described a Chihuahua with a broken jaw that had to be wired, which a vet estimated had been broken for up to five months.

She also described another Chihuahua with a broken hip, a matted Shih-Tzu with a mammary growth and four Pomeranians with diarrhoea.

She explained that a Pug required surgery for breathing problems aggravated by the stench of urine in the environment where it was kept.

Cooke said Kelly told her that an emaciated Jack Russell lived on rats that he caught.

Outside the house was a Rottweiler “confined on a tangled chain that was so scared it had to be pulled out of its small shelter”.

“It had only slimy green water to drink,” she told the court.

Cooke added that Kelly claimed to keep the dogs for protection. The court heard that when Cooke suggested a personal alarm as an alternative, Kelly asked who would pay for that.

In addition, the inspector found a collapsed and dehydrated cat in the yard. It required two weeks of treatment on an IV drip after the ISPCA rescued it.

ISPCA intervention 

Cooke told the court that all animals were surrendered to the ISPCA and removed. All animals recovered fully and were rehomed by the ISPCA and KAF.

The court heard that the cost of rehabilitation for the two Chihuahuas alone was more than €5,000.

Looking at photographs of the animals and the conditions in which they were found, judge Zaidan said that it was “appalling”.

The judge said it was “hard to imagine the state and the smell”. He added that “you can see the fright in their faces” and paid credit to KAF and the ISPCA.

Custodial sentence a possibility 

Judge Zaidan told Kelly that “age does not mean you can stay out of prison”. The judge outlined that a custodial sentence was “a realistic possibility”.

Richard Wickstead BL, representing Ms Kelly, questioned Cooke on whether she could be certain that the dogs were confined in the small boxes and carriers at all times.

He referenced the faeces on the floor of the house as well as in the boxes and suggested that Ms Kelly did let them out but confined them to stop them fighting. Ms Cooke stated that all of the dogs got on well while in foster.

An application for an order under section 61 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act preventing Ms Kelly from keeping or caring for domestic animals, including but not limited to any dog, cat, horse, pony, donkey or fowl, was not contested by the defence. Judge Zaidan questioned why it did not apply to all animals.

Cattle, sheep and two dogs

Wickstead suggested that Kelly owned 30 sheep and 22 cattle but was not directly responsible for their care.

He said that there were two dogs on Ms Kelly’s premises but that she consented to ISPCA removing them immediately after the hearing.

He also requested a reporting restriction on Ms Kelly’s name being published, but Judge Zaidan did not accept.

In adjourning the matter to February 8th, 2022, for sentencing, Judge Zaidan said he was making “no promises whatsoever” concerning what penalties he may apply.

He indicated that if it was left to the court’s discretion, he would have banned Kelly for life from keeping all animals.

ISPCA inspector, Fiona Conlon, told the court that regardless of their age; all animal owners have a legal duty of care.

“There was no valid explanation for accumulating so many dogs and no excuse for how they were cared for,” she added.

Other court news:  
  • 10-year ban for farmer (48) who neglected cattle – Read
  • Farmer fined for utilising ear tag on animal previously used to identify another – Read
  • Farm and contractor fined over €7,000 after two workers injured – Read
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