Social media ‘distorts’ efforts to deal with animal cruelty, Minister says

Hundreds of horses in Dublin area; council issued only 15 legally required licences

Social media images of animal cruelty can “distort” the very good work being done by the Department of Agriculture, local authorities and animal welfare charities to address the problem, the Dáil has heard.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed acknowledged that "we are all shamed by such incidents, which get a lot of traction, particularly on social media".

But he said “sometimes they distort the endeavour that is under way and the very good work being done”.

But Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said there were “appalling cases of horse abuse”. The Dublin Central TD said animal welfare groups were picking up the pieces because the Animal Health and Welfare Act was not being enforced adequately.


The Minister insisted that the welfare approach had resulted in a drop in the number of wandering animals.

Horse seizures had continued to fall from 4,923 in 2014 to 1,603 last year and 806 to date this year, he said, adding that there had been a number of high profile animal welfare prosecutions.

But Ms O’Sullivan rejected his comments about local authorities and insisted they were not enforcing the Act.

“They just impound and kill animals or remove dead animals. In the past 11 months Tipperary County Council has spent €155,800 on removing dead horses.”

She said there were hundreds of horses in the Dublin City Council area. Each was supposed to have a chip and a passport, but the council had only issued 15 licences, she said.

Ms O’Sullivan appealed to the Minister to authorise the appointment of horse wardens, and she called for horses, ponies and donkeys to be micro-chipped, registered and kept in proper equine-registered properties.

“We have dog wardens and litter wardens so could the department not give the lead with the local authorities?”

She suggested they could start with a pilot scheme and that the local authorities could work with owners before abuse started.

Ms O’Sullivan said a horse warden could have a lorry that could impound animals on the spot, with Garda protection if this is necessary.

Mr Creed said the appointment of horse wardens was a matter for local authorities, and the department could not instruct them about the matter. He said they had competing demands on their resources, adding the department did have consultation with councils.

That discussion was ongoing and they could engage on the “hot spot” areas.

He pointed out that funding of €1.04 million from the department had been used by a number of local authorities to support the development of urban-Traveller horse projects in their area.

Mr Creed said that “in Irish society we celebrate the horse, the position of horse racing, sport horse and so on. But the urban horse is as much a part of that cultural story as any other”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times