FULL REPORT: Man at centre of Myshall puppy farm case sentenced to three years in prison

His wife, Jennifer, has been given a twelve month suspended sentence

Darren Hassett

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Darren Hassett

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news@carlowlive.ie

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James Kavanagh being put into a prison van and holding a jacket over his head outside Carlow Courthouse

There were dramatic scenes in Carlow Circuit Court on Friday when James Kavanagh, who was at the centre of the Myshall puppy farm case, was sentenced to three years in prison for causing animal cruelty. 

A round of applause and cheers erupted from those in the public gallery when Judge James McCourt handed down his sentence and he had to call order in the courtroom. 

James Kavanagh, 48, and his wife, Jennifer, both from Raheenleigh, Myshall, were sentenced on Friday afternoon for animal welfare offences going back as far as 2015.

Mr Kavanagh pleaded guilty to 30 charges - which included twenty offences under Section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act and ten offences under Section 11 of the same Act at Raheenleigh, Myshall. 

The offences relate to causing or permitting animal cruelty contrary to Section 12 and failing to protect the welfare of an animal contrary to Section 11 of the same Act. 

In April 2015, a total of 351 animals including 340 dogs and eleven horses were seized from the farm in one of the worst cases of animal cruelty ISPCA staff say they have ever seen. 

Subsequently, four horses and twenty dogs had to be euthanised because of the condition they were found in. 

The court was shown a ten minute video of a search of the establishment where dogs could be seen feeding on a horse carcass and chewing on its spinal column, their was faecal matter in some animals' food and some were left outside in cages without water and unprotected from the sun. 

A dead sheep and lamb were seen on a trailer, suspected to have died during lambing. Another dog had blood on its neck and an open wound which the court heard was from a bite from another dog. 

There were also a number of dead dogs and horses in sheds and around the property, which had not been disposed of properly. 

In handing down his sentence to Mr Kavanagh, Judge McCourt said: "In the circumstances, I don't believe you can escape a custodial sentence.

"Words fail me to describe what those pictures depict and the condition those unfortunate animals found themselves in.

"The scene was like something biblical. I don't believe you were born into this world an evil man. I don't believe you intentionally inflicted such horrors on those animals, big and small."

The judge described the sentence as a "tough lesson". He also banned Mr Kavanagh from having canine or equine animals for the rest of his life and ordered him to pay €35,000 towards expenses incurred by the ISPCA.

Mrs Kavanagh pleaded guilty to 30 charges in relation to her role in permitting the cruelty which included failing to protect the welfare of an animal - contrary to Section 11 of the Animal Welfare Act - at the registered dog breeding establishment in Myshall. 

Judge McCourt handed down a twelve month suspended sentence and she was banned from having dogs for fifteen years. 

He said he believed the whole thing blew up so fast and she "turned a blind eye" and he accepted her role in this "entire tragedy" was a secondary one. 

Giving evidence, investigating Garda, Kathryna Deneny, said a search warrant was obtained on April 9 of 2015 after complaints had been made about the establishment and it was executed on April 14 of that same year. 

She said some of the animals lived in "absolute squalor" and were in a terrible state and "extremely scared". 

A closure notice was issued by the licensing authority Carlow County Council due to the "grossly substandard conditions". 

The court heard in October of 2014 an inspection was carried out by the Council and the breeding license was granted to Mr Kavanagh in November of that same year. 

In the intervening six months, the court heard that Mr Kavanagh's establishment had become a "dumping ground" for other breeding establishments which had caused the situation to deteriorate. 

Colman Cody, SC, who was defending for Mr Kavanagh, said the situation for his client had gotten out of control in a short period of time and his client was not a repeat offender who had consistently come to the attention of the authorities for animal welfare issues. 

Mr Kavanagh also maintained that he did not feed the horses to the dogs, nor were they his horses, that he left them around back and the animals pulled them around. 

In mitigation, Mr Cody said the court was dealing with a case of "neglect, rather than overt cruelty". 

"Things got on top of him (Mr Kavanagh) in a relatively short period of time. He was not operating in a vacuum. His premises became a dumping ground for breeders not willing to meet the requirements and costs of pet passports and chipping," Mr Cody said. 

In mitigation for Mrs Kavanagh, Roisin Lacey, SC, said her client had a "lesser role" in relation to the offences and had been afraid of horses since a young age. 

She was described as a decent, honest and caring woman who was not directly involved in the breeding establishment except for feeding some of the dogs close to their residence.

Judge McCourt said: "The only thing I find hard to comprehend. I accept your role in this entire tragedy was a secondary one. I find it hard to credit that you couldn't have been aware that something was amiss given the dead carcasses and the smell. 

"It would not serve any useful purpose, as a mother of five, to remove both of their parents from them."

The court heard Mr and Mrs Kavanagh have five children between twelve and nineteen years of age.

ISPCA Chief Inspector, Conor Dowling, was present for the search on the property in April of 2015 and he described the "filthy conditions". 

He said the conditions were "deplorable" and were "shocking, really quite shocking".

Mr Dowling said the condition of one dog was "one of worst cases of animal cruelty" he had seen in a long time and the animal had to be sedated to be groomed. 

A mat that weighed a quarter of a kilo was removed from the ear of one dog while another had only two of their top teeth remaining. 

He described "recurring issues" with the dogs' eyes, ears and coats and observed bitches due to pup and said of one: "If she whelped in that environment they (the pups) wouldn't have lasted very long.

"I'm 20 years in this job and never before have I come across something like this.

"The scale and severity is well above anything I've witnessed," Mr Dowling said. 

The ISPCA estimated their costs for veterinary treatment of the animals and medicine, not including manpower, came to €59,149.