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Farmer banned from owning animals after 'horrendous' cruelty offences

Farmer banned from owning animals after 'horrendous' cruelty offences
Photo: ISPCA News

A 74-year-old farmer in Co Donegal has received a suspected sentence and a 10-year band from keeping animals after being convicted of a number of animal cruelty offences.

Leslie Stewart, of The Thorn, Letterkenny, appeared before Letterkenny District Court on Monday, was charged with keeping animals in various states of neglect on his farm, with the prosecution coming after multiple inspections by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), assisted by ISPCA Senior Inspector Kevin McGinley.

The visits took place between 2019 and 2021, during which the animals' living conditions were noted.

In 2016, Stewart received a suspended jail sentence and a two-year disqualification from keeping animal for cruelty to horses and donkeys discovered on his property.

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According to the Donegal Daily, on that occasion, ISPCA officers and vets found several horses and donkeys starving on Stewart’s lands.

Several of the animals had to be put down.

Judge Paul Kelly said at the time “I want to be sure that there are no animals on his property, I want to verify that. This man should not be near or in control of any living creature.”

He said the only reason he was not sending Stewart to jail was because of his age.

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Earlier this month, the accused had entered guilty pleas to 16 of the 30 charges he faced at a previous court sitting on September 6th.

At that time, the department's veterinary inspector Brian Gormley gave evidence of his findings, showing the court photographs taken by Mr McGinley.

Inspections of the farm were carried out between 2019 and 2021. Photo: ISPCA News

The 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 dogs were removed from a locked van and assessed for symptoms of heat stroke. The dogs were taken to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) for rehabilitation and were subsequently rehomed.

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Passing sentence, Judge Éiteáin Cunningham described the case as "horrendous" and "disturbing", fining Stewart a total of €1,500.

She also banned him from keeping animals for 10 years, noting that the accused had clearly "not earned" from the experience of his previous two-year ban.

The court heard the accused was currently leasing 33 acres of land at The Thorn, with Judge Cunningham instructing that department 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 10-year ban.

The judge ordered that any animals on the land, understood to be two dogs and a number of poultry, were to be seized.

Stewart was sentenced to a total of four months in jail which was suspended for 12 months.

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