Man jailed at Clonmel court for failing to get treatment for dog with horrific facial injuries

Aileen Hahesy

Reporter:

Aileen Hahesy

A 28 years-old man received a two month jail sentence at Clonmel District Court this week for his failure to get treatment for a terrier dog that suffered horrific facial injuries in a fight. 

Judge David Waters imposed the sentence on Damien Power of Turkstown, Fiddown, Co. Kilkenny and refused defence solicitor Eamonn Hayes' appeal to suspend the jail term. 

Power received the sentence for the offence of neglecting or being reckless regarding the health and welfare of a black Patterdale Terrier at Turkstown, Fiddown on January 8, 2016. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which prosecuted the case, withdrew a number of other animal health and welfare charges against Power when he entered the guilty plea to the above offence. 

ISPCA inspector Alice Lacey told the court she attended Damien Power's home accompanied by a garda on Friday, January 8 last year on foot of an animal welfare complaint about dogs on the property. Damien Power wasn't there when they arrived. She inspected the purpose built rooms where the dogs were kept.  She noted six black terriers and two white female dogs. One of the terriers had a severe facial injuries. Shortly afterwards, Damien Power returned and when she saw him put dogs into the back of the jeep she told him to stop.  She decided to seized the injured dog and put it into the back of her van. 

 
Ms Lacey showed several photos of the terrier showing the injuries to its nose, mouth and jaw.  She said she met with Damien Power at his home on January 25, 2016 and interviewed him under caution.  He told her the injuries were caused by another dog that fought with him through the bars of the kennel. When asked what in her view was the cause of the injuries, Ms Lacey said she believed the injuries were caused by a fight with another animal. 

The ISPCA inspector said Damien Power told her he brought the terrier to a veterinary practice but she didn't believe there was any evidence the dog had received treatment for its injuries. She rang the veterinary practice Mr Power contacted and they hadn't any record of the dog being seen by a vet. 

She said the ISPCA brought the dog to City Vets in Waterford City and it stayed in the care of the ISPCA until June 2016 when the decision was taken to put the terrier to sleep because the facial injuries didn't heal sufficiently and it had problems with breathing. 

Responding to questions from defence solicitor Eamonn Hayes, Ms Lacey agreed the kennels she inspected at Mr Power's home were well kept and agreed she hadn't any concerns about the other dogs in the kennels. 

She agreed that the dog was removed from his client's home without any difficulty and his client co-operated with the interview process.  

Veterinary surgeon William Smith of City Vets in Waterford told the court he saw the terrier on January 8, 2016. The front of its nose and upper lip was gone as was the skin of its lower lip. The bones of the lower jaw were exposed. There was no evidence that the dog had received any medical treatment, particularly the injury to the lower jaw. Normally a vet would make some attempt to correct that injury but there was no sign or any intervention. 

From his examination of the terrier, he estimated the injuries were sustained between one week and six weeks from the time he saw the dog. Mr Smith said the injuries the dog suffered were "horrendous aesthetically" but confirmed the terrier was able to eat. There was a lot of froth coming out of his nostrils and you could see right into the nostrils. 

Explaining why the dog had to be put to sleep six months later, Mr Smith said the tissue inside the dog's nose was very delicate and designed to trap any dirt or debris when the animal breathed. The terrier was constantly taking in dirt and debris because the front of his nostrils had been removed and this caused his breathing difficulties. 

Mr Hayes said his client kept dogs for a number of years and he noted that all the other dogs in his care appeared to be well kept. His client accepted he neglected to obtain the treatment the dog should have received.

The solicitor said his client had a consultation with a vet, who guided him on what should be done but his client didn't pursue the full treatment because of financial pressures. He wasn't working at the time. He pointed out that the dog suffered a further injury that exacerbated his condition. 

Mr Hayes submitted that Damien Power was now working as a plasterer and lived at his own accommodation while the kennels were located at the home of his parents. He had a six year-old child and paid maintenance for that child. He hadn't any previous. 

Mr Hayes also pointed out that his client was willing to pay the expenses incurred by the Department of Agriculture and ISPCA but would need some time to save the money. 

Judge Waters said he had heard very compelling evidence from the ISPCA inspector and veterinery surgeon and the horrific nature of the injuries shown in the photos was borne out by their evidence. 

"There would have been serious pain visited on this animal and it appears this was completely ignored and the dog was allowed to suffer completely needlessly." 

The Judge said he may have suspicions about what went on behind the scenes but he was putting them behind him and was dealing only with the charge before him. He said the offence carried a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment or a fine.  In Power's favour, he had pleaded guilty and hadn't any previous convictions. His explanation for not getting medical treatment for the dog was lack of funds when he was unemployed. 

Judge considered the offence to be at the higher end of the scale of seriousness in the district court and he couldn't see how he could deal with it in any other way than by imposing a custodial sentence of two months imprisonment. He added that he was not going to make an order for payment of expenses. 

Mr Hayes requested him to consider suspending the prison term. Judge Waters  responded that he had already considered thisand the imposition of a community service order but he didn't think these penalties were appropriate after what he had seen in the photos and the clear evidence he had heard from the vet that there was no evidence of the dog receiving medical treatment. 

Mr Hayes further appealed to the Judge to reconsider the sentence pointing out that his client was now in employment and financially supported his child and a prison sentence would have consequences for him. He also reiterated his client's willingness to pay the prosecution's expenses. 

Judge Waters  replied: "There are consequences when you engage in this type of behaviour. " In relation to expenses, the Judge said it had no baring on his thinking. 

The Judge, however, agreed Mr Hayes request to fix recognisance in the event of appeal.