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Puppy farmer rants in court after conviction for running unlicensed facility upheld

“This is all over a complaint I made against a senior veterinary inspector,” Rigney, who represented himself, alleged.

P J Rigney outside Tullamore Court.

P J Rigney outside Tullamore Court.

Patrick O'Connell

A PUPPY farmer discovered with 60 dogs – including five litters of pups - at his property has had his conviction for running an unlicensed dog breeding establishment upheld.

Appearing before the Circuit Court of Appeal in Tullamore on Wednesday, PJ Rigney made a number of allegations against the ISPCA and Offaly County Council – including that his prosecution was motivated by an earlier complaint he made against a senior vet and that the order against him wasn’t properly signed.

“This is all over a complaint I made against a senior veterinary inspector,” Rigney, who represented himself, alleged.

Naming an ISPCA inspector that carried out an inspection at the property at Circular Road, Daingean on September 30th of 2021, he alleged: “Conor Dowling was sent in to shut me down.”

Rigney was successful in appealing a separate conviction for failing to comply with the directions contained in the closure order ordering him to micro-chip the animals and reduce the number of females eligible for breeding to less than six.

P J Rigney outside Tullamore Court.

In his evidence, Offaly County Vet Aidan Grant said he was called to attend Mr. Rigney’s property by his colleague Michelle Fox – the dog warden for Offaly – who was carrying out an inspection alongside ISPCA inspector Conor Dowling on September 30th of 2021.

He said all the dogs bar one, for reasons of accessibility, were checked for gender and were scanned for micro-chips.

“In summary, “ he said, “there were 15 females, 12 of which were deemed to be eligible, over 6 months of age and deemed to for breeding, 14 males and 31 pups estimated to be between the ages of four weeks and 14 weeks of age.”

Mr. Rigney disputed the number of dogs present at the property saying there had only been 54.

Mr. Grant responded that the micro-chipping records and figures from the inspection were available to the court.

However, he continued, for the purpose of the ‘Dog Breeding Establishment Act’ under which Rigney was being prosecuted, Offaly County Council was only cognisant of the numbers of eligible females present.

“The figure are based on detailed inspection notes from the time.”

Puppy breeder 'will contest' closure order after council claim premises pose 'immediate threat' to animal welfare

Accepting the point and referring to the requirement under the Act that any premises containing six or more females capable of breeding must be registered as a Dog Breeding Establishment, Judge Keenan Johnson said: “I think the key thing is if there were more than six (eligible females). That makes it a breeding establishment which requires a licence under the act.”

Asked about the conditions in which the animals were kept, Mr. Grant said: “The dogs were kept in sub-divisions of two old barn structures.

“The balance of the dogs were housed in external pens that had upcycled industrial containers that had holes or apertures put in with the aim of providing shelter for the dogs from the elements.

“The dogs all had food bowls and water bowls. The food that was available was only scraps. There was no proprietary dog food available.”

He said when Mr. Rigney was asked whether dog food was provided, his response was: ‘It was only provided when scraps weren’t available.’

Mr. Grant continued: “None of the dogs were malnourished.

“Two of the dogs had heavy matted coats and there was one dog in particular I had concerns over.

“There was irritation in the feet due to grooming issues compounded by an external wet environment where it was living outside in gravel and exposed to the elements.

“It also had chronic gum and dental disease which I discussed with Mr. Rigney and advised that he seek an urgent medical opinion on.”

Mr. Grant said: “The premises would fall far short of the infrastructure requirements … it was a haberdashery of items that were recycled … upcycled and not at all suitable for consideration for registration under the Dog Breeding Establishment Act.”

Passing judgement, Judge Johnson said he was satisfied Offaly County Council had proved its case in relation to Rigney running an unlicensed dog breeding establishment.

He said by Rigney’s own admission he had more than six breeding bitches at the premises when the inspection was carried out.

However, he said he was not convinced by the evidence relating to non-compliance with the closure notice describing the evidence as ‘being a bit all over the shop’ and would allow the appeal for non-compliance.

“One message, “ he continued: “that I want to go out loud and clear is that Offaly Co. Council are to be commended for following up on these issues because the welfare of animals is extremely important.”

He affirmed the conviction and fine of €500, for running an unregistered dog breeding establishment, previously handed down to Rigney in the District Court.

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