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horror conditions Puppy farmer who housed dogs in kennels 'crawling with maggots' dodges jail

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Benny Deegan

Benny Deegan

Benny Deegan

AN Offaly puppy farmer who ran, what was described in court as an “animal Auschwitz”, has avoided jail after paying €5,000 in State costs and another €5,000 to the ISPCA.

Brendan 'Benny' Deegan, a 56-year-old from Tullamore, was given a six-month suspended sentence this afternoon after the Circuit Court was told he had paid the money.

However, a condition of the suspension is that he is disqualified from keeping any animals on any land for life.

A sentencing hearing in June was told dogs were being kept in sheds which were dark and bleak, their food and water was contaminated, and most of them, including nursing dogs and pregnant bitches, had flea infestations.

One section of Deegan's premises was a piggery which was used to house dogs and the food there was “horrendous” and “crawling with maggots”, Lisa O'Donovan, senior inspector with the ISPCA said.

Inspectors found pieces of bone, old rotting, smelling meat, dirty water and little ventilation.

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There were three dead puppies, two discarded on a bag and another in a pew with maggots crawling on it.

Of 57 dogs present, 39 were seized and of those 39, 25 had to be brought to the ISPCA centre in Mallow, Co Cork to be cared for properly. Others were taken by Offaly County Council.

Five of the dogs had to be put on antibiotics because of infections and two of them had tumours.

One spaniel had a maggot on a lesion on its head and a bichon frise had gone bald because of fleas.

Arthur O'Connor, an inspector with the Department of Agriculture, told the June hearing he found a plethora of bones in yards and in fields and piles of bones near the pigsty where dogs were kept.

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Photographs taken at the puppy farm

Photographs taken at the puppy farm

Photographs taken at the puppy farm

On one visit he saw evidence of a hole having been dug to dispose of bones, a practice which would be illegal.

The inspector said he found a horse with septicaemia, probably caused by aborting a foal, and she had to be put down.

A portion of another horse's neck was found to contain a microchip which showed it was registered to Deegan.

Adult pigs were foraging on the premises and goats were gnawing at bones.

The inspectors concluded Deegan was in no position to look after any animals.

Helen Johnson, BL, prosecuting, instructed by Sandra Mahon, Offaly state solicitor, said Deegan's farm was “best described as an animal Auschwitz”.

His land had to be cleared of animals but his wife, from whom he was said to be estranged, was permitted to keep five horses on a portion of it.

When she was finalising the sentencing today, Judge Karen Fergus was told a brother of Benny Deegan, Frank Deegan, also a farmer, was grazing cattle on the land and if the land is leased, a copy must be sent to the Department of Agriculture.

Ms Johnson said the department had checked the animals' tags and confirmed they were registered to Frank Deegan.

Willie Penrose, BL, for Benny Deegan, said his client could not leave the land fallow and would have to earn something from it.

Mr Penrose also said Benny Deegan could apply in the future under the Animal Health and Welfare Act to have the disqualification from keeping animals lifted.

Judge Fergus said there would be no issue with the land being used by Benny Deegan's brother.

He would also be entitled to make an application at the appropriate time to have the ban lifted but the court would be very clear that it had ordered a disqualification for life from June 18 last.

Benny Deegan had previously pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, failing to safeguard the welfare of animals, permitting the carcasses of animals on land to which other animals have access, and failing to provide sufficient food or water to animals between August 3, 2018 and February 1, 2019.

Judge Fergus suspended the six-month sentence for 12 months and also ordered Deegan to enter a €500 bond to keep the peace for one year.

Deegan was present in court and only spoke to confirm his compliance with the bond.

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