Belfast Telegraph

Horse dealer and dad who allowed animals to starve to death jailed in one of 'worst animal cruelty cases encountered'

By Michael Donnelly

A horse dealer and his father have been jailed for 'one of the worst' cases of animal cruelty in which police said they discovered a 'scene of horror' with decomposing dead horses among those still alive.

Judge Desmond Marrinan told 55-year-old Robert James McAleenan and his 28-year-old son, Conor, that "it is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty" he had encountered and that they should be "thoroughly ashamed of their callous behaviour".

Conor McAleenan was sentenced to 14 months and Robert, for nine months over the cruelty on their Co Antrim farm.

The pair - from Lisnevenagh Road in Antrim - will serve half their sentence in prison.

A total of 63 horses, ponies and donkeys were discovered - the corpses of six animals found rotting, while three others had to be put down, the court had heard.

In one corner the vet found a heap of bodies of horses and ponies, which had been dead for sometime, while in a shed were found six animals in an emaciated state.

Today, Antrim Crown Court judge Desmond Marrinan said he was unimpressed and found no substance in defence claims father and son had not set out to deliberately cause suffering or distress to the animals, and it was a case of neglect.

He said the case photographs were "horrific ... almost unbelievable", and the evidence bore "testimony to the fact they treated these poor animals in a pitiless manner without the slightest regard for their welfare.

"In my view they are unfit to be carers for any animal.  They should be thoroughly ashamed of their callous behaviour," Judge Marrinan said.

Both father and son pleaded guilty last month to a total of 32 charges involving causing unnecessary suffering to the animals between November 1 and 25 in 2011.

In his three page sentencing remarks Judge Marrinan said the sentences may have been more, but that there was an unnecessary delay, three years, in dealing with the case, and in addition, the pair were entitled to modest credit for their guilty pleas.

Sitting in Coleraine, the judge said what confronted vets and police on November 22, 2011, was a scene of horror and overpowering stench, with dead animals lying in a heap, with other standing around in filth, left to fend for themselves.

One vet said that the "scale of what he saw was unbelievably large...that father and son had fundamentally failed to protect the animals".

The vet said the some were in "such a pitiful state of suffering that they had to be euthanised on humane grounds".

Judge Marrinan said that "in short these animals had no suitable environment, proper food and no attention paid to their need to be protected from pain, suffering injury and disease".

The animals, he said were left to fend for themselves, and "most of them were denied one or more of their basic needs on a deliberate and callous fashion.

"The scale and numbers involved and the suffering endured makes this one of the worst cases of its type".

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