A west Roscommon couple was ordered to undergo a probation report for suitability for community service when they appeared on animal cruelty charges before a sitting of Castlerea District Court.

Colm Sharkey of Killaster, Ballinagare was charged with 45 breaches of Section 11 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013. His partner, Fiona Quinn, with the same address, also was charged with 54 breaches of the aforementioned Act, at Killaster, Ballinagare in July last year.

Mr Sharkey pleaded guilty to ten of the 45 charges against him while Ms Quinn pleaded guilty to six of the 54 charges against her.

The case was taken against both accused by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who were represented in court by Helen Johnson, solicitor, instructed by State solicitor for Co Roscommon, Kieran Madigan.

The court was told of an extensive dog breeding operation where up to 88 dogs were kept in sheds at the rear of a house, which was rented by both co-accused. Judge Deirdre Gearty heard the sheds in question were erected without the permission of the owner of the property and had not been the subject of planning approval.

The court was told 63 adult dogs, 50 of these being female and a further 23 young dogs or pups were removed from the premises after a complaint had been made to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) in July last year.

Evidence was also given of an assortment of pedigree breeds on the site of the operation, which included King Charles Cavaliers, Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzu, female cross breeds as well as French Bull Dogs.

Evidence was given of a number of cases of dogs found in a distressed state, discovered with mange, overgrown nails, wax discharges from ears, dental and eye infections, as well as lesions on skin.

The court was told of one of the dogs experienced a 'false or phantom' pregnancy, causing extreme distress to the particular animal.

The dogs were removed on four separate occasions on two days namely 27 July and 29 July 2018. Costs incurred in the transfer of the dogs amounted to €9,750. The court was informed the dogs were kept in cubicles in the shed at the rear of the accused’s rented property.

A total of 39 dogs were removed from the property on the first occasion with a further 47 dogs removed on 29 July, leaving only two dogs on the property, one of which was owed by Ms Quinn’s son.

An official from the ISPCA, Karen Lyons said Mr Sharkey was met at Knock Airport on 1 August last year and signed documentation confirming the removal of the dogs from the site. Later on 1 October in Roscommon Town, Mr. Sharkey was interviewed by ISPCA Inspector Kevin McGinley.

Solicitor for both co-accused, Mary Mullarkey admitted the case "was extremely disturbing".

She said Mr Sharkey had bought a number of the pups which were part of the operation on the 'Done Deal’ website. She said responsibility for looking after the dogs fell to Ms Quinn, while Mr Sharkey was working in the UK.

The court was told the dog compound was operational for approximately 18 months. Ms Mullarkey added that Ms Quinn was extremely distressed by the case before the court.

"She was left to handle the situation and was looking up things online but was falling short"  Ms Mullarkey  said.

Ms Mullarkey said her clients had two children, aged eight and 11. Mr Sharkey was not working at present, owing to a workplace accident. She said both her clients were willing to make a substantial contribution to the ISPCA "if given time to do so".

Judge Gearty described the dog shed as "a significant enterprise".

He added that "these dogs are valuable dogs and would fetch considerable money. I don’t know who the mastermind is." She  noted that both accused were "hands-on" in the operation.

Seeking a Probation Report into both their suitability for Community Service, Judge Gearty said she would make a disqualification order and adjourned the matter for further consideration to the 17 January  court sitting next year.