Peter Toland: The owner of a dog found partially buried alive could face a prison sentence

His American Bull Terrier had to be humanely euthanized after he was found partially buried under a large piece of brickwork in a country park

Peter Toland was sentenced at Derry Magistrates Court on Monday.

His American Bull Terrier had to be humanely euthanized after he was found partially buried under a large piece of brickwork in a country park on the outskirts of the city last March.

Following a contested hearing, Toland was also found guilty on three separate counts of failing to provide adequate checks to ensure the welfare of three other dogs.

The maximum penalty for a conviction for animal cruelty is 12 months in prison.

The three other convictions each carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Toland, 29, of Carnhill Borough, chose not to testify during the hearing before District Judge Ted Magill.

Prosecution witness Shauna Greeney of Whitehouse Veterinary Clinic said the dog, known as Luna, was brought to the clinic by police on March 15 after being partially buried and under a tree by a member of the public at Ballyarnett Country Park Stone had been found.

A second veterinarian also examined the dog and concluded that euthanizing the animal was the best solution.

Ms Greeney said the dog had a body mass of two out of nine, meaning it was severely emaciated and there was no muscle mass. His canine teeth were broken and his pulse was exposed.

The dog’s ears were covered in mud and the animal also had fractures to its face caused by blunt force trauma.

She said that the extent of Luna’s emaciation was so great: “It takes a long period of time, months, to reach this stage of emaciation.”

From court records, the district judge read that Luna had a hematoma on her face and fractures caused by blunt force trauma.

He said the fractures were recent, possibly only hours old, and that the blows to the face were caused by a broad object.

He said there was no indication Luna was used to fight or rush.

The court heard that in his police interview Toland said he had owned the dog for two years.

He said he traveled to Donegal on March 15 and when he returned home he noticed Luna was missing.

Toland told police that Luna “dropped a litter of puppies last October” but that he never took the dog to a veterinary clinic or registered any of his dogs with a clinic.

When police searched Toland’s home, they found three other dogs in the fenced back yard. There was no water for the dogs, inadequate bedding and there were significant amounts of feces in the yard.

The prosecutor said Toland told police that Luna had never run away before and that he searched for the missing dog for an hour after discovering it was missing.

Defense lawyer Eoghan Devlin said there was “absolutely no doubt that Mr Toland is a terrible pet owner” but argued the prosecution had not proven the defendant buried the dog alive.

The lawyer said police failed to properly investigate the incident. They did not search for CCTV footage or conduct an identity investigation for the citizen who found the dog and saw two men at the scene, he claimed.

The district judge said either the dog got out of the back yard and someone partially buried it, or someone took the dog out of the back yard and did it.

“It is appalling and despicable that this animal was found the way it was found. To think that someone could bury the animal alive is simply incomprehensible,” he said.

“No person with the slightest decency would do that. But someone did it, either one or more unknown people did it, or the dog somehow got out for the first time and then someone did this to the dog.”

“This animal was in appalling health. It was emaciated, there was no muscle mass, it had broken canine teeth, puncture wounds and facial fractures that were the result of a blunt injury with a broad object.”

“This animal had suffered for months over an extended period of time and that is clearly the defendant’s fault.”

“He took no steps to get the dog treated, no steps to take him to a vet. He took no steps to deal with a severely emaciated dog, he is guilty.”

The district judge then banned Toland from keeping animals for life.

He said he would sentence Toland, who has 46 other criminal convictions, after a pre-sentence report was completed on December 11.

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