Puppy farm case: Dogs smelled strongly of ammonia, court hears

Owner Anna Broderick is appealing a closure notice issued by Cork County Council after it was found she had exceeded her breeding quota

A group of dogs removed from a Cork puppy farm after the owner failed to comply with a council order to reduce the number of breeding bitches were notable for the strong smell of ammonia from their coats which suggested they had been lying in their own urine, a vet has told a court.

Vet Mairead Wallace Pigott told how she examined 24 dogs brought to her Island Wood Veterinary Hospital in Newmarket by the ISPCA on February 2nd, 2023 after their removal by Cork County Council from the puppy farm of Anna Broderick at The Hermitage, Ballyandrew, Doneraile, Co Cork.

“The one thing that struck us about the dogs was the odour – we got a strong smell of urine and ammonia – our staff had to use masks the smell was so strong,” said Ms Wallace Pigott, adding the ammonia was a byproduct of urine and suggested the dogs had been left lying in their own urine.

She said that 23 of the 24 dogs had wet coats smelling of urine and ammonia, which can get into the animal’s lungs and eyes and cause health problems, while some of the animals also had ulcerative lesions on their paw pads which needed treatment.


Ms Wallace Pigott was giving evidence at the hearing of an appeal by Ms Broderick at Mallow District Court against a closure order issued by Cork County Council after council inspectors found her breeding establishment “posed a serious and immediate threat to animal welfare.”

She told the court that they also found evidence of matting in 15 of the dogs with some showing signs of faecal material dried and encrusted into their hair and in at least one case, this hair with dried faecal matter was blocking the dog’s anus so the animal was having difficulty defecating.

The fact that so many dogs had faecal material dried into their coats was evidence of inadequate care where they had not benefitted from regular grooming while some dogs had excessively long dewclaws which can curl around and pierce the dog’s paw pads and cause infection.

Some 14 of the 24 dogs had issues with the eyes such as conjunctivitis while eight of the animals had issues with their ears including scabbing and skin problems while 15 of the dogs had issues with their teeth including excessive build up of tartar which led to their gums receding, she added.

Many of the dogs also had poor body condition scores of 3 and 4, suggesting that they were underweight and together with the fact that many had eye, ear and teeth issues as well as smelling of urine and ammonia, indicated that they had not been cared for properly, she said.

She said that in her expert opinion with 45 years of treating small animals, she believed the dogs had been kept in “unsanitary conditions” and subjected to “poor hygiene practices” and would not have been in the condition that she found them in if they had been properly cared for.

Cross-examined by barrister, Brian Leahy BL for Ms Broderick, Ms Wallace Piggot said that all of the 24 dogs needed treatment of some form but none of them needed emergency treatment. “There was nothing life-threatening about their conditions,” she agreed with Mr Leahy.

Veterinarian Brian Roche gave evidence on behalf of Ms Broderick and said that he visited the puppy farm on October 22nd, 2022 and while Ms Broderick made no mention to him of that fact that she had been served an improvement notice by Cork County Council, he saw nothing alarming there.

“I spent about one and a half hours there walking around – I didn’t clinically examine any dog but I checked them in their pens – I didn’t find any odour – I checked the puppies in the whelping area – I didn’t see anything that alarmed me – she loves those dogs and they were well minded.”

Cross-examined by barrister Donnchadh McCarthy BL for the council, Mr Roche said that he hadn’t counted the number of dogs present that day, but he accepted there “were heaps of them” and he agreed with Mr McCarthy that breeding dogs was “a big business” for Ms Broderick.

Mr Roche said he didn’t know that Ms Broderick was licensed to have just 50 breeding bitches at the time but had 80 such dogs on the premises and when Mr McCarthy asked him what he thought of that, he replied “if you are given a quota, you stick to your quota.”

Fellow veterinarian, Edward Thornton also testified on behalf of Ms Broderick and said when he visited the premises in September 2021, he found it to be a run well establishment and “the dogs looked healthy, and they looked happy, and she liked her animals and runs a good establishment.”

Cross-examined by Mr McCarthy, Mr Thornton agreed that he had not visited the puppy farm after September 2021 so could not comment on the conditions found by Cork County Council veterinarian inspectors, Carol Nolan and Edmund O’Sullivan when they inspected the farm in October 2022.

The case continues before Judge Colm Roberts.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times