State solicitor's mum ran illegal puppy farm in Offaly for over a decade
Animal welfare inspectors called in gardaí after they were refused access to Mahon's fenced-off Offaly compound for a court ordered inspection on Monday
A stand-off took place after animal welfare inspectors called in gardai when they were refused access to a puppy farm illegally run by the mother of a State solicitor.
OAP Maureen Mahon ran an unregistered puppy farm for more than a decade due to 'a complete ignorance of the law' - her solicitor claimed in court this week.
The claim was made over two days in court for Mahon, during which:
Animal welfare inspectors called in gardaí after they were refused access to Mahon's fenced-off Offaly compound for a court ordered inspection on Monday;
Judge John King questioned if the 71-year-old had ever registered her puppy farming business with Revenue;
Mahon had another female dog seized from her - bringing to 44 the number of 'eligible bitches' now removed from her care;
And she was hit with a fine of €1,600 and costs of €700 after she pleaded guilty to running an unregistered dog breeding establishment.
Maureen is the mother of Offaly solicitor Sandra Mahon, who prosecuted 'Animal Auschwitz' puppy farmer Benny Deegan on behalf of the State in 2020.
There is no suggestion that Sandra Mahon knew of her mother's non-compliance with the law, which, it was accepted in court this week, dated back to the 2000s.
Appearing in court on Monday morning, Maureen entered a plea of guilty to the charge of being the owner, occupier and operator, on about January 25, 2021, who did operate a dog breeding establishment at a premises located at Lugmore, Geashil, Offaly contrary to sections 22 and 6 of the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010.
The solicitor prosecuting the case on behalf of Offaly County Council told Judge King that following an inspection on January 25, 2021, 43 eligible female dogs were surrendered to the ISPCA by Maureen Mahon.
Veterinary Inspector Aidan Grant was called by Judge John King to give evidence as to the condition of the dogs and the breeding kennels in which they were kept.
Asked by Judge King whether the dogs were in a good condition, Mr Grant replied: "No, there were a number of concerns raised."
He said these included concerns in relation to management practices and disinfection procedures.
He said a subsequent closure notice issued to Maureen Mahon outlined the concerns noted for the animals.
"A number of them were matted," he said, "their coats were matted, there were dental issues and ear issues."
Mr Grant said the legal obligation to register the property as a dog breeding establishment came into effect in 2012 and confirmed this would have meant had Maureen Mahon registered as required, she would have been subject to periodical inspections. He said the registration fee, based on the number of animals found on the property, would have been in the region of €1,600 annually.
Asked whether Maureen Mahon had ever been registered, Mr Grant replied: "No!"
He added: "She refused to apply to register under the Dog Breeding Establishment Act."
Asked if he was aware how long Maureen Mahon had been operating, Mr Grant said: "No records of births, deaths, movements or sales were kept."
Judge King then inquired: "No doubt, she had registered her business with the Revenue Commissioner, had she?
To this, Maureen Mahon's solicitor Mr Cooney replied: "This was a business, Judge, that developed somewhat naturally."
He did not clarify further whether Maureen Mahon was registered with the Revenue or had paid taxes on income accrued over a decade of running the unregistered enterprise.
Judge King inquired of Mr Grant whether Ms Mahon had refused to allow inspectors access to the property subsequently.
"Yes," responded Mr Grant, "on several occasions."
Judge King then asked whether there was a potential under the Act to impose a prison sentence and when this was confirmed noted: "So, she could go to prison."
Mr Cooney interjected: "This is a serious matter, Judge."
"I agree," responded Judge King. "It's an extremely serious matter and she doesn't seem to be taking it very seriously."
After Mr Cooney confirmed his client would be willing to allow an inspection of the property, Judge King adjourned sentencing until Wednesday.
Mr Grant, animal welfare workers Michelle Fox and Alma Kelly and a representative from the ISPCA subsequently travelled to Maureen Mahon's home address.
The Sunday World also travelled to the property, independent of any interaction with the inspection team, based on the fact that an inspection had just been ordered in court by Judge King.
On arrival at the property, it was noted that new corrugated fencing has been erected blocking the property from public view, while steel spikes have been stuck into the top of the front gates.
Approximately an hour after Mr Grant and his colleagues arrived, Maureen Mahon's son James drove up and informed them the inspection would not be facilitated until the following day.
He told Mr Grant this had been agreed between his mother's solicitor and council's solicitor.
Mr Grant subsequently informed James Mahon he was an authorised officer and that refusal to allow access was 'obstruction.'
"I can inspect this premises at all reasonable times," he said, "and furthermore the court has requested me as an authorised officer and my colleagues, who are also authorised officers, to come into this property today."
Following a lengthy stand-off during which the inspection team called gardaí out to the property, Mr Grant and his team forced their way on to the premises by scaling a wall and shoving aside a section of fencing.
When the inspectors emerged again, two hours later, they did so carrying a Bichon-Maltese cross bitch in a carry-case which they had seized from the property, citing concerns for the animal's welfare.
When the matter came back before the court on Wednesday, Mahon's solicitor Mr Cooney criticised the inspection, saying it had happened "very quickly" and claimed the inspectors had carried it out with the media "in tow."
Mr Cooney also criticised previous media coverage of the closure order issued to Maureen Mahon, saying it had included coverage of the fact Ms Mahon's daughter is Offaly State solicitor Sandra Mahon.
"I wasn't making an issue of it previously Judge," he said, "but this is an issue which has been of huge concern to my client because of her daughter's position …"
Judge King asked for the inspection report compiled from Monday's inspection to be furnished to him. After reading it and inquiring whether photographs in the report were current, he asked Mr Cooney to address the court on his client's behalf.
"The background, Judge," Mr Cooney said, "is Ms Mahon started dealing with dogs through boarding kennels.
"But it was very difficult to run so she got gradually into dog breeding.
"And it was prior to the 2010 Act which brought into effect legislation dealing with dog breeding establishments.
"And she proceeded somewhat, and not just somewhat, in complete ignorance of the law which is obviously not a defence for the number she had in January 2021.
"She shouldn't have had."
Mr Cooney continued that the number of dogs found on the property on Monday did not fall into the category that would have qualified it as a dog breeding establishment.
"She is not going to be doing that again," he said. "She has no previous convictions."
In sentencing, Judge King noted: "I can only deal with the charges in front of me."
Convicting Maureen Mahon, he imposed a fine of €1,600 and costs of €700, giving her six months to pay.
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