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Dogs taken into care after ‘one of worst cases’ animal welfare officer has seen

TWELVE dogs found in a Fermanagh shed were living in the worst conditions an animal welfare officer has encountered in her career, a local court has been told.

At Enniskillen Magistrates Court, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council successfully applied to have the dogs, which had already been in its care since being seized last year, officially transferred to Council ownership to allow them to be rehomed.

The dogs had belonged to Nigel Leonard of Wattlebridge Road, Newtownbuter, who self-represented himself at the court hearing on Wednesday. Clearly aggitated and upset in the court room, Leonard was warned he would be found in contempt of court and taken into custody if he kept interupting proceedings.


The court heard that on July 20 last year, Council animal welfare officers inspected a tin shed in Macken that housed 12 dogs. The inspection had been carried out following an anonymous call to police.

An animal welfare officer who had attended the scene said the conditions the dogs were living in were the worst she had seen. She was satisfied the dogs were suffering and likely to suffer, and the dogs were taken into Council care.

Barrister Conleth Rooney, acting for the Council, referred to photographs that were submitted to District Judge Steven Keown showing the conditions the dogs were being kept in, stating “a picture paints 1,000 words.”

Mr Rooney said the inspection took place during one of the hottest weeks of the year, with temperatures at 23C at 11.24am outside the tin shed, which was “akin to animals being locked in a car.” He added the welfare officers had noted the dogs had “a meagre amount” of water available in their pens.

The court was told raw meat was also found in the shed which seemed, by the smell, to have begun to rot.

Of the 12 dogs, two were injured, one of them seriously. The seriously injured dog needed extensive medical treatment, including surgery, for severe vaginal prolapse and still suffers from heart and kidney failure even now.

Leonard, who had previously been issued with a noticed regarding the welfare of dogs he owned, took issue with the fact a vet had not attended the shed at the time of the inspection, and began shouting loudly about the issue in the courtroom.


Mr Rooney said that, given the Covid situation at the time, the vet had not attended in order to limit the number of people on site.

The vet himself then gave evidence to the court that from the descriptions given to him by the animal welfare officers, and the photos he was shown, he was confident in his assessment the dogs were suffering and were at risk of suffering. He said since treating the dogs, his opinion had not changed since.

When Leonard put it to the vet that he was “only going on what they told you”, in reference to the Council inspection team, the vet replied that he had worked with the animal welfare officer involved for years and if she was telling him the conditions were the worst she had encountered, then he was satisfied it was bad.

Mr Rooney said “the letter of the law” had been followed in the seizure of the dogs, and there was a clear case why the dogs should be rehomed and that Leonard should pay the costs involved. He said it had cost the Council £10,320 to care for the dogs since last year, as well as over £2,000 for veterinary bills.

District Judge Steven Keown said, having seen the photographs, he agreed with the animal welfare officer that the dogs had been living in horrific conditions. He granted the Council’s application and ordered Leonard to pay costs of over £4,000.

“Hopefully you will never be let near a dog ever again,” said Judge Keown, who then told the disruptive defendant to “get out of the court.”

Leonard later indicated his intention to appeal the ruling.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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