6th October 2020
A game fair judge wept in court as he received a suspended jail term and a ban from keeping animals for 10 years over the death of his dog after leaving it in his car on a hot day.
Breandan Coleman (36), of Dumnagoon Meadows, Craigavon, said he hadn’t deliberately caused the animal’s death.
He left the animal behind after being called in at the last minute to judge an event at the Irish Game Fair at Shane’s Castle in Antrim 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, for the local council, said women approached the car 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 told Antrim Magistrates Court yesterday the owner of the car had then put the dog’s body in the boot.
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 23C outside and 27C inside the car, and the temperature in the vehicle would have risen to 32C after around half-an-hour.
Ms Gilpin added: “The vet concluded the cause of death was heatstroke.”
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”. He 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 heatstroke.
He argued that the point of the contest was that the vet couldn’t have concluded the cause because there had been no post-mortem carried out.
He said: “The issue was that the vet concluded that had it been heatstroke, 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.
He said his client is an animal lover, has been around them his whole life, 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 at the 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 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-month 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 10 years, Coleman wept in court.
The defence lawyer applied to fix bail for appeal, which was granted in the sum of £500.