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Owner of thoroughbred horse sues Galway County Council over alleged seizure and slaughter

Edward McDonagh seeks various orders and declarations against Galway County Council.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/horsemen

THE OWNER OF a thoroughbred horse has sued Galway County Council over what he claims was the local authority’s wrongful seizure and subsequent slaughter of the animal.

The action has been taken by Edward McDonagh of Bothar an Coiste, Headford Road, Galway in respect of a stallion he owned called Chief of Colours, which was seized by the local authority in February 2018.

In what are judicial review proceedings, McDonagh seeks various orders and declarations against Galway County Council.

These include the council acted outside of its powers when it refused his request to release to horse and when it euthanised the horse as a manner of enforcing a debt of which there was a genuine dispute.

He also seeks declarations that the council’s policy of detaining and disposing of horses where fees have not been paid, the failure to provide McDonagh with information legitimately requested, and its failure to engage with him, and did not respect his constitutional rights to fair procedure.

He further seeks damages for the wrongful and unlawful slaughtering of his horse.

The claims are denied.

Opening of case

Opening the case at the High Court today, Micheal O’Higgins SC told the court that his client’s horse was seized by the council in February 2018.

Counsel said it is McDonagh’s case that the horse was properly and adequately fenced in a field outside Galway City for three years prior to its seizure.

Initially, the Council denied taking the horse, but later admitted it had done so.

Counsel said McDonagh had the horse microchipped, had through his solicitor sought the reasons behind the seizure, as well as the return of his horse.

The council said in reply that the horse had been seized due to several breaches of the Control of Horses Act and that a horse passport issued by the Ireland & GB Standardbred Trotting Horse Association was not acceptable identification.

There was further correspondence between the parties, counsel said.

On 13 April 2018, McDonagh was informed by the council that if he did not pay fees for keeping the horse of €3,100 it would have the horse put down.

Counsel said while McDonagh’s solicitor asked the council not to kill the horse on 16 April he was advised by a council representative that the horse had been destroyed.

Counsel said that in this case, where it is claimed his client was denied fair procedures, there was no evidence to the court concerning the local authorities assessment of McDonagh’s evidence of the ownership of the horse.

His client had produced several pages of documents concerning the horse’s ownership to the local authority shortly before the horse was euthanised, counsel added.

Counsel said that his client also rejects any claim that the horse was not in good health when it was seized.

Claims denied

The claims are denied, and the council says its decision to detain, withhold and dispose of the horse was valid and done in accordance with law, in particular, the council’s bylaws enacted under the 1996 Control of Horses Act.

The council, represented by Stephen Dodd Bl, claimed that despite being given plenty of opportunities to do McDonagh had failed to produce valid information that would have identified him as the owner of the horse.

McDonagh did not hold a valid passport for the horse, it is claimed. The council also denied that the horse was wrongly and disproportionately withheld because the fees were not paid.

The council had given him several opportunities to pay the fees due but McDonagh had failed to do so. The horse, the council said, was seized after it was found wandering on a public road, and was causing a hazard to motorists.

It was not taken from private property, the council said.

Following the conclusion of submissions from both parties, Justice Garrett Simons reserved his decision.

The Judge said he would give judgement in the matter after Easter.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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