Man jailed for three years for ‘inexcusable’ animal cruelty offences

Court told inspectors found dogs feeding on horse carcasses at breeding premises in Co Carlow

James Kavanagh is pictured being taken into custody after being sentenced to three years in prison for animal cruelty. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan.

James Kavanagh is pictured being taken into custody after being sentenced to three years in prison for animal cruelty. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan.


Gardaí and animal welfare officers found a number of dead dogs and horses, and dogs feeding on the carcasses of horses when they inspected a dog breeding premises in Co Carlow almost four years ago, a court has heard.

The evidence was given in a case against a Co Carlow couple which was described as “extraordinary” by circuit court Judge James McCourt and “grim and inexcusable” by counsel for one of the defendants.

James Kavanagh (48) was given a three-year prison term after pleading guilty to 30 counts of causing or allowing animal cruelty on his property at Raheenleigh, Myshall in April 2015. The charges related to 63 different animals. He was disqualified from owning horses or dogs for life.

Jennifer Kavanagh was given a 12-month suspended sentence after she admitted 30 counts of allowing animal cruelty on the property, relating to 15 specific animals. She was banned from owning dogs or horses for 15 years.

The prison sentence for James Kavanagh was greeted by loud applause in the courtroom from animal rights campaigners. A crowd cheered outside the courthouse as James Kavanagh was taken away in a prison van.


The court heard that 340 dogs and 11 horses were removed from the property after the inspection. Four horses and 20 dogs had to be euthanised because they were in such poor health.

ISPCA chief inspector Conor Dowling described the conditions found on the property as “quite shocking” and “deplorable” for the animals present.

“It’s 20 years I’ve been in this job and never before or since have I come across anything like this in terms of dog welfare specifically, the scale and severity was way above anything I’ve ever dealt with.”

Garda Kathryna Denehy told the court that the inspection lasted for almost 12 hours and uncovered “absolute squalor” in a shed containing 68 dogs in stalls; dogs “eating and fighting over” a decomposed horse carcass; and horses unable to move because they were “stuck in a mixture of faeces and muck”.

A report by Carlow County Council found that the conditions on the land presented “a serious biohazard” to the animals present and to humans because of the danger of infection and the presence nearby of a water treatment plant.


The court heard James Kavanagh had previously accepted that he knew he “did wrong”. He told the authorities he bred puppies years ago but, at the time of the inspection, had been accepting animals from other dog-breeders for export to the UK.

“From February of this year, my wife had a heart problem and it all got on top of me,” he said in 2015.

Colman Cody SC, for James Kavanagh, said the reality of the case was “grim” and “inexcusable” but he suggested that his client was guilty of “neglect rather than overt cruelty”. Roisin Lacey SC expressed remorse on behalf of Jennifer Kavanagh, who said the dogs were her husband’s responsibility.

Judge McCourt said the case was an “extraordinary” one and that “words fail me to describe what those pictures depict as to the conditions of those unfortunate animals”.

He said the scene gardaí and inspectors found that day was “like something biblical”. As well as giving James Kavanagh a prison sentence, he ordered him to pay €35,000 towards the ISPCA’s costs for removing, treating and re-homing the animals.