Veterinary inspectors seized dogs worth over €80,000 from a north Cork puppy farm after the owner failed to comply with requests to reduce the number of breeding bitches on the farm and improve the living conditions of the remaining animals, a court has heard.
Counsel, Ray Boland SC for dog breeder, Anna Broderick said that his client had spent some €86,000 on 71 dogs including 58 breeding bitches that were removed by Cork County Council veterinary inspectors from her breeding farm at The Hermitage, Ballyandrew, Doneraile in early 2023.
Cork County veterinary inspector Carol Nolan said that the dogs were removed after the council issued a closure notice to Ms Broderick when she failed to comply with a recommendation that she reduce the number of breeding bitches on the farm from 50 to 25 because of poor husbandry.
Mr Boland put it to Ms Nolan that the closure order had resulted in Ms Broderick being unable to export dogs to Singapore where breeds such as Labradors, Retrievers and Huskies pups could fetch several thousand euros each as opposed to around €500 on the domestic market.
Mr Boland asked if Ms Broderick had indicated that the seized dogs included 16 Labrador, Retriever and Husky pups which were due to be exported to Singapore and Ms Nolan confirmed that Ms Broderick had mentioned something along those lines but she found it an odd comment.
This was because dogs could only be exported without rabies vaccination if they were less than 16 months old but all the Labrador, Retriever and Husky pups that they removed from the farm looked much older as they were all approaching puberty, she said.
Ms Nolan was giving evidence at the resumed hearing an appeal by Ms Broderick at Mallow District Court against a closure order issued by Cork County Council after council inspectors found that the operating of the breeding establishment “posed a serious and immediate threat to animal welfare.”
The resumed hearing was told the removal of the dogs in two tranches on January 23rd and February 1st 2023 came following the issuing of a closure notice on December 16th after inspections of the farm by Ms Nolan and her fellow vet, Edmond O’Sullivan on October 6th and October 12th 2022.
Ms Nolan said that she found some 214 dogs at the farm with many in poor condition, including some who were underweight with matted fur and exhibiting signs of poor socialisation such as timidity, nervousness and fear aggression which suggested that they had received no stimulation.
Many dogs were lying in pens where they could not avoid lying in their own faeces and dogs in some of the pens stank of urine while they were also being kept in freezing temperatures without heating and she found one Jack Russell had eaten its own faeces which was indicative of malnutrition.
She also said that when she requested both registration papers and breeding papers for the dogs, Ms Broderick refused to hand them over even though she was required to do so under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 which provides for the regulation of puppy farms.
She said that the husbandry and management of the dogs were so poor that she could only conclude that Ms Broderick did not have the competence to properly care for the large number of dogs at the farm in terms of their being properly fed, kept in clean and warm conditions, and properly exercised.
Mr O’Sullivan said one of the issues he noticed on the visits in October was that in two instances a bitch and her pups were being kept on a service corridor in two sheds through which staff had to bring feed and bedding for other dogs and this was not an acceptable location to keep the animals.
He said that pens were solid the first metre or so but the upper structures of the pens were not solid or secure and one the other striking features he noticed was some of the dogs in two pens were standing on their hind legs like meerkats to see out, which indicated a lack of proper exercise.
The two vets carried out a follow up inspection on December 7th where they found some improvement in some of the pen structures while dogs had also been removed from the two service areas outside the pens but the overall husbandry of the animals remained poor.
Ms Nolan said that she found Ms Broderick to be “adversarial and defiant” during the December 7th inspection. “She was refusing to comply with our recommendations, and said she was not reducing her number of breeding bitches to 25 but was keeping her 50 bitches,” she said.
Ms Nolan said that following further communication with Ms Broderick on December 12th, she received an email from her a day later in which Ms Broderick said that she was making progress with the paperwork and that she had bought heat lamps and the dogs were loving them.
“It was similar to another email I had received from her a year earlier when she said very similar things – I felt at this stage we had reached the end of the road with Ms Broderick because the council had shown great forbearance with her,” said Ms Nolan.
Vet Dan Hutch gave evidence on behalf of Ms Broderick that he inspected the puppy farm in December and did not find any evidence of dogs in poor condition nor did he see any dog eating its own faeces and he found the kennels to be maintained and run to a high standard.
He said he examined some of the removed dogs on January 24th and again he found nothing wrong with them that would raise alarm bells and indeed rather than being malnourished, some of the bigger dogs were slightly overweight. The case before Judge Colm Roberts continues.
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