A man received a ten year ban from owning animals and a €5,000 fine at Gorey District Court last Thursday in an animal cruelty case ‘so vile that the judge refused to look at the pictures’.
he man received the fine and ban for his participation in illegal badger-baiting, which left a springer spaniel dog with no skin on his lower jaw and significant bite wounds all over his body. Dr Peter Murphy, who was the referring vet for the Wexford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WSPCA) at the time the dog was surrendered, told the court of the ‘extreme example of cruelty’ that he witnessed when the dog was brought to his clinic in April 2021. Owing to the extent of the injuries, he recommended that the dog was euthanised.
Speaking after the court case, Dr Murphy said that this cruelty case was of a very severe level.
“On a scale of zero to 10, I would have to make it a nine or ten,” said Dr Murphy, who said that the case was ‘so vile that the sympathetic Judge refused to look at the pictures as he was so terrified’ .
“Badger baiting specifically is a practice that is going on all the time, but it is when people see injuries like this on a dog that they really see how bad it is. We have had other cases like this in the past.”
Speaking at the court case was the ‘final act’ of Dr Murphy’s veterinary career before his retirement. While his time as a vet, he said he has seen many cases of animal cruelty.
“Most people are very kind to their pets, though I would have had regular contact with cases of cruelty. Normally, the first thing I would do is call in and try to give the people advice, as some people just aren’t aware that there is an issue. If they resolve the issue then, we would leave it alone. I always recommend to the WSPCA that they should only prosecute very serious cases.”
When it comes to serious animal cruelty cases, Dr Murphy said he and the WSPCA are determined to bring those involved to justice.
“All the time, we are trying to get justice to enforce the lifetime ban of keeping animals.”
The outcome of the recent Court case was welcomed by Director of the WSPCA, Barbara Bent, who said it was a great achievement for their inspector, Dr Murphy and everyone involved with the WSPCA.
“When it comes to badger baiting, it is very hard to catch the people doing it and prosecution is ever harder so this was quite an achievement,” she said. “In the last six months, we have had two people banned from keeping animals for life because of the standard of cruelty to the animals involved. That sends out a really good strong message to people who don’t care about animals. It shows them that there are consequences for cruelty.”
In one of these cases, an owner left three dogs left in a confined dog box in which they were unable to stand for a long period of time. One of these dogs had wounds on his back and legs which were covered in maggots, while all three were left in their own faeces. The owner got a six month jail sentence and a life time ban from owning animals in Wexford District Court in January.
The second case heard in Gorey in May saw an owner receive two convictions – one for cruelty and neglect of horses and the other for neglecting dogs. All animals survived and were rehabilitated by Wexford SPCA, said Bent.
According to Bent, the introduction of the Animal Health and Welfare Act in 2013 has helped the WSPCA to bring cases of animal cruelty to court.
“The law has changed. We were using 1911 law until 2013. Animals had to be dead before you could do anything and of course, that was no good for the animals. ‘Likely to suffer’ is the wording in the legislation so now, if the animal is likely to suffer, we can get the guards involved.”
While the updated legislation has been welcomed, Bent said it is still difficult to catch those involved in certain acts of animal cruelty.
“Badger baiting happens everywhere but it is so hard to nail these guys down,” she said. “If anyone has an inkling it is going on, we ask them to contact us. One potential sign it is going on is if you see guys going out in the evening with dogs. When they go out at night, they’ve usually earmarked badger dens.”
“I can’t honestly see how people find it a sport,” she continued. “When a badger grabs the lower jaw of the dog, they destroy it. What people can see in badger baiting is a satisfaction I cannot understand.”
Another thing the WSPCA finds hard to tackle due to the secretive nature of it is dog fighting, said Bent.
Bent hopes that, in time, penalties can be made even stronger for those who participate in ‘deliberate acts of cruelty’ such as badger baiting, cock fighting and dog fighting.
If members of the public suspect animal cruelty of any kind, they are advised to contact the WSPCA, said Barbara, who said that all reports will be treated confidentially and in line with data protection legislation.
“We don’t know about things unless people tell us,” she said. “As I always say, one phone call can change an animal’s life.”