A farmer who was banned from keeping animals for ten years was back in court again this week.
Leslie Stewart (74) only handed over a collie dog on the morning the matter was due in court after six visits by an ISPCA inspector.
Last September, he was given a four-month suspended prison sentence when convicted of animal cruelty charges that were described as ‘disturbing’ and ‘horrendous’.
Stewart, of The Thorn, Letterkenny, was banned from keeping animals for ten years and any animals on his land were to be seized.
He was before this week’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court following a case brought by the Department of Agriculture.
ISPCA Inspector Kevin McGinley outlined various visits to the property to Ms Helen Johnson BL, for the prosecution.
Accompanied by officials from the department, Mr McGinley called on the same day of the court order, on September 26, 2022 at 4pm.
Mr McGinley informed Stewart he was present to seize two dogs. One female dog was secured, but a second could not be caught.
Stewart told McGinley: “You’re nothing but a pig.” Later, he said: “There is only one type of guard, that’s a dead one.”
A notice to surrender the animal within 72 hours was issued to Stewart.
On September 30, 2022 at 10.10am, Mr McGinley called again and Stewart was heading towards his fine. Mr McGinley spotted a black and white collie dog looking out from a window of the house.
On this occasion, Stewart told the ISPAC inspector: “I don’t want to speak to the likes of you.”
On October 5, 2022 at 1.15pm, as Mr McGinley was driving in the lane way, he observed the same dog located to the right of the house. Mr McGinley knocked at the door, but there was no reply and Stewart could not be located.
On October 20, 2022, Mr McGinley visited again. He could see the collie wandering on the property. Mr McGinley asked Stewart to secure the dog, but was told that he couldn’t catch it. Stewart told Mr McGinley that the dog had never been inside the house.
Eight days later, Mr McGinley, accompanied by the department vet, Mr Brian Gormley, attended the property and met with Stewart, who drove off when the men explained why they were present.
On November 1, 2022, Stewart undertook to hand over the dog when he appeared at Letterkenny District Court.
When Mr McGinley called that day, he found the dog to be ‘agitated’. With the dog uncomfortable with a lead, Mr McGinley had to place a grasper on its neck.
Mr McGinley told the court that he never found Stewart co-operative ‘at any stage’ and described him as ‘evasive’.
Defence solicitor Mr Kieran O’Gorman asked Mr McGinley if he had been able to catch the dog on October, 20. The ISPCA inspector said he couldn’t, but added: “In a contained environment, the dog wouldn’t have been hard to catch.”
Mr O’Gorman said his client believed that Mr McGinley was a member of An Garda Siochana.
“The dog was difficult to catch, eventually it was brought to the house, the ISPCA was contacted and they got the dog,” Mr O’Gorman said.
Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said she did not accept that Stewart had a difficulty in catching the dog.
“It is clear to me that the dog was in the house and that is the concern,” Judge Cunningham said.
“This is a very serious matter. Orders are in place and continue to be in place.”
Ms Johnson told the court that there are 61 sheep and a number of cattle on various lands at the property and Mr O’Gorman said these animals were ‘tagged’. Ms Johnson said if the lands were not leased then the animals would be under Stewart’s control.
Judge Cunningham adjourned the matter until September 5 for sentencing and said Stewart was to be ‘monitored.
In September, Stewart was convicted at Letterkenny District Court after officers found animals in various states of distress as a result of Stewart’s cruelty. Those offences dated between May, 2019 and April, 2021.
Carcasses of dead sheep were found on his lands with dogs nearby. Stewart was also charged with keepings pigs in a trailer without enough water, keeping dogs in a van without water and keeping poultry in a small locked trailer without water.
The court heard he previously received a suspended prison sentence and was banned from keeping animals for two years in 2016 for starving animals on his farm. Then, ISPCA officers found horses and donkeys starving with some of the animals having to be put down.