A Co. Donegal farmer has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after being found guilty of a number of charges of animal cruelty.
74-year-old farmer Leslie Stewart was found guilty of a number of charges after animal welfare officers called to his farm at The Thorn outside Letterkenny on various dates.
Stewart had already served a two-year ban and received a suspended jail sentence imposed in 2016 for starving animals on his property. On that occasion ISPCA officers and vets found several horses and donkeys starving on Stewart’s lands. Several of the animals had to be put down.
Judge Paul Kelly said at the time: “I want to be sure that there are no animals on his property, I want to verify that. This man should not be near or in control of any living creature."
He said the only reason he was not sending Stewart to jail was because of his age.
Animal welfare officers had been monitoring Stewart's situation since and visited his farm on a number of occasions and on a number of different dates they found animals in various states of distress as a result of Stewart's cruelty. The offences date between May 2019 and April 2021.
On one occasion the carcasses of dead sheep were found on his lands with dogs nearby. He was also charged with keepings pigs in a trailer without enough water, keeping dogs in a van without water and keeping poultry in a small locked trailer without water.
Passing sentence on an earlier hearing two weeks ago, Judge Éiteáin Cunningham described the case as "horrendous" and "disturbing".
She fined Stewart a total of €1,500 and also banned him from keeping animals for 10 years with Judge Cunningham noting that the accused had clearly "not learned" from the experience of his previous two-year ban.
She also sentenced him to a total of four months in jail but suspended the sentences for 12 months.
The court was told that Leslie was currently leasing 33 acres of land at The Thorn and Judge Cunningham stressed that Department of Agriculture officials are to be given copies of those leases.
She also gave an order that any animals on the land, understood to be two dogs and a number of poultry, are to be seized from the land. A number of horses and cows on adjoining lands are understood to belong to a neighbour.
Judge Cunningham also stressed that the department be made aware of who controls the lands and that no animals be kept by Leslie in sheds on the land in the course of his 10-year ban.
A number of officials from the Department of Agriculture, as well as local ISPCA Inspector Kevin McGinley, were present at Letterkenny District Court for the ruling.