Further appeal by inmate in bid to release dog not in interests of justice - Supreme Court

Belgian Shepherd Cleo was seized after allegedly attacking and biting garda involved in arresting owner

The Supreme Court has refused a prisoner’s request for a further appeal aimed at securing the release of his “dangerous” dog from a kennel where she has been detained pending a rehearing of a garda’s application for her destruction.

Belgian Shepherd Cleo was seized after allegedly attacking and biting a garda involved in arresting her owner, Kevin O’Keefe, on January 17th, 2023, on foot of a bench warrant.

A veterinary report, commissioned by the Garda Commissioner, has recommended euthanasia and described her as dangerous, extremely aggressive and unsuited to confinement.

The High Court and Court of Appeal both refused O’Keefe’s applications for the dog’s release while she awaits the District Court destruction application. The appellate court last December remarked O’Keefe’s stance was “somewhat difficult to rationalise” given he has been incarcerated throughout this time.


O’Keefe sought to appeal to the top court, arguing, among other points, it was in the interests of justice that the court determines the legal basis for restricting his rights via a condition attached to a court order.

A panel of its three Supreme Court judges was unpersuaded, noting the animal’s detention is not the reason for O’Keefe being denied the company of his dog.

Ms Justice Marie Baker, Mr Justice Brian Murray and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said the lower courts correctly applied “well-established principles” regarding the court’s inherent jurisdiction to impose conditions to an order remitting a decision for fresh consideration, the judge said.

O’Keefe, of Oliver Bond Flats in Dublin 2, was sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on January 20th, 2023, to two and a half years imprisonment for damaging property contrary to section 2(1) of the Criminal Damage Act of 1991, with other charges taken into account.

Shortly after, a Garda member complained to the District Court under the Control of Dogs Act of 1986 alleging O’Keefe’s dog is dangerous and not kept under proper control. The judge refused an adjournment request from O’Keefe’s solicitor and ordered the dog to be put down in two days.

O’Keefe brought an urgent High Court application seeking to overturn the order. The Garda Commissioner said he would not oppose the order being quashed so the matter could be decided afresh by the District Court.

The High Court’s Ms Justice Niamh Hyland proposed that the dog should remain in detention pending the new decision. O’Keefe disagreed, arguing the High Court had no authority to direct the animal’s detention where no proper District Court order exists.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons, also of the High Court, refused O’Keefe’s application for the release of the dog to his cousin.

The judge said the flaw was that the dog’s seizure and detention was never challenged in O’Keefe’s substantial judicial review proceedings. Rather, his case was directed exclusively to the fairness of the District Court hearing.

Rejecting his appeal of this order, the Court of Appeal said there is “at the very least significant prima facie evidence that this dog is extremely dangerous and could represent a threat to public safety if released from its current confinement”.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter