A request for two confiscated dogs to be returned to an Edgeworthstown family gardaí believe were running an illegal puppy farm has been granted on the condition that all other animals are transferred to the care of the ISPCA and rehomed.
Chantel Stokes, Johanna Stokes, Margaret Stokes, Jane Ward and Jonathan Wykes, all of Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, appeared at last Friday’s sitting of Granard District Court, charged with a total of 125 charges, including multiple counts of animal neglect.
Members of the family previously appeared in July when the court heard that a multi-agency search involving gardaí and ISPCA officials resulted in the seizure of almost 30 cats and dogs from the property.
Three inspectors from the ISPCA accompanied gardaí on the search and found 25 dogs and four pups on site and a number of cats. The condition of a number of these animals and their accommodation posed serious risks.
A total of 11 dogs and four pups along with two cats and ten kittens were seized by the ISPCA and have remained in the care of the organisation ever since.
Speaking on behalf of the defendants, solicitor Bríd Mimnagh stated that her clients would like just two of the dogs returned to them and were willing to allow the rest of the animals to be rehomed.
“Some of them are extremely valuable,” she noted.
Sgt Mick Hogan revealed to the court that a breeding bitch could be worth up to €1,000, or €3,000 with papers.
“I understood that the pups could be worth between €500 and €1,000,” said Ms Mimnagh.
Sgt Hogan explained that two of the dogs had given birth to a total of 22 puppies while in the care of the ISPCA and that the charity was facing high costs for the care of the animals.
“My view is that this was a puppy breeding farm,” Sgt Hogan explained.
“The ISPCA took the most vulnerable animals. Two had previously given birth. There were 13 dogs left behind. Two subsequently gave birth in the ISPCA care. My submission is that it was an illegal puppy breeding farm.
“Ms Mimnagh has asked that two of the dogs that were seized be given back. The procedure for a dog breeding establishment is that they must be licensed and registered with Longford County Council,” he added.
Sgt Paddy McGirl, prosecuting, explained again that the ISPCA had only taken the most vulnerable dogs from the property, stating that those dogs should not be returned to such conditions.
“And also, they’re up for cruelty charges,” Judge Hughes agreed.
“I’m very conscious, and my clients are very conscious of the cost of keeping those dogs,” said Ms Mimnagh.
“They’re saying that they’re not a puppy breeding farm,” she added.
Not satisfied with that statement, Judge Hughes said, “Ms Mimnagh, if you’re telling me that those dogs are having that many pups, that’s a dog breeding facility.
“And what are they doing with the dogs? Selling them. Otherwise, they’d have hundreds of dogs within a year.
“There’ll be no grey area about this. It’s black and white. There is an urgency on this because there’s an ongoing cost. They’ll have to face the charges.”
Sgt Hogan explained that the cost to the ISPCA has so far amounted to almost €5,000, with €3,450 going towards boarding for the animals, €850 on vet bills and €340 on micro-chipping.
“That is a significant cost for them out of their own pocket,” said Sgt Hogan.
“Ms Mimnagh has indicated there are two dogs they would like to keep. If all others could be rehomed, that would reduce the cost.”
Ms Mimnagh confirmed that her clients are agreeable to rehoming all but two dogs - one called Bluey and a Johnson Bulldog called Tiger.
“If that was acceptable then, pending the outcome of the case, those two dogs would be released,” said Sgt Hogan.
“So they’re all agreeable to giving up the dogs except for those two,” said Judge Hughes.
It was also revealed to the court that the two cats and ten kittens that were seized by ISPCA officials were wild and that the family was therefore willing to have them transferred to the ISPCA, along with all other dogs.
“The two dogs will continue to be held by the ISPCA pending the outcome of the criminal case and the pups had by Bluey will remain with the ISPCA,” Sgt Hogan stipulated.
Accepting the terms of the prosecution, Judge Hughes adjourned the case to Friday, October 16, at Granard District Court for mention or plea.
“But if I had the authority to make the order, these people would never own a dog ever again save for Bluey and Tiger, if found guilty,” he concluded.