A 63-year-old cyclist died almost two years ago after a Sunday morning accident when a small dog ran out on the road and now the owner of the Yorkshire Terrier has been convicted of failing to keep it under proper control.
Judge Marian O’Leary heard the case at Cork District Court and said that before giving judgement her sincere sympathies went out to the family of the deceased, the couple who were cycling with him and the family whose dog was involved.
Patrick O’Brien from Carrignavar died after coming off his pedal cycle on Sunday, October 25 2020.
Michael Dunlea pleaded not guilty to having proper control over his dog on the morning in question as he and family members said the little dog never went on the road.
However, Judge O’Leary said the two other cyclists with the late Mr O’Brien later identified the dog as the Yorkshire Terrier owned by Mr Dunlea, 60, of Ballybrack, Carrignavar. One of the cyclists saw the dog coming from the property under a fence. And hours later two gardaí testified that this dog came down onto the road when they were preserving and examining the scene.
Judge O’Leary fined Mr Dunlea €300 for not having the dog under proper control in a public place on that morning. Fines totalling €325 were imposed on him for not having licences for this dog and two other dogs at the time. He admitted not having licences at the time.
Garda Raymond Sweeney who investigated the accident said it was possible to state from examination of cycle equipment and technology that prior to the accident the deceased was cycling at between 43.1 kph and 45.3 kph.
Sergeant Edward Geary, now retired, testified that cyclists Jim Rocks and Lucy Rocks separately identified the miniature Yorkshire Terrier owned by Michael Dunlea as the dog that ran out on the road that morning.
The retired sergeant said Mr Dunlea is a taxi driver who was bringing a dialysis patient from CUH to Mitchelstown that Sunday morning when he got a call from home about a terrible accident on the road.
Mr Dunlea said in an interview with gardaí, that he got the Yorkshire Terrier nine years previously as a present.
He said he would have constructed a run for the dog if he had ever seen her on the road. But he said that within about 20 seconds of being let out to go to the toilet she would be scratching at the back door to get back into the house. As for the dog being on the road hours afterwards, according to the evidence of Gardaí John Noonan and Padraig O’Neill, Mr Dunlea said that was only because family members were down on the road talking to gardaí when the area was being preserved – a scenario that would never occur ordinarily.
Mr Dunlea said everyone in his family was very upset about the accident that occurred that morning and they were particularly upset for the family of the late Pat O’Brien.
Jim Rocks and his wife Lucy Rocks were cycling with the late Pat O’Brien that morning, a fine Sunday at about 10.30 a.m. Mr Rocks said a dog came from his right. His wife Lucy was behind him and Mr O’Brien was behind her.
Barrister, Eamon Shanahan, for Michael Dunlea, said that the cyclist’s evidence that they were cycling at 40 kilometres per hour was a fast speed. Mr Rocks said this was not excessive for experienced cyclists.
Mr Shanahan BL said, “There are frequently rabbits and wildlife in the area. Are you certain it was not a rabbit? A small rabbit can be like a Yorkshire Terrier.” Mr Rocks replied, “It was definitely a dog that came across the road.”
Mr Shanahan also referred to a puppy-training facility not far from the scene.
Lucy Rocks said, “I saw a small dog dart out from a property. First, Jim reacted. I reacted. I looked back and saw Pat react… For Pat to miss the dog he turned the handlebars and came off the bike. He was on the ground. He landed in a recovery position.
“The dog came out from under the fence at the end of the property. It is a small dog, it didn’t have to bend its head to get out under the fence.” Michael Dunlea said that by the time he returned home after bringing the dialysis patient home to Mitchelstown there was chaos at his own home and everyone was upset.
Asked by his barrister, Mr Shanahan, “You have never seen the dog run out before,” Mr Dunlea replied, “Never, never, never.”
Cross-examined by Inspector Gillian Sinnott that the dog could have run out – as described by witnesses – and run back home very quickly, Mr Dunlea replied, “Look, anything is possible with an animal.”
Judge O’Leary said that Mr Dunlea and members of his family are decent people who had all given truthful evidence.