A farmer in Co. Donegal has been banned from keeping animals for ten years after being found guilty of repeated animal cruelty.

Leslie Stewart, of The Thorn, Letterkenny, appeared before Letterkenny District Court on Monday (September 26) where he was convicted of a number of animal cruelty offences.

The charges related to dogs being kept in a van without water, allowing the carcass of a sheep to remain unburied, and keeping pigs and poultry in trailers without adequate access to water.

Image: ISPCA

The case arose from multiple inspections of the 74-year-old’s farm by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), assisted by senior inspector at the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), Kevin McGinley.

A number of animals were found in various states of neglect during the visits to the farm in 2019 and 2021.

Stewart previously received a two-year disqualification from keeping animals and a suspended jail sentence in 2016 for cruelty to horses and donkeys discovered on his property.

The farmer entered guilty pleas to 16 of the 30 charges at a court sitting on September 6.

DAFM veterinary inspector Brian Gormley gave evidence of his findings during that sitting, and the court was shown photographs taken by senior inspector McGinley.

Gormley said that three collie-type dogs were removed from a locked van and assessed for symptoms of heat stroke. The dogs remained in ISPCA care for rehabilitation and were subsequently rehomed.

Image: ISPCA

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham described the case as “horrendous” and “disturbing”.

Stewart was sentenced to a total of four months in jail, with the sentences suspended for a period of one year.

The judge also fined the farmer a total of €1,500 and banned him from keeping animals for ten years, noting that the accused had clearly “not learned” from the experience of his previous ban.

The court was told that Stewart was currently leasing 33ac at The Thorn.

Judge Cunningham ordered that the department of agriculture be made aware of who controls the lands and that no animals were to be kept in sheds there over the course of the ban.

The judge also ordered that two dogs and a number of poultry on the land be seized.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, ISPCA senior inspector Kevin McGinley said:

“This has been a prolonged and challenging case involving a persistent offender.

“The ISPCA would like to thank the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for prosecuting this case and also DAFM veterinary and technical staff, along with An Garda Síochána, for their assistance which ultimately led to a successful prosecution and conviction in this case.”