Neglect Senior Department official guilty of ‘shocking’ animal neglect is still employed on full salary
Judge says ‘every conceivable regulation breached’, with dead and dying animals on officer’s land untagged and untested
June 15 2021 02:24 PM
A senior official involved in investigations into animal welfare continued to be employed by the Department of Agriculture despite having dead and injured animals on his land.
Bernard (Brian) Kilgarriff (64) of Bricklieve, Castlebaldwin, Co Sligo was convicted of animal neglect and animal welfare breaches, along with failing to have his animals tested for TB and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) since 2016.
During the investigation into his breaches, he remained employed on a full salary, and still holds the role.
Kilgarriff pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the testing breaches, and to four of 10 charges relating to neglect, or being reckless regarding the health or welfare of an animal.
Judge Kevin Kilrane said: “It amazes me this man is still a senior agricultural officer with the Department, and during this he was still collecting a full salary — a gentleman overseeing the very matters for which he has pleaded guilty.
“It’s a criticism of the Department that they haven’t followed up with this with greater urgency.
“Every conceivable regulation has been breached. The cattle on his land were in the most shocking state of suffering. Carcasses left unburied, one animal not de-horned, one lying clearly in pain, blood coming from nostrils and a fractured right front leg.”
Judge Kilrane said ‘neglect’ was a mild word for the state the cattle were in, describing it as “the greatest form of cruelty”. He said it was very worrying that the Department still allow him to keep untagged and untested cattle.
Helen Johnston BL, prosecuting on behalf of the Department, told Sligo District Court the defendant’s job was to oversee schemes and he was involved in a number of animal welfare investigations.
A complaint was made to the Department on January 14, 2019. A letter was issued directing Kilgarriff to get his cattle tested. The defendant told vet Kevin Carter he had to get a shed sorted to facilitate testing.
The court was told animals must be tested for TB annually and calves under 20 days of age must be tested for BVD.
In December 2019 a complaint was made to the Department by a woman in a nearby donkey sanctuary who had concerns there was a carcass on Kilgarriff’s land.
The court was told Oliver Hamilton from the Department made nine visits to the farm between December 2019 and January 2020. One of the four carcasses found had been dead for up to four weeks.
Vet Ger Murray, who inspected the land in January 2020, told the court he found a cow against a hedge, untagged, and in considerable pain. The animal had a broken bone in its foot and had to be put down.
The ground was muddy and waterlogged. There was no dry area for cattle to lie down and the shed was unusable. The vet said essentially there was no shelter for animals on the land.
He noted there was severe poaching, and a lack of fencing to prevent animals from going out onto the public road, along with significant rubbish including oil cans, batteries and bags of ash which if ingested could be poisonous. Animals had access to a building site close by where materials were discarded.
He told the court there was a notable lack of facilities for corralling or restraining animals, and nowhere to treat a sick animal.
A black bull and two Charolais cows had to be put down due to their emaciated condition and weakness. Two more animals died over the following two weeks.
Mr Murray said he met with the defendant on the land and he was cooperative.
The court heard the defendant still has a herd number, and has nine registered animals; some were untagged and not tested. Of the 61 animals the defendant had previously on his land, 41 had no identification.
The vet said he saw very small amounts of fodder present. There were no round feeders on the land and concentrate meal seen was thrown on a wall and had fallen on to ground.
Animals were also found to be standing in faecal matter.
No inspection has been carried out on the farm since.
Eoin McGovern BL, defending, told the court his client was a married father of two who had farmed all his life and took great pride in farming. These incidents were of “deep regret” and shame to Kilgarriff.
Documents were handed into court regarding Kilgarriff’s health issues.
“Everything started to get too much for him — he was over-stocked with cattle and the weather turned for the worse,” said Mr McGovern.
The judge asked why he had not got his animals tested since 2016. Mr McGovern said infrastructure on his land was an issue, along with the lack of help at home.
“In hindsight he should have invested in infrastructure and got help,” he added.
Mr McGovern also said because of Kilgarriff’s lack of contact with the animals, they became wild, which inhibited his ability to round them up.
Explaining the failure to remove dead animals, Mr McGovern said his client feared no machine could go in and get them given the underfoot conditions. The Department used a machine to remove the animals.
Sixty cattle had been taken from the land, and the court was told Kilgarriff now has 18 cattle on 200 acres; profits from this were to cover the expenses incurred by the Department.
Mr McGovern said his client had €2,000 in court and was happy to give it to charity.
It was heard the prosecution costs were €500 in relation to the carcass matters.
Mr McGovern clarified that during the investigation he Kilgarriff was restricted in what he could do at work. He also had periods of leave due to his mental health issues.
Kilgarriff was convicted on the two testing charges and fined €1,000 in each matter.
In relation to the carcasses, he was given a four-month suspended prison sentence on each of the five charges.
The suspensions were given providing Kilgarriff does not hold a herd number for five years and he must dispose of the cattle on his land within two months.
“Not alone should he know better but he does know better and is trained and qualified to know better,” judge Kilrane concluded.