Man whose horse was destroyed by council entitled to €2k damages, court rules

A man whose horse was destroyed by a county council over unpaid impounding fees has been awarded €2,000 by the High Court.

Man whose horse was destroyed by council entitled to €2k damages, court rules

A man whose horse was destroyed by a county council over unpaid impounding fees has been awarded €2,000 by the High Court.

Mr Justice Garret Simons made the award in favour of Edward McDonagh,the owner of the stallion, "Chief of Colours" against Galway County Council.

The council claimed the horse was wandering on Headford Road, Galway, on February 11, 2018, when it was seized.

It was destroyed on April 13, 2018 after Mr McDonagh, who rejected the council's claim that the horse was found wandering the road, refused to pay a €3,000 impounding and vet's fee charge.

Mr McDonagh brought High Court proceedings challenging the council's actions.

Last May, Mr Justice Simons ruled the council had acted unlawfully when it destroyed the horse rather than deal with the €3,000 fee by way of sale of the animal or debt collection.

The inclusion of an unlawful €589 administration fee legally impaired the entire €3,000 demand, the judge added.

The court then heard further evidence on the issue of whether Mr McDonagh was entitled to damages.

The council argued it was not liable to pay Mr McDonagh any damages, on grounds including that there are strong public policy considerations against making public authorities pay damages.

The council also argued the powers under the 1996 Control of Horses Act are exercised for the public at large and that Mr McDonagh had not established ownership of the horse.

The council's expert valued it at €1,500 whereas Mr McDonagh's vet told him it was worth up to €35,000 for its breeding value.

In his judgement today, the Judge said the council had acted in excess of its statutory powers in destroying the horse and said Mr McDonagh was entitled to a declaration from the court to that effect.

He found there were no public policy considerations that militate against the imposition of a liability to pay damages in this particular case.

The imposition of having to pay damages, the Judge said, was necessary to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements and to vindicate the property rights of the owner.

The judge said that the value of the horse in this case was modest and that the appropriate award of damages was €2000.

He added sight could not be lost of the wider principle that public authority is liable for its actions in the same way as the private sector.

Mr McDonagh, a father-of-eight, of Bothar an Coiste, Headford Road, Galway, said he intended to use the horse for breeding purposes because of its pedigree.

The progeny would have been used for sulky racing as piebald/skewbald horses such as this fetched higher prices in sulky racing.

He said he had paid €5,000 in 2013, for the horse's mother when she was in foal with Chief of Colours.

It was kept in a field across the road from his home for three years and it was well secured and rejected the council's claims that the horse was found wandering on the road.

However, an expert auctioneer and valuer in bloodstock livestock, said having examined the documents of the horse, valued the animal at €1,500 because it did not meet the required standards for breeding purposes.

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