A man has sued Galway County Council over the alleged wrongful seizure and subsequent slaughter of a thoroughbred horse.
Edward McDonagh, of Bóthar an Coiste, Headford Road, Galway, says he owned the stallion called Chief of Colours which was seized by the local authority in February 2018.
In judicial review proceedings, Mr McDonagh claims the council acted outside its powers when it refused his request to release the horse and euthanised the animal as a manner of enforcing a debt about which he claims there was a genuine dispute.
He alleges the council’s policy of detaining and disposing of horses where fees have not been paid and failures to give him information legitimately requested by him and to engage with him did not respect his constitutional rights to fair procedure.
He wants declarations to that effect and also seeks damages for the alleged wrongful and unlawful slaughtering of his horse.
The claims are denied.
Opening the case on Tuesday, Micheal O’Higgins SC said Mr McDonagh contends the horse was properly and adequately fenced in a field outside Galway city for three years prior to its seizure.
The council initially denied taking the horse but later admitted it had done so, he said.
Counsel said Mr McDonagh had had the horse microchipped and, through his solicitor, sought reasons for the seizure as well as the return of his horse.
The council replied the horse had been seized due to several breaches of the Control of Horses Act and that a horse passport issued by the Ireland & GB Standardbred & Trotting Horse Association was not acceptable identification.
There was further correspondence between the parties but, on 13th April 2018, Mr McDonagh was informed by the council, if he did not pay €3,100 fees for keeping the horse, it would be put down.
While Mr McDonagh’s solicitor had asked the council on April 16th not to kill the horse, he was advised by a council representative the horse had been destroyed.
His client was denied fair procedures and there was no evidence before the court concerning the local authority’s assessment of Mr McDonagh’s evidence of the ownership of the horse, counsel said.
His client had produced to the local authority several pages of documents concerning ownership to the horse shortly before it was euthanised, he said.
His client rejected any claim the horse was not in good health when it was seized, he added.
The claims are denied and the council says its decision to detain, withhold and dispose of the horse was valid and done in accordance with law, in particular, bylaws enacted under the 1996 Control of Horses Act.
Represented by Stephen Dodd BL, the council submitted, despite being given plenty of opportunities to do so, Mr McDonagh had failed to produce valid information that would have identified him as the owner of the horse.
Mr McDonagh did not hold a valid passport for the horse, it is claimed.
The council also denied the horse was wrongly and disproportionately withheld because the fees were not paid.
The horse was seized after it was found wandering on a public road, causing a hazard to motorists and was not taken from private property, the council said.
Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he would give judgment in the matter after Easter.