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horror site ‘Hell-hole’ puppy farmer walkies free after just 27 months for inflicting ‘inexcusable cruelty’ on animals

Rotting carcasses and malnourished dogs and horses found on horror site


‘Hell hole’ puppy farmer Jim Kavanagh

‘Hell hole’ puppy farmer Jim Kavanagh

‘Hell hole’ puppy farmer Jim Kavanagh

‘HELL HOLE’ puppy farmer Jim Kavanagh grinned with delight as he walked free from cushy Shelton Abbey open prison on Friday – after serving just 27 months for inflicting ‘inexcusable cruelty’ on the hundreds of dogs and horses in his care.

Our exclusive pictures show Kavanagh laughing and joking as he was collected by family members who sped him away from the Wicklow jail in a 192 registered white Audi.

The 50-year-old, who was caged for three years in February 2019, featured at the centre of one of the ISPCA’s largest ever animal rescues and confiscations.

Some 340 dogs and 11 horses were freed from the animal abuser’s ‘carcass strewn’ farm in

Raheenleigh on April 14, 2015 when ISPCA welfare inspectors and gardai carried out a joint raid. A 10 minute video recorded by the search team showed how:

  • Dogs lay in their own faeces in stacked cages;
  • Horses were unable to move because their hooves were stuck in muck, and
  • Countless dead animals lay unburied around the farm.

The recording also showed large dogs gnawing on the skeletal frame of a decomposing horse as others fought over a limb torn from another dead animal.


A black and white cocker spaniel with matted fur was seen feeding from a filthy bowl in its tiny metal cage which contained nuts contaminated with faeces. Another dog, too weak to stand, lay in the gravel with its hind legs twitching uncontrollably, its paws covered in open sores from lying in its own urine. A dead sheep and its offspring could be seen on a trailer, suspected to have died during lambing.


There were also a number of dead dogs in sheds around the property, including a spaniel which was badly decomposed and a tiny white puppy left lying on top of a wall.

Appearing before Carlow Circuit Criminal Court on February 22, 2019, licensed dog breeder Kavanagh pleaded guilty to 30 charges of animal cruelty, in relation to dogs and horses.

He was instructed to pay €35,000 and Judge James McCourt also banned Kavanagh from being involved with canines or equines for the rest of his life.

His wife Jenny Kavanagh, who pleaded guilty to 30 charges of permitting animal cruelty, was given a 12-month suspended sentence. She was banned from having canines for 15 years.

Over 11 days, the court heard 340 dogs and 11 horses were removed from the property at Myshall in Carlow.

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The searches were carried out by gardai and the ISPCA.

Although Kavanagh pleaded guilty to 30 charges, 96 other counts were taken into consideration by the court.

Jenny Kavanagh pleaded guilty to 30 charges in relation to 15 animals.


Chief Investigator Garda Catriona Dennehy gave evidence to Carlow Circuit Court about the search on April 15, 2015.

She said dogs were observed in cages with no water, with bedding that was urine soaked and covered in faeces, horses with bones protruding, and a number of dead animals were found around the property.

Garda Dennehy said the animals were “forced to live in absolute squalor with straw that hadn’t been changed in a long time”. The dogs appeared “scared” and “unsocialised”, she said.

ISPCA Chief Inspector Conor Dowling was also present for the search.

He recalled: “We discovered dead animals scattered around the property, some of which were used to feed the dogs. It was harrowing.

“The living conditions these animals had to endure can only be described as squalid.

“The horror and sheer size of the rescue was extremely challenging. I’m 20 years in the job and never before have I come across something like this. The scale and severity was far and above anything I have come across.

“The one thing the video didn’t show was the smell. There was faeces, urine and the rotting carcasses of dead animals everywhere.

“I’ll never forget the smell.


“One shed I’ll always remember walking into, the ground was covered in deep hay but in the hay there were bits of dead animals. There were horses’ hooves in amongst the hay.”

Despite the best efforts of veterinary staff, four horses and 20 dogs had to be put to sleep after the rescue took place.

Following the search, a closure order was served because of the “grossly substandard” conditions and the “massive animal welfare and health issues”.

There were also public health conditions because of the sheds’ proximity to a river and water treatment facility.

Six months prior to the search in 2015, the Myshall property was inspected by Carlow County Council for the purpose of granting a dog breeding licence and no issues were raised.

Colman Cody SC, representing Kavanagh, said the evidence was “grim and inexcusable”, but said “what we are dealing with here is neglect rather than cruelty”.

Roisin Lacey SC, representing Jenny Kavanagh, said the Kavanaghs and their children had been subjected to abuse and threats on social media, which included giving details of their address and “talk about burning them out”.

Jenny Kavanagh was described as a housewife, carer, mother and “an ordinary woman who has become embroiled in an extraordinary situation”.

In passing sentence on Jim Kavanagh, Judge McCourt said it was “extraordinary to find someone of farming stock guilty of such an appalling crime”. He said the images were “hard to comprehend” and the “scene was biblical”.

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