Dog pound owner fined €30k after euthanasia vet-only drugs given by staff to dogs

The garda said 5ml of the drug was enough to kill a dog and if a small amount of the drug came into the contact of a human skin it could have fatal consequences.

David Stone, the pound owner, with an address at Hazelbrook, Loughlinstown, Ratoath, Co. Meath© Paddy Cummins - IrishPhotodesk.i

Sonya McLeanSunday World

The owner of a dog pound who allowed a euthanasia drug to be kept unlawfully on his premises which was then administered incorrectly to two dogs has been fined €30,000.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that David Stone (65) had been running Ashton Dog Pound in Dublin since 1996 and had contracts with local councils including Dublin City, Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown county councils.

Garda Áine McQuillan told Paul Carroll SC, prosecuting, that gardaí were contacted by a dog warden over the weekend of July 24, 2020 to alert them to the fact that two dogs, a Bichon Frise and an Akita, had been administered the euthanasia drug – Pentobarbital - and the dogs had not been visited by a vet. The dog warden was concerned for the animals as they were in a bad state.

The gardaí called to the pound and Stone was there when they arrived. By that point, one of the dogs had died and the second dog was very unwell. The gardaí took this animal to the UCD veterinary clinic where it was put down in a more humane way, the court heard.

Gda McQuillan said that on arrival at the pound, gardaí found the drug in a unlocked tin box. She said there was a full bottle of the drug and a small amount in a second bottle, totalling over 350 ml.

The garda said 5ml of the drug was enough to kill a dog and if a small amount of the drug came into the contact of a human skin it could have fatal consequences.

Various statements were taken from staff at the pound, who outlined that the drugs were kept in an unlocked box at the receptionist desk of the pound. The drugs were commonly administered orally to animals by putting it in their food.

Other statements suggested that it was the practice that the drug was placed in the animal’s food to sedate it before the vet would visit and properly administer the drug intravenously to put the dog down.

Gda McQuillan told the court that the drug was a veterinary-only prescription drug that must be administered intravenously by a vet.

She said the contracts Stone had entered into with the various county councils to provide the service included the provision of animals being put down, but it specifically stated that the drug must be administered correctly by a registered veterinary practitioner.

Stone, of Hazelbrook, Loughlinstown, Ratoath, Co Meath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to using a premises for supply of an animal remedy contrary to various European regulations, possession of an animal remedy designated “veterinary practitioner only” and causing or permitting the administration of an animal remedy contrary to the same regulations on July 24, 2020.

Gda McQuillan said that Stone had been contracted by Dublin City Council and the contract was worth €277,000. This contract ended in March last year and although he went for re-tender it was not successful.

Mr Carroll told the court that the maximum penalty for the offence was a three-year prison term and €500,000 fine.

Gda McQuillan agreed with Justin McQuade BL, defending, that his client was the only accused person to enter a guilty plea, while others are due to stand trial.

She accepted that while he had delegated some of the daily running of the pound to a manager, it was his responsibility to ensure the staff working at the pound were properly trained.

Mr McQuade said his client, a father of three adult children, had been running the pound for a number of years. He handed in a letter from Stone to the court expressing his remorse and embarrassment at finding himself in this position at this stage of career.

He also handed in a number of letters from “a cross section of people” including a vet and a former employee who described Stone as conscientious and diligent.

Counsel said his client believed he had the proper structures in place for the pound and had appointed staff to deal with the daily running of the pound and he had placed his trust in those people.

“He does feel badly let down but has taken ownership,” Mr McQuade said before he added that “shortcuts were taken” and Stone has expressed his “regret and embarrassment for this”.

“It is a very unfortunate, unpleasant and serious matter,” counsel said. He asked Judge Martin Nolan to have regard for his client’s previous “exemplary record”.

Judge Nolan said a very lethal substance had been held where it should not have been and it was being administered by untrained staff when it should have been administered by a vet.

“It can be very dangerous to humans as well as animals - even a small amount can cause serious damage,” Judge Nolan said.

He said Stone had been paid substantially to care for these animals and he had breached this contract.

He said he believed a custodial sentence was not warranted considering his previous good work record, lack of previous convictions and cooperation with the garda investigation.

Judge Nolan said it was a serious matter to have this substance on the premises without the necessary controls before he fined Stone €30,000.

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