In Dungarvan District Court on May 13, 2022, Judge Brian O’Shea handed down four-month custodial sentences to Patrick and Michael O’Brien of Monaman, Lismore, Co. Waterford who had pleaded guilty to offences under the Animal Health and Welfare Act (AHWA) 2013.
Both brothers have also been disqualified from owning any dogs for life and were ordered to pay costs of €1,330 and €1,979 in veterinary fees.
In September 2020, ISPCA Animal Welfare Inspector Alice Lacey followed up on a report from the local dog warden regarding the O’Brien’s premises.
Ms Lacey said it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty she had ever come across, as the dogs had no natural light, little ventilation, little access to water, and there was a build-up of faeces in the premises.
The dogs were also suffering from a range of health issues including untreated skin conditions, malnourishment, bite wounds and matted coats which were caked in faeces and urine.
A number of the dogs were also blind which it was believed was as a result of inbreeding and most of them were feral and terrified of human contact.
“This was an extremely challenging and distressing case to deal with in terms of the number of dogs and the severity of their suffering,” Ms Lacey said.
"The smell was indescribable and the living conditions were horrendous.
"It is so very difficult to comprehend how anyone could let a situation get so out of hand and let so many animals suffer.
"The majority of dogs were not used to being outside in fresh air, and shuddered at any sign of human touch.
"Despite what we had experienced – just a snippet of the dogs lives before intervention and rescue, it was miniscule compared to what I believe, was an existence of desperation and hopelessness for these animals.
“Unfortunately, they were completely powerless with regard to their upbringing and the result of that came in the form of one of the most tragic and upsetting cases of animal cruelty I have ever come across, in my time as an Animal Welfare Inspector”.
She added that due to the severity of their physical and psychological states, many dogs were euthanised to end their suffering.
The others were rehabilitated after spending considerable time in ISPCA care and have now gone to loving homes.
On passing sentence, Judge O’Shea commended the work of the ISPCA and Inspector Lacey. He said that the case was “at the upper end of the range of gravity” and “undoubtedly the worst case of animal abuse” that he had seen.
He added: “It never seeks to amaze me how bad these cases can get. You see one bad case and think it can’t get worse, but it does”.
Neil Twomey, solicitor for the O’Brien brothers indicated to the Court that the brothers were two elderly reclusive men living in appalling conditions.
He said that the accused did not have any medical or psychological reports or anything of that nature.