More than 16,500 calls to animal cruelty helpline this year

Minister defends implementation of legislation saying ‘Government does not tolerate cruelty’

A protest outside the Department of Agriculture over greyhound exploitation. A Dáil debate has heard the dogs have a lifespan of 14 years but in Ireland the average was three to four years. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

A protest outside the Department of Agriculture over greyhound exploitation. A Dáil debate has heard the dogs have a lifespan of 14 years but in Ireland the average was three to four years. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

More than 16,500 calls have been received by the National Animal Cruelty helpline this year, bringing the total number of contacts to some 53,000 since it opened three years ago, the Dáil has heard.

Minister of State for Agriculture Andrew Doyle said 35 successful animal welfare prosecutions have been taken by the State in recent years and a further 26 are in “various stages of prosecution”.

He told the Dáil that in some cases welfare issues were due less to cruelty than to owners’ capacity to maintain their animals.

The Minister said the 2013 Animal Health and Welfare Act was a major piece of legislation that updated 40 Acts dating back to the foundation of the State and allowed wider intervention to prevent minor cases escalating.

He insisted “this Government does not tolerate any instance of animal cruelty”, a view echoed by his Cabinet colleague Michael Creed who insisted that “anybody who breaks the law in terms of animal welfare will find no favour in the Department of Agriculture”.

They were speaking during a Dáil debate on animal welfare introduced by Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan who warned of an increasing number of incidents and reports of animal mistreatment, cruelty and abuse despite the introduction of legislation.

The Dublin Central TD said the National Animal Cruelty helpline recorded over 53,000 reports of cruelty in the first three years of operation and more than 16,500 this year.

‘Lipservice’

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals only had eight inspectors for 17 counties which showed “lipservice” to animal welfare, she said.

She said the legislation allowed for severe penalties but those being imposed by the courts were “derisory”.

Ms O’Sullivan was particularly critical of the operation and regulation of puppy farms, pointing out that farms were being visited “by appointment” and highlighting a number of cases including one where a local authority licensed a breeder for 300 dogs despite the breeder not having appropriate facilities or planning permission.

She said there were 73 registered puppy farms which meant 30,000 dogs at least and the dog waste that went along with that. There was a need to look at the regulation of the disposal of such waste by breeders, she added.

Ms O’Sullivan also highlighted cases of ill-treatment at the recent Ballinasloe fair where she said three ponies, three donkeys and 10 dogs were removed.

But Mr Creed said “the fact that there are designated officers there identifying and following up on animal welfare concerns, is proof that legislation is fit for purpose”.

He echoed Ms O’Sullivan’s tribute to animal welfare activists and organisations and said the Department had given €11.26 million since 2011 to such agencies and would be making further contributions.

Greyhounds

Ms O’Sullivan also highlighted the treatment of greyhounds and said the lifespan of the dogs is 14 years but in Ireland averages three to four years.

She said when greyhounds were not longer useful in racing or coursing they were being exported to countries where there are no standards and being used as bait in fights between wild animals. She said there were cases of greyhounds having their ears burned when they are dumped to avoid owned being identified.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan said the Greyhound Rescue Association claimed 38 dogs were being put down monthly and up to 10,000 were unaccounted for every year.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said people criticised live exports of animals but he said “an animal on a ship is treated better than a person in the hospital system”.

He said cattle were either slaughtered in Ireland or exported and he had received videos from people linked to “countries that are not even in the EU”. People should inform themselves about what the requirements are in the EU.

He also said that if there was to be a debate about animal cruelty they had to decide what that meant. Was a bird in a cage cruelty or a “fish in a bowl”.