A MAN wept in court as he received a suspended jail term and was banned from keeping animals for ten years following the death of his pet dog which he had left in a car in hot temperatures at the Irish Game Fair at Shane’s Castle in Antrim town.
Antrim Magistrates Court, on Monday, heard Breandan Coleman (36), of Dumnagoon Meadows, Craigavon, said he hadn’t deliberately left the dog to die but that he had left the animal behind after being called in at the last minute to judge an event at the Fair on June 24, 2018.
The defendant had previously been found guilty of two charges – causing unnecessary suffering to a Black Patterdale Terrier type dog and failing to ‘take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the animal’.
Prosecution barrister Jennifer Gilpin, on behalf of the local council, said a ‘papers’ contest in the case had previously been heard in January this year.
The defendant was at Antrim Magistrates Court for sentencing on Monday where Ms Gilpin said a complaint had been received about a death of a dog which she said had died as a result of being “left in a car” at the Irish Game Fair on June 24, 2018.
She said the car had been parked in an open area with no cars nearby and the windows were “fully open” and the car was rocked to activate the alarm.
The prosecutor said two women approached and said the dog was dead “and there was no air into the car” and they had tried “CPR” but to no avail.
The prosecutor said the owner of the car had then put the dog’s body into the boot of the vehicle.
When interviewed the defendant said he had come back to check on the dog and had been away for a “maximum of half an hour”.
The prosecutor said a vet report said the temperatures were 23 degrees celsius outside and 27 degrees celsius inside the car and the temperature in the vehicle would have risen to 32 degrees celsius after around half an hour.
Ms Gilpin added: “The vet concluded the cause of death was heat stroke”.
The prosecutor asked the court to consider disqualifying the defendant from keeping any type of animal as the death of the dog meant it had been a “serious” case.
The defendant became emotional in court and said he was “not accepting that” and added: “It was a tragic accident, that’s all it was, I have been round dogs 30 years”.
He said he had “won every single show in Ireland” with the dog that passed away and he said he had not intentionally put the pet into the car “to die,” saying the death had “broke my heart” and that of his child’s.
Defence barrister David McKeown said it was “not true” to say the vet concluded that the death was caused by heat stroke and he said that had been the point of the contest.
He said the point was that the vet couldn’t conclude the cause because there had been no post-mortem carried out “and the issue was that the vet concluded that had it been heat stroke the dog would have suffered but again there is no evidence that that is actually what it was”.
The barrister said the defendant would say it was a “tragic accident”.
The lawyer said his client is an “animal lover” and has been around animals his whole life and is well-known in animal circles and “regularly judged animal competitions”.
On the day in question, the barrister said somebody had “taken ill” and the defendant had been asked “last minute to stand in for them” and when he did so the tragedy had occurred “whilst he was standing in and judging the competition”.
Mr McKeown said the defendant was “very fond of” the dog and it was a real tragedy to him which had “hit him quite hard”.
The lawyer added the defendant was not someone who was “deliberately neglecting dogs” but someone who was “as much a victim” as he had lost his “favourite animal” and he would “have to live with that”.
The barrister said the defendant had given the dog a lot of attention and “loving care” over the years and there had been no suggestion of any such previous incidents involving animals.
The court heard the defendant was on a suspended sentence for an unrelated assault on a “first responder” and that the dog incident had pre-dated that.
District Judge Nigel Broderick told the defendant he recognised that death of the dog had caused him “emotional trauma” but he regarded it as as a “serious incident”.
The judge added: “In the court’s view the dog suffered unnecessarily which resulted in its death”.
He handed down a three months jail sentence, suspended for a year, along with a court order for costs in the amount of £337.
As the judge banned the defendant from keeping any animal for ten years Coleman wept in court.
The defence lawyer applied to fix bail for appeal which was granted on the sum of £500.