Dog cruelty accused handed himself in to police over fears for his safety

Peter Toland is charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the dog

Peter Toland

Tanya FowlesBelfast Telegraph

This is the man accused of extreme animal cruelty who handed himself in to police due to fears for his safety, a court heard.

Peter Toland appeared before a special sitting of Dungannon Magistrates Court in relation to the discovery of an emaciated dog which had been buried up to its neck in a park, with a large piece of masonry placed on its head.

Toland (29) of Cornshell Fields, Derry, is charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the dog and four counts of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of animals.

He denies any knowledge of the injuries to the dog.

A police officer told the court he believed all charges could be connected.

The officer explained that at 5pm on March 15, police received a report from a veterinary clinic after a member of the public discovered the dog buried in Ballyarnett Country Park in Derry.

The person who found the animal had to dig around it as the ground was packed in and two males were seen walking from the area.

Police attended and observed the dog to be in an “extremely poor state” and was receiving intensive care.

It was severely emaciated, had multiple punctures to its nose and head, the abdomen had collapsed preventing normal breathing and there were also fresh bite marks and broken teeth, it was stated.

Despite treatment the animal remained unresponsive, and the vet felt it was in such poor condition the only humane option was to euthanise.

The vet described the incident to police as one of “extreme cruelty”.

Police commenced an investigation and there was a large community response to a social media campaign in which Toland was identified.

Information was received that more animals were in his home, but despite efforts police were unable to contact him.

A warrant was obtained and officers entered the property, where a pen was found containing three whippet/lurcher-type dogs without bedding or water and a large amount of faecal matter.

They were removed and taken to safety.

Objecting to bail, the officer said Toland is considered a flight risk having claimed to be in Donegal when he was being sought, although did not say where.

In addition, it is believed he may be at risk as his home address is known by the public and has been attacked and windows have been smashed.

The court heard this was contended to be by members of the public who had “looked for the defendant before police arrived.”

A defence barrister said his client denies any knowledge of the injuries to the dog and has provided “a narrative” of his whereabouts at the time.

It was accepted Toland initially could not be found but when he had become aware the public were suggesting he was responsible, he handed himself in “due to fear for his safety”.

Urging bail to be granted, the defence said Toland’s father was willing to put forward a cash surety and while his current address is not acceptable an alternative would be sought.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan said emotion must be taken out of the equation as defendants are “entitled to the presumption of bail and innocence.”

He agreed to release Toland with a £1,000 surety and ordered residence to be at an address approved to police, with a curfew from 11pm to 7am and electronic tagging.

He is also to sign three times per week with police and must not have, own or be left unsupervised with any animal at any time.

The case will be mentioned again at Derry Magistrates Court next month.

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