A farmer who dumped 12 carcasses from a 300 ft high ‘spectacular’ west Clare cliff-top and left other animals in his control to die in excruciating pain has walked free from court.
At Ennis Circuit Court on Friday, Judge Gerald Keys stated that he could see no benefit in jailing Martin Gerald Foley (66) of Lislanihan, Kilkee as he is no longer a threat to animals and is no threat to society.
Judge Keys stated that Mr Foley is no longer a threat to animals as part of his order is a life-time prohibition order on Mr Foley having any animals in his care.
Judge Keys imposed an 18 month suspended jail term for the dumping of 12 animal carcasses over Cliffs at Baltard, Doonbeg in west Clare in April 2014.
Clare County Council had to construct a pyre to cremate the remains of the eight horses and four cattle which required two tonnes of coal, 90 bags of timber and 90 bags of kindle and it took two days to burn out.
Mr Foley also paid over €7,372 to cover the Council costs of disposing of the animal carcasses and the clean up operation.
Judge Keys also imposed an 18 month suspended jail term for 20 sample animal neglect charges out of a total of 193 charges first brought against Mr Foley “to reflect the seriousness of the offences”.
The animal welfare charges relate to cattle and horses at locations in west Clare at Lisdeen, Lislanihan, Donoghboy, Dough and Baltard on dates between March 2014 and April 2016.
Judge Keys also directed a forfeiture order for the remaining 45 horses on Mr Foley’s lands and this is to come into effect next Friday.
As a result, Mr Foley now has seven days in which to sell the animals and any animals not sold will be taken by a Dept of Agriculture contractor.
Dept of Agriculture inspector, Dr Aileen Tighe told the court on Friday that the cost of the forfeiture of the 45 horses would be €20,000 to €25,000.
Dr Tighe stated that she inspected Mr Foley’s lands on Thursday and found the 45 horses still on the lands.
Last June, Judge Keys had ordered the entire removal of the then 115 horses from Mr Foley’s lands and Mr Foley had undertook to reduce that to zero by the end of October.
Dr Tighe stated that the drop in the number of horses on the lands has been extremely slow “and has been a drip feed of four or five horses here and there”.
Dr Tighe stated that in one particular location inspected on Thursday “the horses are in a slatted shed and getting very poor quality feed with a high rush content. There are some very thin animals in it. The sheds are filthy to say the least. There has been so fresh water and the horses have had to go to a field to try to drink water out of pools of water.”
Judge Keys said that he found the poor feed and conditions that the animals were living in as an aggravating factor in the case.
Counsel for Mr Foley, Pat Whyms BL stated that “the number of horses on the lands is a big reduction on what was there originally. The extraordinary bad Winter has made it more difficult for him (to sell on the horses)”.
Mr Whyms stated that Mr Foley “has been doing his best and has got rid of a lot of animals” and he has plans in place to sell on 27 of the horses.
Mr Whyms stated that the reduction in horses will reduce Dept of Agriculture costs.
Counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL expressed doubts that Mr Foley will further the number of horses.
He stated: “We were told yesterday that there would be 20 horses removed by this morning. That was more pie in the sky……The Dept are at the end of their tether in relation to this matter.”
In reply, Mr Whyms stated “it is not pie in the sky”.
Mr Connolly stated that the State would be agreeable to giving Mr Foley seven more days to sell on the horses.
In relation to the neglect charges, Supt Veterinary Inspector for the Clare-Limerick area for the Dept of Agriculture, Dr Lorna Meaney told the court last June: “The overall scale and severity of this is unprecedented.”
Mr Foley’s sentencing hearing in June heard that horses unable to stand up were left to die in excruciating pain on lands under the control of Mr Foley four years ago.
In the dumping case, the court previously heard that the State authorities carried out a painstaking investigation to identify the remains and pinpoint the culprit through DNA matching of the animals in the face of denials from Mr Foley when he first questioned on the dumping.
In evidence, Det Garda Ollie Downes said that a walker contacted Gardai on March 31st 2014 “in a very distressed” state and informed them of the carcasses she found dumped.
Det Downes said that the cliffs are ‘spectacular’, very popular with tourists and walkers and are part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
He said that the carcasses were in various states of decomposition and that the cattle had their ear ID tags removed.
Det Downes said at the time, there was no requirement for horses to be tagged.
He said that a multi-agency investigation was launched involving the Dept of Agriculture and Clare Co Council.