Woman receives suspended sentence for ‘appalling’ conditions at her petting farm

Woman Receives Suspended Sentence For ‘Appalling’ Conditions At Her Petting Farm
Veterinary surgeon Aideen Murphy told the court that there was a "decomposing dog on the floor of the kitchen".
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Tom Tuite

Animal welfare inspectors discovered a dead dog decomposing on a kitchen floor, a rabbit's carcass rotting on a hutch, newborn puppies with no access to water, and an "overpowering" stench of animal filth at a Dublin petting farm, a court has heard.

Janet Ball (74) of the Reynoldstown Farm, in the Naul, north Co Dublin, pleaded guilty on Thursday to ten charges under the Animal Health and Welfare Act.


She was given a six-month suspended sentence and disqualified from working with animals after Dublin District Court heard evidence detailing the "appalling" conditions on her farm where she kept about 140 animals.

The charges followed a two-day inspection of her home by the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) in April 2021.

Despite most of the animals being in moderate health, DSPCA inspectors had to leave the house twice due to an "overpowering" stench from dog faeces and urine.

They returned in masks and protective suits to continue the inspection finding dogs in cages, a dead dog decomposing on the kitchen floor, and a dead rabbit on top of a hutch outside.


Sentencing, Judge Anthony Halpin said, "This is a very distressing case of animal cruelty."

"The facts outlined are appalling and beyond one's wildest supposition. I cannot comprehend how the accused could have stayed, given the fumes, smells and deleterious material that were on view.

"It was so bad that animal welfare officers had to leave twice to get fresh air."

But for her guilty plea, he would have had "no hesitation" in imposing a custodial sentence.


"The seriousness of this case cannot be understated, and the harm inflicted upon those animals is simply an outrageous abomination," he said.


He noted from prosecuting counsel Matthew Holmes that she had no prior convictions, and he took into account mitigation pleas on her behalf from the defence.

She had also cooperated with the DSPCA, which allowed them to rescue and re-home most of the dogs, rabbits, geese, ducks, and guinea pigs on the farm.

Patrick Jackson BL, for Ball, pleaded with the judge to consider her ill health at the time, the breakdown of her marriage and that it happened during the Covid crisis while she was also caring for her brother. In her 33 years of caring for animals, this was her first time before the court, he also submitted.


Judge Halpin added that he inferred that there was no deliberate malice in respect of the offence before the court.

He imposed a six-month suspended sentence on the condition she did not reoffend for the next two years.

He also acceded to a request from Mr Holmes to disqualify her from working with animals for five years.

Four dogs and two horses which the DSPCA accepted as being of comfort to her brother, are to remain on the farm.


DSPCA inspector Tony McGovern told the court that concerns grew for an unspecified amount of animals inside the house and on the surrounding grounds of the property. Accompanied by gardaí, he and colleagues entered the house by the back door and immediately noticed a smell of dog faeces and urine.

At that point, they had to go out to put on masks and protective white suits before re-entering the house.

Mr McGovern said he found ten or 11 dogs in one room without ventilation or natural light. There were 33 dogs inside the property, many in cages and without access to fresh water.

'Overpowering smell'

Whelping led them to look into the kitchen full of clutter with an "overpowering smell".

The DSPCA team left again due to the stench of what the inspector believed was long-term defecation and urination.

They went back in with high-powered torches and found some of the dogs had newborn puppies with no access to water.

Outside, they found 53 rabbits in hutches without water in filth-ridden old bedding. A dead rabbit's carcass was decomposing on one of the hutches.

A shed that had not been cleaned contained ducks and geese.

Veterinary surgeon Aideen Murphy told the court that there was a "decomposing dog on the floor of the kitchen".

She recalled a dog on the table and other dogs running around the kitchen.

Their coats were matted and had fleas, but they were microchipped, vaccinated and generally in good condition.

The rabbits were also using their soiled hay bedding as food.

Judge Halpin noted that another vet examined 28 horses, 14 donkeys and one ewe and found they were in moderate condition.

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