Ireland has “really bad international reputation as puppy farm capital of Europe”

10 Nov


“We still have this really bad international reputation as the puppy farm capital of Europe” – Independent TD Tommy Broughan highlights the “horror stories” in puppy farming and questions the Minister for Rural and Community Development about inspections and enforcement…

Dog Breeding Industry
Dáil debates, 8 November 2018

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent) The Minister told us at the end of 2017 that there were almost 260 dog breeding establishments registered with various local authorities. Some 36 were registered in Limerick city and county, 35 in Cork and 28 in Wexford. The various numbers were supplied. Inspection fees amounted to €83,000. Between 2013 and 2017 four closure and 31 improvement notices were issued, but four improvement notices were appealed to the District Court. What were the numbers of inspections, by county, in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018 and the outcomes in cases of breaches of the guidelines?

Seán Canney (Galway East, Independent) My Department has overall responsibility for the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010. Statistics for dog related activities undertaken by local authorities are published on the Department’s website. They include information on dog breeding establishments which are defined in legislation as premises with “6 or more bitches, over 6 months old and capable of being used for breeding purposes”.

The statistics show that the total number of dog breeding establishments registered for all counties was 248 in 2016 and 258 in 2017. The total number of inspections was 250 in 2016 and 275 in 2017. There were 79 commercial dog breeding establishments in 2016 and 74 in 2017. The remainder were hunt clubs, boarding kennels and animal welfare shelters. Details, by county, are available on my Department’s website and will be provided for the Deputy separately. The 2018 statistics will be collated and published in early 2019.

Local authorities are responsible for operational activities, including enforcement. Where appropriate, they may issue improvement or closure notices, or work with the owners of premises to ensure compliance. In that context, they also work closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as the enforcement of animal welfare standards for all animals, including dogs, is a matter for that Department.

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent) What is unusual about this is that the responsibilities are divided among three Departments – the Departments of Rural and Community Development, Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Housing, Planning and Local Government – which is very unsatisfactory. It is similar to responsibility for traffic law being divided between the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

We still have this really bad international reputation as the puppy farm capital of Europe. The UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, is planning to introduce legislation on puppy farms and puppy smuggling and the alleged illegal trade in this country has been highlighted as a major issue. In fact, the United Kingdom wants to inaugurate a regime that will outlaw third party sales and under which one will only be able to buy a puppy from a legitimate breeder. We still have horror stories coming in about illegal breeders being discovered with perhaps hundreds of dogs in very bad conditions. It is a major responsibility for the Department. My colleague, Deputy Clare Daly, raised this issue many times with the Minister of State’s predecessor. I have been informed that she has been in contact with the Minister of State’s office and that the previous Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, agreed to meet the voluntary groups and very distinguished animal rights activists on animal rights, the inspection of dog breeding establishments and the new guidelines from January 2019. As I know that the Minister of State tries to reach out to people, will he guarantee that he will meet the activists as soon as possible?

Seán Canney (Galway East, Independent) Absolutely. If the commitment was made by the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, I will honour it. My officials will be in contact with the Deputy on that. He is correct that three Departments are involved in the overall control of dogs. My Department is involved in the policy area. The dog breeding establishment guidelines were published in July and will come into effect in January 2019. They have been well received by people involved in the business of dog breeding. Of course, it might be said we should go further with certain aspects, but the guidelines need time to work. The local authorities are the enforcement agencies, while the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has overall responsibility for the welfare of animals, which includes dogs. From what I have seen, I can guarantee that the three Departments work very closely together to ensure there is a huge shift towards focusing on the welfare of dogs and puppies. That is what it is all about.

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent) It certainly is. We love our dogs and want to ensure dog breeders breed and rear dogs in very good conditions and treat dogs very well. The key point the Minister of State made relates to local authorities. I have the new guidelines with me and they contain some good aspirations, but will the Minister of State be able to give the local authorities additional resources when they come into force? The number of inspections each year appears to be very low. Ultimately, it comes down to the number of inspections and enforcements. Breeders being able to go to the courts in that regard is significant. There was a huge response from the public to the dog breeding guidelines between December 2016 and February 2017, with well over 100 submissions received. However, the key point concerns enforcement. We still hear horror stories such as the one about the 86 dogs rescued from an illegal establishment in Roscommon. Dogs Trust and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ISPCA, on behalf of the public, have to look after these animals which are often in very bad condition. The last time the 2010 Act was reviewed was by the former Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan. The ratio of staff under the guidelines is still 1:25, rather than 1:10 one in breeding establishments, as advocated in the guidelines.

Seán Canney (Galway East, Independent) The funding for local authorities comes from the Local Government Fund, not my Department. However, I accept what the Deputy said and will convey it to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. The guidelines are the result of huge consultation with all stakeholders, which is important. They will help the local authorities and veterinarians and the established dog breeding establishments that are working properly to continue to do so. Of course, there are illegal activities, but the more we talk about and highlight them the better it will be for the welfare of animals. I come from a rural area and dogs are part of our lives. In the countryside every farm has a dog. As they are part of our families, we must ensure their welfare is protected.

ACTION ALERT

Don’t buy from breeders while dogs wait in dog pounds and animal shelters for loving homes.

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