Horses unable to stand up ‘left to die in excruciating pain’

By Gordon Deegan 

Horses unable to stand up were left to die in excruciating pain on lands in west Clare under the control of a 66-year-old farmer three years ago.

At Ennis Circuit Court, today, June 18, detective Garda Donal Corkery made the comments during his evidence and while showing a selection of stark photographs outlining the neglect suffered by cattle and horses at various land holdings under the control of Martin Gerald Foley.

In the case, bachelor farmer Foley of Lislanihan, Kilkee, pleaded guilty to 20 sample charges out of a total of 193 charges first brought against him.

The animal welfare charges relate to cattle and horses at locations in west Clare including Lisdeen, Lislanihan, Donoghboy, Dough and Baltard on dates between March 2014 and April 2016.

In a separate case, also before the court today, Foley pleaded guilty to dumping 12 animal carcasses over cliffs at Baltard, Doonbeg, in west Clare in April 2014.

A pyre to cremate the remains of the eight horses and four cattle required 2t of coal, 90 bags of timber and 90 bags of kindle, the court was told.

‘Appalling condition’

Meanwhile, in relation to the neglect case, veterinary inspector for the Clare-Limerick area for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Dr. Lorna Meaney told the court today: “The overall scale and severity of this is unprecedented.”

The court heard that upon inspection of Foley’s Lisdeen holding near Kilkee in March 2016, Meaney “was taken aback” by the welfare conditions.

Some of the bovine animals in Lisdeen were in pretty appalling condition.

She went on to say that the defendant’s failure to provide basic levels of water and feed for the animals as well as his poor husbandry meant “he is in no position to look after any animals”.

The court was also told that during their inspection, department officials took photographs of decomposed animal carcasses and emaciated animals out in the open.

Detective Corkery pointed out that in 2014 Foley had 100 cattle and 50 horses and that, up until May 2015, a total of 40 animals were unaccounted for.

Describing one photo of two horse carcasses in March 2016 on Foley’s land, the detective said that the two horses “had died in severe pain”.

He then pointed to the fact that the horses had been ‘paddling’ their legs but were unable to get up from where they died.

He added that the large dung heaps beside each horse indicated that they had lain there for a long period of time.

‘Emancipated and dying’

Detective Corkery then went on to describe another photo. This time the image was of a slatted house where the cattle had to wade through slurry that resulted in chemical burns to their legs.

The court heard that another photo was taken of an emaciated cow who was unable to get up from where she lay and, how again, the dung heap beside her showed that she had remained there for a long period of time.

The detective said that the cow had been removed to a passageway where other animals “walked over her”.

Feed found on the lands was extremely poor while in an another instance, a water trough was empty; when department officials switched on the tap the animals rushed to the trough for water.

Meaney, meanwhile, told the court that 11 horses had to be delivered to the knackery between February and April 2016.

This, she pointed out, “was unprecedented”.

The court was told that the department subsequently seized 11 horses on April 20, 2016, and that one had to be put down straight-away.

‘A fall from grace’

Meaney also pointed out to Ennis Circuit Court that Foley had only acquired a herd number to allow him own cattle in April 2013 and the first complaint concerning the welfare of the animals was received in March 2014.

“The most recent inspection by department officials at the end of May 2019 found that there were 100 horses on the lands,” she added.

It was most disturbing that of four young horses only one had access to water and they were being fed very poor quality food made up of rushes and rotten material.

The court then heard that as a direct result of these findings the department issued the defendant with an Animal and Welfare Notice.

Counsel for Foley, Pat Whyms BL, said his client’s appearance in court was “a fall from grace” as the defendant was very well known in equine circles nationally.

Whyms said: “He is not a cowboy. He is a person who has been involved with animals and especially horses all his life.

“He was involved at a very high level and cared very well for animals and kept them in a condition over many years where they were able to compete.”

‘Overloaded and overwhelmed’

Counsel went on to say that his client had competed successfully at the highest level in show-jumping and had the respect of his peers.

“His farm enterprise got very large, very fast; he became overloaded and overwhelmed and these issues arose – there is no getting away from that,” he continued.

It is not a situation where animals were all the time in excruciating pain or dying or dead.

“He no longer holds cattle on his lands having disposed of them last year.”

Meanwhile, during his deliberations on the matter, Judge Gerald Keys said the photos “speak for themselves”.

The judge subsequently adjourned proceedings to allow the court time to prepare for sentencing in the case.

The defendant was remanded on bail and ordered to appear back before the court on October 29 next.

He was also advised by the judge to sell all the horses on his land.

The defendant agreed to provide the court with the exact number of stock that he currently has, record all sales and not to purchase any other horses.

“I’m making no promises in relation to sentencing,” Judge Keys remarked as he concluded proceedings.