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Judge dismisses ‘wandering cow’ claim

Judge dismisses ‘wandering cow’ claim

A SECURITY company’s claim for damages against a Belmullet farmer after its van hit his ‘wandering cow’ on a public road was dismissed at last week’s sitting of Belmullet District Court.
The pedigree Limousin cow was hit and killed by a mini-bus belonging to security firm Senaca Group Limited on September 17 last. The incident occurred on the main road between Glencastle and Derrycorrib, at approximately 6.30am. The van was transporting workers into Belmullet.
The cow belonged to Patrick Donoghue, a 77-year-old farmer from Shraigh, Bunnahowen, Belmullet, who explained that the day before the cow had been grazing on commonage when it went ‘wandering’, and that it could not be found that evening. The distance from where the cow was killed and the commonage is approximately 2.5 miles and Mr Donoghue said his cows never wandered that far before.
Senaca, with an address at IRMS House, Toughers Business Park, Newhall, Nass, Co Kildare, claiming Mr Donoghue was in breach of duty of care of his animal.
Evidence was given by Paul Fair, the driver of the mini-bus, who said he was coming out of a right bend when he saw an animal in the centre of the road. He said he was approximately 50 yards away when he first saw the animal and that two to three seconds passed before the van struck the animal. He said the road was wet and that he did not have time to stop the van and avoid the collision.

Incident on film

Footage from the incident was available, as a camera was located on the dash of the van.
Michael Bohan, solicitor for Mr Donoghue said that the footage and his engineer’s calculations indicated that the driver should have had enough time to avoid the collision.
Mr Éamon Burke, an engineer for Senaca, argued the opposite, saying it would be nearly impossible on a wet road to avoid the collision from where the driver first saw the cow.

In calf

Mr Donoghue explained he has six cattle in total and has farmed in the area all his life. He said his cows were grazing on the sand banks and that his Limousin cow was in calf. He explained that when he went to look on them, his cow was missing and he could not find her. He called his son and they searched until it was dark. He said they searched again in the morning and called Mid West Radio to ask them to send out a message that a cow was missing.
He heard that a cow had been killed on the road and presumed it was his and went to the Garda station. The cow’s owner was identified by its tags.


Mr Donoghue said while his cows sometimes go wandering to get fresh water, they never went as far as this. He presumed it went over Doolough Strand. He said he was devastated when he heard it was killed, and claimed there was nothing else he could do to find it.
Mr Bohan argued that because the animal came off unfenced commonage the farmer was not liable, but Mr Declan Hegarty, solicitor for Senaca, argued that the animal had travelled a ‘considerable’ distance from the commonage and so a breach of a duty of care arose.
However, Judge Denis McLoughlin found that he did not believe the legislation placed restrictions on the distance wandering livestock might travel. He said he was satisfied from Mr Donoghue’s evidence that there was no breach of duty of care, and he dismissed the claim.