Puppy farmer sentenced to three years in jail and banned from keeping dogs or equines for life

340 dogs and 11 horses removed from appalling conditions, with majority transported to ISPCA National Animal Centre in Longford

Longford Leader Reporter

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A couple was convicted of 60 offences under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 (AHWA), including causing or permitting animal cruelty contrary to section 12 and failing to protect the welfare of an animal contrary to section 11.

Jim Kavanagh and Jenny Kavanagh of Raheenleigh, Myshall, Co Carlow had pleaded guilty in October 2018 to 30 charges each having initially faced a total of 252 charges. The remaining charges faced by Mr Kavanagh were taken into consideration.

Judge James McCourt said: “Words fail me to describe what those pictures depict.  It is extraordinary to find someone of farming stock guilty of such an appalling crime best illustrated by the video footage we sat through this morning and photographs presented to the court.”

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Judge McCourt imposed a three year jail sentence and banned James Kavanagh from keeping dogs or equines for life.  The Judge ordered James Kavanagh to pay costs of €35,000 to the ISPCA. 

Jenny Kavanagh was sentenced to a 12 month custodial sentence fully suspended and banned from keeping any dogs for 15 years.

The case was initiated after ISPCA Animal Welfare Inspectors and members of An Garda Síochána carried out a joint search of the premises on April 14, 2015.

The Local Authority and the Department of Agriculture were called in and Carlow County Council served the breeder with the first ever closure notice under the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010.

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The ISPCA worked tirelessly to rescue 340 dogs and 11 horses from the premises over the subsequent nine days with the assistance of its affiliated member organisations and other rescue organisations. The scale of the rescue is the largest the ISPCA had ever carried out.

The dogs removed included Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Bichons, Terriers, Retrievers, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Labradors, Beagles, Pomeranians, Rottweilers, Salukis, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Lurchers and many others. Some of the puppies were only a few days old and over 20 female dogs were nursing or heavily pregnant. The dogs were suffering from untreated injuries, chronic skin, eye and teeth problems, and many had infected paws from living in urine sodden straw. Many of dogs had heavily matted fur which needed to be completely clipped.

Most of the animals were transported to the ISPCA National Animal Centre in Longford, some were brought to the ISPCA Equine Rescue Centre in Cork, and others were transferred to welfare groups across the country who offered their assistance.

ISPCA Chief Inspector Conor Dowling said: “We discovered a number of dead animals scattered around the property, some of which were used to feed the dogs. It was harrowing. The living conditions these animals had to endure can only be described as squalid. Many of the animals did not have access to water or suitable food.

"The horror and sheer size of the rescue was extremely challenging for our Inspectors, animal carers and volunteers.  We are extremely grateful to the external agencies involved and the rescue organisations, such as Dogs Trust, for their assistance with the transportation and rehoming of animals. I would particularly like to acknowledge the Gardaí who initiated this operation and who put huge efforts into ensuring that it was brought to the conclusion we saw today. We are also indebted to the public who offered their support.”

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The ISPCA issued an emergency appeal for donations to assist with the financial pressure of caring for such a large number of animals.  The direct costs including veterinary treatment exceeded €60,000. Most of the animals required some form of veterinary treatment, and then had to be vaccinated, microchipped, administered with treatments for parasites such as fleas and worms, and neutered/spayed before being responsibly rehomed. The ISPCA also covered veterinary costs incurred by our affiliated members and other rescue organisations that were in a position to help.

Chief Inspector Dowling added:  “The animal-loving public responded incredibly to our calls for help. Many people offered kind homes for these vulnerable animals. We couldn’t have helped them all without our dedicated supporters who donated, our volunteers and groomers who gave up their time and worked tirelessly, and to everyone who kindly donated food, bedding, dog collars and treats”.

Dowling continued:  “The ISPCA is at the forefront of animal welfare and is leading the fight against unscrupulous puppy breeders in Ireland. We work tirelessly behind the scenes. Last year, ISPCA Inspectors seized or had surrendered to them over 600 dogs. These included 127 from two different unlicensed breeding premises.  Files were prepared with a view to prosecutions being initiated against the dog breeders in question”.

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