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Donegal farmer (74) in court after animals found in ‘various states of neglect’

A Donegal farmer has been banned from keeping animals for a ten-year period after being found guilty of repeated animal cruelty.

74-year-old Leslie Stewart, with an address at The Thorn, Letterkenny, came before Letterkenny District Court on Monday, September 26th 2022, where he was convicted of a number of animal cruelty offences.

He had previously received a two-year disqualification from keeping animals and a suspended jail sentence in 2016 for cruelty to horses and donkeys discovered on his property.

The most recent case arose following multiple inspections of Stewart’s farm by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), assisted by ISPCA senior inspector, Kevin McGinley.

The visits occurred between 2019 and 2021 and led to the discovery of several animals of different species in “various states of neglect on the farm”.

Animal cruelty 

Stewart had entered guilty pleas to 16 of 30 charges at a previous court sitting on September 6th, 2022.

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At that time, DAFM veterinary inspector, Brian Gormley, gave evidence of his findings, and the court was shown photographs that senior inspector, McGinley, had captured.

The court heard that offences related to dogs being kept in a van without water, allowing the carcass of a sheep to remain unburied, and keeping pigs and poultry in trailers without adequate access to water.

Three collie-type dogs were removed from a locked van and assessed for symptoms of heat stroke. The dogs remained in ISPCA care for rehabilitation and were subsequently rehomed.

Suspended jail sentence and fine

On passing sentence, Judge Éiteáin Cunningham described the case as “horrendous” and “disturbing.”

She handed him a fine of €1,500 and also banned him from keeping animals for ten years.

She said he had clearly “not learned” from the experience of his previous two-year ban.

Moreover, the court was told that the accused was currently leasing 33-acres of land at The Thorn.

Judge Cunningham ordered that DAFM was to be made aware of who controls the lands and that no animals were to be kept in sheds on the land in the course of the ten-year ban.

She also gave an order that any animals on the land, understood to be two dogs and poultry, were to be seized.

A number of horses and cows on adjoining lands are understood to belong to a neighbour.

Stewart was sentenced to a total of four months in jail, with the sentences suspended for 12 months.

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