Man accused of extreme animal cruelty handed himself in 'due to fear for his safety'

Dungannon magistrates court heard this morning that the 29 year old man accused of extreme animal cruelty handed himself in due to fears for his safety

A twenty-nine-year-old man has appeared before a special court sitting in relation to the discovery of an emaciated dog.

Peter Toland, of Cornshell Fields in Co. Londonderry, is charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the dog and four counts of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of animals.

The dog had been buried up to its neck in a park and had a large piece of masonry placed on its head.

A police officer aware of the facts of the case told Dungannon Magistrates Court all charges could be connected.

He explained at 5pm on 15 March police received a report from a veterinary clinic after a member of the public discovered the dog buried in Ballyarnett Country Park in Derry.

The person who found the animal had to dig around it as the ground was packed in and two males were seen walking from the area.

Police attended and observed the dog to be in an “extremely poor state” and was receiving intensive care.

It was severely emaciated, had multiple punctures to the nose and head, the abdomen had collapsed preventing normal breathing and there were also fresh bite marks and broken teeth.

Despite treatment the animal remained unresponsive, and the vet felt it was in such poor condition the only humane option was to euthanise.

The vet described the incident to police as one of “extreme cruelty”.

Police began an investigation, and there was a large community response to a social media campaign in which Toland was identified.

Information was received that more animals were in his home, but despite efforts police were unable to contact him.

A warrant was obtained and officers entered the property, where a pen was found containing three whippet/lurcher-type dogs without bedding or water and a large amount of faecal matter.

The dogs were removed and taken to safety.

Objecting to bail, the officer said Toland is considered a flight risk, having claimed to be in Donegal when he was being sought, although did not say where.

In addition, it is believed he may be at risk as his home address is known by the public and has been attacked and windows have been smashed.

The court heard this was contended to be by members of the public who had “looked for the defendant before police arrived.”

A defence barrister said his client denies any knowledge of the injuries to the dog and has provided “a narrative” of his whereabouts at the time.

It was accepted Toland initially could not be found but when he had become aware the public were suggesting he was responsible, he handed himself in “due to fear for his safety”.

Urging bail to be granted the defence said Toland’s father was willing to put forward a cash surety and while his current address is not acceptable an alternative would be sought.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan said emotion must be taken out of the equation as defendants are “entitled to the presumption of bail and innocence.”

He agreed to release Toland with a £1000 surety and ordered residence to be at an address approved to police, curfew from 11pm to 7am and electronic tagging.

He is also to sign three times per week with police and must not have, own or be left unsupervised with any animal at any time.

The case will be mentioned again at Londonderry Magistrates Court next month.

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