Farmer jailed for four months for animal cruelty

Thu, Jan 22, 2009, 00:00

A CO LIMERICK farmer has been given a four-month jail sentence for cruelty to animals “of the most appalling kind”.

Limerick District Court heard evidence yesterday of how a cow was dragged by a rope attached to a tractor through a field where it was left lying without water for a week.

Richard Smith (48), Lemonfield, Crecora, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty to two charges of cruelty to animals and to one charge of failing to inspect his herd at his Co Limerick farm on March 15th, 2008.

An inspector with the Limerick Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LSPCA) asked that Smith, who has a previous conviction for animal cruelty, be banned from keeping animals for life after he described the injuries in the case “as the most horrendous” he had ever seen.

Noel Shinnors submitted photos taken during an inspection of Smith’s farm, which Judge Tom O’Donnell said were “the most upsetting I have seen in my time as a judge”.

“The cruelty in this case brings this to a much higher level that must offend every sense of decency and there are aspects which are utterly awful,” he said. “There is clear evidence in relation to one animal where there was deliberate infliction of pain and suffering of the most awful nature . . . This was cruelty of the most appalling kind.”

Mr Shinnors said an inspection was carried out on Smith’s farm on March 15th following an anonymous phone call about a cow being left to die in a field. He called the Garda after he failed to make contact with the farmer or gain access to his land. When they went to inspect the farm, they discovered a cow in the yard, which was very thin and malnourished.

Mr Shinnors told of how another cow had been dragged through the field by a rope and a tractor. “This cow had suffered the most horrendous injuries I’ve ever seen in my life.” He said the whole back of the cow’s body had rotted and said there was a rope tied around its hind legs.

May Humphries, district inspector with the Department of Agriculture told the court that 15 animals had been removed from Smith’s farm since this incident. She agreed that the photos submitted to the court were “most appalling”.

During a visit to Smith’s farm this week, she observed that the animals had enough fodder but expressed concern that the farmer was not able to cope with the management of a dairy herd.

Defence solicitor John Herbert said his client suffered from depression, which had peaked prior to the offences following a “very difficult winter for farmers”.

He said prison would be “detrimental” to him. He was slowly beginning to accept that running a dairy farm was not for him and that IFA members also believed he should leave dairy farming.

Before imposing the sentence, Judge O’Donnell said it was manifestly clear that the pain and suffering in the case was a result “of the deliberate and appalling conduct of the defendant”.

He agreed to postpone the start of the sentence until February 18th to allow Smith time to make arrangements for his farm.

Judge O’Donnell fined him a total of €2,500 on the animal cruelty charges and also ordered that he pay the LSPCA expenses of €1,000.