Court hears Limerick man convicted of animal neglect offences was trying to nurse them back to health

Andrew Hartigan outside Kilmallock District Court. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

A MAN convicted this week of failing to properly care for dogs in his charge has not been banned from looking after animals after the State acknowledged in court that he had been trying to nurse the animals back to health.

Andrew Hartigan (35), of Oliver’s Flats, Old Pallas, County Limerick, was arrested by Gardaí at his home on January 17 last year. During a search of his home, Gardaí seized 19 dogs, including 15 pit bull terriers, two Alsatians, and two Rottweilers.

On Tuesday of this week (February 20), Kilmallock District Court heard that a previous application brought by Mr Hartigan under the Police Property Act, in which he sought the return of all of the dogs, had been withdrawn and Mr Hartigan was pleading guilty to four counts contrary to Section 45 12 (1) (a) and (b), of the Animal Health and Welfare Act, 2013, which widely relates to neglect, endangerment, or the health and welfare of an animal.

Inspector Barry Manton told the court that the dogs were found by Gardaí in “overcrowded” and “unclean” kennels.

“It should be said that the likelihood is the conditions were created by overcrowding rather than absolute neglect,” Insp Manton said.

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The inspector said it appeared that Mr Hartigan had been nursing the animals back to health, but he had become overwhelmed by the number of dogs he had taken on.

Mr Hartigan had built kennels to home the dogs, but there were too many dogs to each kennel, the court heard.

“He had taken them from others who weren’t able to deal with them, and the unsanitary conditions were largely due to overcrowding.”

Mr Hartigan’s solicitor, Ian McNamara, said it was an unfortunate set of circumstances which he suggested were at the lower end of offending under the Act.

“He took in more dogs than he was adequately able to take care of. Some of the dogs were his, some belonged to others. He thought he was helping,” added Mr McNamara.

The solicitor said Mr Hartigan had previously worked in the construction industry, and that “following media publication of the court case, he had to travel away from home to find work and was on Jobseeker’s Allowance”.

“He took in the dogs in poor condition and he was attempting to improve their health.”

Inspector Manton, answering a query from Judge Patricia Harney, said the State was not seeking to ban Mr Hartigan from keeping dogs.

Inspector Manton confirmed that at least four of the dogs, which were seized from Mr Hartigan, had been returned to him and he has been adequately looking after them.

Six of the dogs had been returned to their owners and the remaining nine dogs were still in the care of the State.

The court heard Mr Hartigan had no prior convictions in respect of animal health or safety.

Judge Patricia Harney said she had to mark her “disapproval” of the Mr Hartigan’s actions, but said the defendant was entitled to “credit” for his guilty plea.

The court heard the maximum sentence that could have applied was six months in prison and or a fine of up to €5,000.

The judge convicted Mr Hartigan on one count under the Act, fining him €200 with four months to pay. She took the remaining three counts into consideration.