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Local authority acted disproportionately in destroying a horse

By: James Cross BL

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High Court grants judicial review of the decision of a local council to destroy a horse, on the grounds that: there was no evidence before the court to demonstrate that the local council was authorised under the bye-laws to recover payment as demanded; it was disproportionate to destroy the animal in circumstances where there was an ongoing dispute as to the ownership of the horse; and the council should have considered the option of disposing of the horse by way of sale rather than destruction.

Judicial review - exercise by a local authority of its statutory powers under the Control of Horses Act 1996 - power to detain horses and to destroy a horse which has been detained - council made a decision to destroy a horse on the basis that there were fees of €3,129.68 outstanding in respect of the transportation, housing and veterinary care of the horse - €589.93 in respect of “administration” costs - ongoing dispute between the Local Authority and the person asserting ownership of the horse as to whether the latter had established proof of ownership – factual background – court did not have regard to two affidavits filed late – council bye-laws - Burke v. South Dublin County Council [2013] IEHC 185 – proceedings are not moot - statutory power to dispose of animal by destruction - sum not properly requested - ongoing dispute as to proof of ownership - possibility of sale - health of horse - bye-Laws should be self-contained and address all relevant issues - “actual costs” incurred - challenge to the legality of the initial seizure and detention of the horse is unfounded - improper inclusion of this fee item vitiates the demand for payment, and the subsequent decision to destroy the horse - failed to provide evidence either to the Applicant during the course of the exchange of correspondence in March and April 2018, or to this court, that the sum requested does, in fact, represent the “actual costs” - disproportionate for the council to proceed to have the horse destroyed - should have carried out and completed its assessment of the documentation provided by the Applicant before making a decision to destroy the horse - should give some consideration (i) to whether the horse might have been disposed of by way of a sale, and (ii) to the state of health of the animal - Council acted ultra vires in purporting to demand payment of the sum of €3,129.68 and then relying on the non-payment to destroy the horse, in circumstances where this sum was not calculated in accordance with the council’s Bye-Laws – neither liability to pay damages nor the issue of the quantum of damages was argued – judicial review granted.

Note: This is intended to be a fair and accurate report of a decision made public by a court of law. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.

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