Cork farmer kept 40 dogs in `dreadful conditions'


AN ELDERLY Cork farmer was strongly criticised by a judge for keeping 40 dogs, including a number of puppies, in "dreadful conditions" without light or access to water on a "puppy farm".

Michael O'Connell (70), The Island, Burnfort, Mallow, pleaded guilty at Mallow District Court yesterday to cruelly ill treating the dogs and to failing to comply with conditions governing the keeping of animals at his farm on October 24th last year.

Mr Ted O'Connor, an inspector with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Cork, told the court how he visited O'Connell's farm on October 17th, 1995, following a complaint.

"The 40 odd dogs that Mr O'Connell had were practically all bitches. This was a typical puppy farm where bitches are used as breeding machines. They are bred twice a year for up to eight years or until they are exhausted and can no longer breed, and then they're disposed of," said Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor said he found six dogs in two sheds with fresh straw on the ground, but underneath was damp and dirty, while he also found a black cocker spaniel in a disused van.

The inspector told how he had visited two barns. In one, he found Yorkshire terriers in five timber boxes with wooden lids, which when closed meant the animals were in complete darkness.

In the second barn, he found a number of crossbred hounds tied along the wall as well as 20 kennels containing 28 dogs and six pups. The coat of one dog, a Pomeranian, was badly matted and knotted.

"The whole set up there was an absolute disgrace. The dogs were confined to small boxes with wire fronts and had no access to water ... The conditions they were kept in were atrocious. It was a real puppy farm," he said.

Mr O'Connor said he asked Mr O'Connell to get rid of most of the dogs, but when he returned a week later nothing had changed O'Connell was making £150-£206 a puppy, which with 40 bitches breeding twice a year, amounted to a considerable sum, and none of this was being reinvested in the premises, said Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connell's solicitor, Mr Eugene Carey, said his client was over 70 years of age and had been involved with dogs since he was eight. He was "a throwback to olden times" in the way he treated animals, he said, adding it was Mr O'Connell's first time in court.

Judge John Clifford adjourned penalty until June 11th, pending the completion of a new building for the dogs. If Mr O'Connor found it to be satisfactory, he would apply the Probation Act.

Before adjourning sentence in the case the judge said that Mr O'Connell's treatment of the animals had been upsetting. "It's disturbing to feel defenceless animals are being treated in this fashion for the purpose of making money," he said.