Animals Bill, 1985: Second Stage.

,Limerick East): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

The main purpose of the Bill is to amend the law relating to the impounding of animals and liability for damage done by animals. It was prepared following consideration by the Government of the Report of the Law Reform Commission on Civil Libility for Animals, published in 1982. It differs in some respects from the commission's proposals and I will come back to these differences later.

The commission's recommendations, as set out in the report, were made after a wide-ranging investigation of the law on civil liability for animals both here and in other jurisdictions, the results of which were published in a working paper in 1977. The working paper has provided a wealth of information about a complex and difficult area of the law. I would like to thank the commission for the excellent work that has gone into the working paper and the final report. These are useful, indeed indispensable, documents for anyone interested in the subject. I hope that Deputies will have found the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill helpful in their examination of the various provisions.

I mentioned at the outset that one of the main purposes of the Bill is to amend the law about the impounding of animals. Animals wandering on the roads are a serious problem and there is a clear need to strengthen the existing law so that the problem can be dealt with effectively. One of the main inadequacies in the present law is that the Act normally relied upon in impounding wandering animals, the 1851 Summary Jurisdiction Act, does not give powers of impounding to the Garda specifically and, in any case, its powers apply in relation to ownerless animals. Therefore, I am proposing in section 4 to give the Garda specific powers to impound wandering animals, and these powers will apply even where the owner is known. For this purpose "animal" is defined in section 1 as meaning a bovine animal, horse, ass or other equine animal, sheep or goat. The powers of impounding being given to the Garda will extend not only to animals wandering on the public road but also to animals trespassing on public parks or other open spaces owned by a local authority or State authority. Local authorities are being given parallel powers to impound animals found trespassing in these public parks or open spaces.

As well as increasing impounding powers, the Bill proposes to improve the effectiveness of the impounding procedure itself. This it does by amending section 8 of the Pounds (Provision and Maintenance) Act, 1935. At present the Minister for Justice can make regulations under this section for the sale, disposal or destruction of animals found trespassing, wandering or straying, where the owner is unknown or cannot be found. An order of a district justice is required for any sale of an impounded animal. Section 7 proposes to amend section 8 of the 1935 Act so that, in addition to his existing powers, the Minister will be able to make regulations to provide that the sale, disposal or destruction of impounded animals will be carried out by order of the local authority — in this case, the county or city manager — and that these powers may be applied to impounded animals where the owner is known but fails to remove them from the pound.

The Bill also proposes to increase substantially the fines for poundbreaking and for breaches of the pounds regulations provided in the 1935 Act. These increased fines are set out in the table to section 7. The maximum fine for poundbreaking is being increased from £50 to £750, and that for breaches of the pounds regulations from £20 to £500. Under amendments of the Summary Jurisdiction Act 1851, also set out in the table, the maximum fine for allowing an animal to wander on the public road is going up from a nominal 10p to £150 for the first offence and £350 for a subsequent offence. These fines will also apply to the offence of turning animals loose on the road, where the present fine is only 50p. The present level of fines has remained unchanged since 1851.

I also intend to review the basis on which pound fees are calculated. These fees are fixed periodically by orders under the Pounds Act, 1935. The last order was made in July 1984. I will not go down through the list of fees now but Deputies may be interested to know that they include fees of £13.20 for horses and £4.05 for cows in respect of each 24 hours or shorter period. The present fees do not adequately reflect the costs of impounding and, while no decision has yet been made on what the new scale of fees should be, I do envisage a substantial increase on the present level so that they will more closely reflect the actual cost of impounding to local authorities.

I am confident that the measures I have outlined will have a major impact on the problems and dangers created by wandering animals. The increased impounding powers, together with greater effectiveness in the impounding procedure, as well as substantial increase in fines and an increase in pound fees, will cause those who have been taking advantage of the present weaknesses in the law to take a more responsible attitude in regard to the control of their animals. In the medium and long term I would hope that the effect of this legislation will be to curtail the number of wandering animals and, therefore, to reduce the need for impounding. In the short term, however, use of the increased impounding powers could cause an increase in the number of animals impounded. This may lead to local authorities in some areas having difficulty in providing the necessary impounding facilities. It would be wasteful of resources to try to meet a temporary need by opening new public pounds that might rarely be used once the legislation has had full effect. To meet any short term demand of this kind I am proposing, in section 5, that local authorities may arrange for animals to be impounded in private pounds.

Under this provision a local authority, if the need should arise, will be able to enter into arrangements with private interests for the impounding of animals by the Garda or by a local authority. The section will not be operable until regulations are made by the Minister for Justice in relation to impounding in those private pounds. The regulations will cover such matters as the fees to be paid, the provision of veterinary services, transfers to public pounds, the sale, disposal or destruction of impounded animals pursuant to an order of the local authority concerned and the disposal of moneys realised by such sales. The maximum fines for breaches of the regulations and for poundbreaking offences will be the same as those for similar offences in relation to public pounds.

Section 5 differs in several respects from a proposal in the Law Reform Commision's Report which would have authorised the Garda to impound wandering animals of any kind, where the owners were not known, with private persons willing to take on this task. Thus, under the Bill, it will be a matter for the local authority concerned, and not the Garda, to make arrangements for the provision of private pounds though, once arrangements have beem made in any particular case, it will be open to the Garda to impound animals in these pounds. Secondly, under the Bill the range of animals which may be so impounded is restricted to the categories I have mentioned. Finally, the commission's proposal envisaged that gardaí in all areas could impound animals with private persons, wheras the Bill envisages that private pounds will be utilised only in areas where the need arises, as determined by the local authority.

Another impounding provision recommended by the commission would have allowed the private detention of trespassing animals, even where the owner was known, with power to the occupier to sell the animals if necessary and to reimburse himself out of the proceeds, giving the balance to the owner. As things stand, under the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1851, the occupier of land trespassed upon by an animal must return it to its owner, where known. Where the owner is not known, he may impound the animal in the public pound. In either case he may apply to the District Court to recover damages, calculated on a fixed scale, for any loss incurred as a result of the trespass.

Over the country as a whole very few complaints are received about the operation of the present statutory provisions for the impounding of trespassing animals by private persons and I believe that to allow private persons to detain animals where the owner is known would not be justified and might indeed lead to bad feeling and even violence. The 1851 provision — obliging the occupier to return the trespassing animal to its owner, where known — was probably designed to avoid breaches of the peace.

Section 6 deals with animals wandering from undeveloped housing estates. I am proposing that the occupier of any undeveloped or uncompleted housing estate will be liable for damage caused by animals which stray from the estate unless he gives to the local authority and the local Garda superintendent a notice saying that he did not give permission for animals to be on the estate and authorising the local authority and the Garda to remove any such animals from it.

It is not my intention that these provisions should apply to all such housing estates. The idea is that they will be invoked only where wandering animals are causing a problem. The local authority will be in the best position to determine whether a nuisance of this kind arises in relation to a particular site. In that event, it would designate the site as a "designated area" for the purposes of section 6. This provision is intended to curb a serious nuisance which the Garda and local authorities would not otherwise be able to deal with, as the animals causing the nuisance would be on private property. Once an area has been designated, the occupier will be likely to authorise removal of the animals since otherwise he will be liable for any damage they cause.

I now come to the provisions amending the law relating to liability for damage caused by animals. These are in sections 2 and 3 of the Bill. I would like to preface what I have to say about liability for damage by animals by outlining some relevant aspects of the present law. First of all, the term "strict liability" does not appear to have a clearly defined, universally accepted meaning but in the context of what I have to say it can be taken to mean liability that rests on the owner of an animal, irrespective of whether the owner is negligent. The amount for which he is liable is reduced if there has been contributory negligence on the part of the injured person.

Strict liability in relation to animals exists in certain circumstances. These are: (1) in the case of damage done by wild animals kept in captivity; (2) in relation to a domesticated animal, where it is shown that the animal's owner was aware that it had a "vicious propensity"; (3) where dogs injure cattle or sheep; and (4) in the case of damage by certain kinds of trespassing farm animals. In other cases, the position may for practical purposes be taken to be that the owner of the animal will be held liable if the injured party proves that the owner had been at fault. There is one important exception to that statement, namely, that an occupier of land is not liable in negligence if an animal strays from his land on to an adjoining public road and causes injury or damage. In practical terms this means that, where a motorist or other road user suffers damage caused by an animal straying on to the public road, he has no recourse against the owner of the animal. This situation derives from the fact that, under the law as developed by the courts, the owner has no duty to prevent animals straying.

The Law Reform Commission proposed that the present law should be replaced by a general provision to the effect that the keeper of any animal should be strictly liable for any damage caused by it. The damages payable would be reduced if there had been contributory negligence on the part of the injured person. Strict liability would also be subject to certain qualifications where the injured party was a trespasser and it would not apply in the case of unforeseeable accidents, that is, "acts of God". In support of their proposal the Commission pointed out that there is already strict liability in many instances relating to animals; that strict liability exists, in this context, in many other countries; and that such a system would provide a clear and simple legal rule. Their approach could also be supported by arguments based on the risk theory of liability; by economic arguments which would regard injuries caused by animals which form part of a business for example, farm animals, as part of the producer's costs which should be borne by the producer rather than the innocent victim of a road accident; and lastly by arguments which suggest that in all cases, whether the animal is used as part of a trade or business or is merely kept as a domestic pet, the owner is the person best positioned to control the animal and to insure against the risk of injury that it may represent to other persons in society.

On the other hand, there is the consideration that a general scheme of strict liability would involve too great a change in one very important area. For owners of livestock it would mean changing from a situation of virtually complete immunity to what might be described as almost the other extreme, liability irrespective of fault. The proposal might also give rise to practical difficulties, for example, in relation to insurance cover, its availability and cost. Moreover, as I see it, so far as road accidents are concerned it would be anomalous if there were to be strict liability for animals but not for motor vehicles. These vehicles are much more important as a cause of road accidents, but in relation to them the law continues to apply the ordinary negligence rules. I think therefore, that, though there is a good deal of merit in the commission's proposal, it would be premature at this stage to give effect to a general principle of strict liability for damage caused by animals.

In the field of civil liability for damage caused by animals, the main practical issue is that of livestock straying on to the roads. Under existing law an occupier of land is not liable in negligence if an animal strays from his land on to an adjoining public road and causes injury or damage. The commission referred to dissatisfaction with this common law rule and it has been the subject of serious criticism in other countries. They pointed out that this immunity is out of step with modern legal developments and current conceptions of responsibility and, in particular, present-day traffic conditions. I fully agree with the proposal of the commission that the immunity should be abolished and section 2 of the Bill provides accordingly. In future the liability of the occupier of the land in such cases will be determined by the ordinary negligence rules so that all the normal criteria which determine liability in negligence will apply, as will all the defences available against a claim based on negligence.

Section 2 makes special provision, as proposed by the commission, for areas where fencing is not customary: under this provision, where an animal causes damage after straying on to the public road in such areas, a person will not be regarded as having committed a breach of the duty to take care merely by placing an animal on the unfenced land. Finally, I propose that strict liability should be imposed in all cases of injuries or damage caused to any person attacked by a dog. This provision might be described as abolishing the principle embodied in the old saying that "a dog is entitled to its first bite".

Under the present law strict liability applies in two cases where damage is caused by dogs. One of these is where dogs injure cattle or sheep. Another is where it can be shown that the owner was aware that the dog had a vicious propensity or disposition. Showing that a dog's owner knew that his pet dog had this propensity is very difficult. In other words, if a person is bitten by a dog, he would probably have to prove that the dog's owner knew that the dog had bitten someone previously. Since 1906 there has been strict liability under statute where dogs injure cattle or sheep. I am sure Deputies will agree that that is a proper and necessary provision. I think they will also agree that it is anomalous that the present law appears to regard attacks by dogs on human beings as less serious than attacks on sheep.

Moreover, the dog population has increased considerably in recent years and includes a substantial number of larger dogs such as alsatians and many that are unlicensed. There have been many complaints about personal and material damage caused by dogs.

I am conscious that strict liability would not benefit persons injured by ownerless, or apparently ownerless, dogs but no amendment of the law on civil liability could remedy this problem. However, the imposition of strict liability should tend to deter the casual acquisition of dogs and help to ensure that they are properly controlled. It may be said that the imposition of strict liability will lead to the taking out of insurance by most responsible dog owners and that this will leave them open to exaggerated claims for damage caused. It appears, however, that insurance against the risk of such damage should be fairly readily available and, since the great majority of dogs are not kept for business purposes, there should be no question of the cost of such insurance being passed on to the general public. I may add that strict liability where dogs attack people applies in many other countries.

Section 3 therefore provides for strict liability for personal injuries inflicted by dogs. This is done by re-enacting section 1 of the Dogs Act, 1906, which imposed strict liability where dogs injure cattle and sheep, and extending it to attacks by dogs on persons. Provision is made for a reduction in the amount for which the dog's owner is liable if there has been contributory negligence on the part of the injured person. Also, the ordinary rules of negligence, and not strict liability, will apply where trespassers are injured by dogs.

To sum up. As regards the civil liability aspects of the Bill, I believe there will be a general welcome for the abolition of the immunity enjoyed by occupiers of land in relation to damage caused by their animals straying on to the public road. Farmers have nothing to fear from the Bill and indeed I was glad to see reports of spokesmen from the main farming organisations welcoming it. Most farmers are motorists and I am sure they will appreciate how anomalous it would be to retain the immunity for animals straying on to the road. I believe there will also be a welcome for the introduction of strict liability for personal injuries caused by dogs and I hope it will cause the minority of owners of dogs who are careless or irresponsible to exercise more control over them.

However, the features of the Bill that will have the greatest practical impact are those providing increased powers to deal with the damage and nuisance caused by wandering animals. The Bill gives those powers to the persons who are in a position to take effective action to counter the problem — the Garda and the local authorities in the areas concerned. I am confident that when the Bill becomes law they will utilise the powers given to them for the benefit of the considerable number of people in many areas of the country whose lives and well-being, as well as property, have been damaged by those animals.

I commend the Bill to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.

We welcome the Bill in principle. It proposes radical changes in the law relating to damage caused by animals straying on to the public highway and other public areas. We welcome the Bill to the extent that some of its proposals will make our roads safer, thereby reducing the number of accidents which far too often have resulted in serious injuries, loss of life and damage to property.

I regret, however, that, having taken the decision to bring in new legislation in this area, the Minister did not go all the way and incorporate proposals which would eliminate the need to bring in a new Dogs Bill which has been under consideration for some time and for which there is considerable demand. I am sure that the Minister is aware from the various farming and other interests that there has been for a considerable length of time a fairly strong demand from interested parties in regard to the urgent need to bring in a Bill which would deal with this wider problem. Has the Minister abandoned the idea of bringing in a Dogs Bill? Perhaps even at this late stage he might consider expanding the scope of the present Bill to cover the wider field which the new Dogs Bill is expected to cover and to which I have already referred.

The Bill as circulated deals with this problem in a piecemeal fashion and the legislation will be all the weaker as a result. Section 2 (1) is almost a complete reversal of the law relating to owner liability for damage in that, as the Minister admitted, it abolishes the present immunity of occupiers of land adjoining the public road. Up to now this immunity entitled them to compensation arising from the death or injury to their stock. It also granted them immunity against claims for compensation arising from injuries sustained in road accidents of damage to motor vehicles.

The new proposal abolishes the common law rule and owners of land now have a duty to use reasonable care to see that damage is not caused by their animals straying on to the public road. Section 2 (1) is very vague in its interpretation and the position has not been fully clarified in the Minister's speech. The only reference in the Bill to this very controversial and serious area is in section 2 (1), which states:

So much of the rules of the common law relating to liability for negligence as excludes or restricts the duty which a person might owe to others to take such care as is reasonable to see that damage is not caused by an animal straying on to a public road is hereby abolished.

It is a confusing section, not easily understood or interpreted by laymen. There is no reference in the section to a number of areas which will now give rise to serious concern, and even though the Minister clarified some of the points it is the Bill which will eventually be law and not what the Minister says in the House in relation to it.

Will the new section grant immunity to land owners if reasonable care is exercised and if farmers maintain fences and take all reasonable precautions to keep stock from straying on to the road? That section needs clarification — I know that the Minister has no intention of doing anything shady or underhand in relation to this legislation — and should be spelled out clearly in the terms of the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate that such immunity will exist as far as the land owner is concerned. Perhaps on Committee Stage the Minister will consider this very important aspect of the proposed legislation.

I will give the House a few examples of why such an amendment is fair and necessary. Take the case of a farmer who has exercised all reasonable care to maintain his stock and fences but finds that a trespasser has left the gate to the field open, thus allowing the land owner's stock to get on to the public road. As a result of a car accident the fence may be damaged during the night allowing stock to stray accidentally on to the public road.

It very often happens that as a result of a storm trees are blown down resulting in damage to a fence which allows animals to wander on to the public road. Another example is where livestock are chased by dogs and forced over a fence on to the public road. Such incidents occurred in the past and very often they resulted in road accidents.

The House will agree that all the examples I gave are outside the reasonable control of the landowner and therefore his responsibility in relation to such acts should be clearly defined. I ask the Minister to clarify the position. If necessary I will introduce an amendment on Committee Stage. I realise that such an amendment could be interpreted as weakening the proposed legislation and leave the law difficult to implement, but one cannot place a landowner in a position of negligence in situations over which he has no control and which were not created by him in the first instance. That would be bad law.

Section 2 (1) relates to occupiers of land. The Minister will no doubt be aware that there are people who own livestock who are not the occupiers of land, except perhaps those who take the liberty of grazing the long acre. The Minister referred to the dog's first bite. I refer to the long acre and the legality of that title is open to doubt. How will the provisions of the Bill relate to such people? Will the Minister have to amend the section to deal with the owners of livestock as distinct from the owners of land? All through the Bill the term "owners of land" is used. Does the Bill give the Minister power to deal with wandering animals?

I will give another infrequent, but possible, example of a deer, fox or badger running on to the road and causing an accident. Perhaps that is an insignificant point but I raise it in the context of the Bill referring to the owners of land and not the owners of livestock. What will the legal position be in relation to such animals coming through the farmer's fence and on to the road? The latter example may sound trivial on the surface but with the proposed changes in the legislation and the inevitable litigation resulting from road accidents in future it is important that our failure to legislate fully in relation to such incidents does not lead to unfair damages claims against landowners.

It is important that the House consider fully all the possibilities which might arise and which this legislation is expected to clarify. Section 2 (2) makes special provision for locations where fencing is not necessary. I agree with this provision. Will this section apply only to certain specified open areas such as Phoenix Park, the Curragh, the Health in Portlaoise and other areas or will it apply in a general way to traditional open areas? Who will interpret what constitutes such open areas? Will there be a Schedule to the Bill which will specify the open areas which would legally be interpreted and defined as open areas or will it apply to what would be known in each local area as a traditional open area? It is important that this point be clarified.

How will the Bill relate to the owners of livestock whose livestock graze in fenced commonage land where no single individual is charged with responsiblity for maintaining roadside fences? There are large areas of land which are regarded as commonage land where there are fences of a kind between the land and the public road but no one farmer is entrusted with responsibility for maintaining the fence. Very often there is trespass from the land to the public road. Perhaps the Minister will clarify what the consequences would be for the landowner whose cattle stray in such a case.

These are all weaknesses in the Bill and if necessary the Minister should bring in suitable amendments. I do not raise these points to weaken the legislation but rather to clarify the law particularly in relation to the injured party. I agree that road users are entitled to maximum protection against the actions of careless and negligent landowners and others. It is fair to say, however, that the vast majority of landowners because of their civic responsibility and in the interests of good husbandry make every effort to contain their stock.

The Minister referred to the Law Reform Commission Report Working Paper No. 3. It states on page 90:

The owner of an animal which causes injury should be made liable on principles of strict liability irrespective of fault. Two exceptions should be made in such a system of liability: first, the defence of Act of God should be available to the defendant and second, in determining the rights of a trespasser who is injured by an animal ordinary negligence principles should apply. In all such cases, however, the plaintiff's own fault should also be a ground for reducing the damages awarded.

That would have provided a level of immunity for landowners in relation to claims made against them arising from the examples I gave earlier.

I make this point in support of my earlier argument for exemption from liability in cases where there is no negligence on the part of land owners and where the Garda could easily use their judgment in distinguishing between the regular offender and the cases which arise inadvertently on occasion. We all know of cases of trespass on the road on a regular basis but we know too of the rare and genuine case in which, even with the best farm practice, animals stray accidently on to the public road. I would be very concerned that the new legislation would include adequate protection for farmers in such circumstances. The onus in such cases must be on the injured party in so far as proving negligence is concerned.

Section 4 provides for increased powers of impounding for the Garda and for local authorities. I do not wish to appear to be trivial in this regard but I might say that this is about the only new power on the horizon for local authorities but it is not one they are likely to welcome. As a member of a local authority I would say that this is a power we do not want. If there is to be any reorganisation of the local authority system — and I doubt if anyone disagrees with the need for such reorganisation — I would suggest that the power we are talking of here be removed from local authorities at that stage and that they be divested also of their powers in relation to sheep dipping regulations, abattoir inspections and other functions that are unrelated to local government.

A good deal of the Minister's speech concerned the establishment of pounds. In this regard I am concerned about the increased impounding powers being granted to the Garda. I cannot understand the need for the provision to allow the Garda to move animals either to a public or to a private pound when the owners of those animals are known to the Garda. Surely the logical, reasonable and least expensive procedure would be to take such animals to their owners. I appreciate that in urban areas the situation would be somewhat different where a good deal of hardship and inconvenience can be caused to people as a result of animals straying into private property. In these cases it may not always be easy to identify the owners of the animals. In such cases it is reasonable to have the animals removed to a pound. My concern relates to the rural situation where very often animals stray accidently on to the public road. It seems excessive to provide that in such cases the animals be rounded up and impounded. I am sure that the Garda will not welcome this provision.

I should like the Minister to tell us what he has in mind in relation to private pounds. He tells us that local authorities will be empowered to acquire private pounds. Again, this is a power which I am sure local authorities would not wish for because there is a certain stigma associated with the procedure of impounding and we must realise that local authorities are an area of government associated closely with the community. I would find it difficult to envisage a local authority designating some private area under their jurisdiction for the purpose of impounding wandering animals particularly when the animals belong to the local farming community. The Minister has indicated that local authorities will have power to make arrangements for the establishment of these private pounds.

The Minister did not make reference to the question of animal health regulations in the context of the movement of livestock. I take it that it is intended to have private pounds established in agricultural areas too so that cattle impounded would be being brought into contact with other livestock. In that respect it is important that in legislation dealing with the establishment of pounds and the movement of livestock, we would take fully into consideration the regulations concerning animal health especially since this aspect is at present of such concern to the farming community.

We tend to think of farm animals being the main offenders in so far as this Bill is concerned but I would consider it appropriate that there be a section to deal specifically with wandering horses whose owners have no land and who consequently are not in a position to contain those animals. This is becoming an increasingly greater problem throughout the country. The Bill relates generally to animals straying from lands but there are people who have no land but who have animals, mainly horses, and these horses can be the cause of much inconvenience to other people especially in urban areas. Many road accidents are caused by these straying horses. This Bill provides us with the opportunity of reducing substantially the numbers of uncontrolled animals on our roads but I submit that the legislation does not deal with that major problem. Horses other than those needed for transport should not be allowed on the public roads and even those needed for transport should be tethered when not in use. I make the distinction because there are families who because of social circumstances are compelled to travel our roads and to live by the roadside. These people need horses to transport themselves and their belongings. Unfortunately, though, many animals other than those essential ones are allowed to wander on our roads. I am not getting at the people concerned in any way but as legislators we have a duty and a responsibility to bring some kind of control into this general area. While conceding that they need the limited number of animals to which I refer we should incorporate in this Bill a provision covering the necessity to control the additional animals owned by people who have no land on which to contain them.

Section 3 of the Bill imposes strict liability in all cases of injury or damage to any person attacked by a dog. It is frightening that we have a dog population approaching three quarters of a million. It must be one of the highest dog populations in Europe. The sign "beware of the dogs" from a national point of view is fairly relevant.

A Deputy

Is that a party slogan?

It is more frightening to consider that over 80 per cent of the dog population is not licensed. What is the position about injuries to persons or animals in relation to claims for damages? It would be almost impossible to prove liability. Only 12 per cent of the dog population is licensed and in 1984 something in the region of half a million pounds from dog licences went into the Exchequer. If we could collect licence fees for 50 per cent of the dog population we would get a return of £2½ million to the Exchequer.

The losses in relation to injury and death to sheep is a major economic problem and is of serious concern to the farming community. In 1984 out of a population of about 2 million sheep 15,000 were either killed or injured by wandering dogs, costing the agricultural community in the region of £1 million. In Britain where they have 35 million sheep the damage through death or injury last year only amounted to £½ million. That gives some indication of our failure to deal adequately with the problem. I hope this Bill will be the start of a serious attempt to tackle the problem.

The 1906 Act should be amended along the lines recommended by the National Council for Dog Control. A more desirable solution would be to expand this Bill to deal with the dog problem in a wider context. We at least have the opportunity to discuss the extent of the problem and the Minister has an opportunity to expand the scope of this Bill to deal with the problem. It is interesting to note that the protection for persons proposed in this Bill is being provided by the expansion of section 1 of the 1906 Act which was introduced for the protection of animals. There is urgent need to take action to control the growing number of dogs. We are all aware of attacks by dogs on children old people and others. It is a terrifying experience and the provisions in this Bill which removes the onus from the injured person to prove that the owner knew that the dog had a vicious disposition is to be welcomed. It is important that the Bill protects the owners of watch dogs and guard dogs from injury claims from trespassers. In our society people are looking for more protection and many genuinely rely on dogs for this protection. It would be a nice gesture on the Minister's part to exempt old people from licence fees for guard dogs. Many old people get guard dogs if only just to bark and raise the alarm. This section is very relevant because of the increasing incidences of attacks on people and property.

What is the position about stray dogs moving from premises to premises? There is a weakness in the Bill in this respect. How will the owners of such premises be protected from claims arising from an attack from a dog which has taken up temporary residence in his premises? Is there any protection in the Bill for the owners of premises which might be inhabited by a stray dog?

The Bill does not do enough to deal with the very serious problem of dog control. It makes no provision for dealing adequately with stray dogs. The Bill should have a section which would provide for the establishment of dog shelters. This would mean the employment of competent people in each county to deal with the problem. The Bill will not achieve its objectives unless we make sufficient plans to control the dog population in an organised way in each county. I should like the Minister to tell the House if he is making provision to enable local authorities to provide dog shelters and homes for dogs in the short term. The time has come to take immediate steps to control the growing dog population. The threat of rabies, the safety of citizens from attack by dogs and the general interests of the farming community are factors we cannot ignore any longer. I hope the Minister will incorporate such provisions in this Bill which would be self-financing from licence fees. I have indicated to the House already that if we succeeded in collecting even half the licence fees we would have sufficient money to put into operation an effective dog control programme. Unless we achieve that in this Bill the problem will remain with us for a long time.

The onus and responsibility for the operation of a new dog control scheme should be removed from the Garda Síochána who are overburdened with work. It should be transferred to local authorities where the scheme could be controlled, implemented and adequately organised by the employment of special wardens. It is asking too much to expect the Garda Síochána at present to deal with such an irrelevant problem, as far as they are concerned, as the licensing of dogs. They have much more serious matters to deal with and they are making a worthwhile impact in their dealing with some of our more major problems. We would be doing the Garda Síochána a good turn and leaving them free to deal with more serious matters if we made provision to transfer that power, and the obvious area in which to relocate that responsibility would be that of local authority administration. Almost every local authority has met with the representatives of various interest groups concerned with the growing dog population. The local authorities would be prepared to comply with the provision regarding the establishment of dog wardens and a system of collecting licence fees. This would eliminate any cost to the Exchequer.

We have scope in the Bill if we incorporate the necessary provisions to deal with the dog problem and this can be done with no additional cost to the Exchequer. The scheme could be self-financing if dealt with in a businesslike way and that could be done within the terms of the Bill if it is suitably amended.

I welcome this Bill which is overdue and which will deal with a serious problem in rural areas, namely, wandering and stray animals. I understand the Bill has two principal functions. The first is to alter the legal liability for stray animals on roads in the event of accidents and, secondly, to give new impounding powers and regulations to the Garda Síochána and local authorities to deal with stray animals.

In 1971 they enacted similar legislation in Great Britain and in 1976 they did likewise in Northern Ireland. In 1982 we had the report of the Law Reform Commission which considered the area of legal liability and responsibility for stray animals. I understand the Law Reform Commission were quite specific in terms of what they recommended. They recommended that there be strict liability on animal owners for stray stock but, as the Minister has stated, this Bill does not go that far. I am not a lawyer but I understand that in simple terms they suggested that by enforcing strict liability on owners the laws and the general principles of negligence would be waived. For instance, if an unfortunate motorist on a dark night ran into a wild, roaming beast, if there was strict liability he would just have to prove the fact as opposed to proving the farmer was negligent. The powers of strict liability would mean a change in the present situation where a farmer is immune from responsibility for a beast involved in an accident to the position where he would be responsible.

The implications of the report of the Law Reform Commission were unacceptable because they went too far. The Minister rejected the full recommendations of the commission in this regard and that must be welcomed. It is only fair and reasonable that farmers should be liable where they are guilty and that they should be convicted where guilty. However, if they are not guilty, if it is a question of an act of God or some other such thing, then they should not be liable. As Deputy Hyland pointed out, if a lorry crashes into a fence in the middle of the night and stock breaks out that is not the fault of the farmer. To take a rather bizarre example, if one had a pet rabbit and a person travelling by motor cycle tries to avoid the rabbit and falls off, is the owner of the rabbit responsible? He should only be responsible where it is proved he has been negligent. One must balance the rights of the individual using the motorway against the rights of the stock owner. Abolishing the immunity of land owners is a step in the right direction but to go the whole way with regard to the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission would be unacceptable.

I should like the Minister to tell us if he has given any thought to the effect of this Bill on insurance premiums. At the moment farmers can obtain insurance cover against straying stock. Now that it will be more costly to get such insurance there should be discussions with the insurance companies to make sure that the premiums do not rise excessively. Similarly, there should be a corresponding decrease in insurance premiums for cars because car owners will have the right to claim agains negligent stock owners.

Perhaps the Minister will clarify the situation with regard to supervised stock that are driven along the road. If a farmer is driving ten beasts and one escapes and if he is not agile enough to capture the beast, what is the position if there is a subsequent accident? We had a rather unusual situation in Wexford a few months ago when there was a circus in the town and six lions escaped, and some people expressed great concern in regard to public safety. I would like some clarification as regards why in the outlining of the types of stock covered — cattle, sheep, goats and so on — wild animals are not also covered in that. In conclusion on that aspect I refer to the Law Reform Commission's proposal to have strict liability. Motorists, as the law stands, have not to suffer strict liability and the reversal that they were proposing is too expensive.

The major portion of the Bill deals with the extra powers of impounding by the Garda and local authorities. This is very welcome as are the regulations relating to untraceable owners of horses and livestock generally. I have two queries on this. Section 5 (2) of the Bill refers to private pounds, and Deputy Hyland referred to this but the point I have is different from the one he raised. Local authorities will be given the right to take over private pounds. I hope the Minister can assure me that my assumption that this will be done purely on a voluntary basis in terms of purchaser acquisition of these pounds and that there will be no question of CPOs or compulsory acquisition is correct. Deputy Hyland referred to the care and supervision of these animals being subject to the animal health regulations. I can envisage a farmer coming to collect his stock and finding that his stock may have been abused in the pound. I hope that there will be proper care and supervision of stock and, on the other hand, proper supervision to ensure that there is no spread of infection of certain diseases while stock are in pound.

There is one area that this Bill does not deal with. The Minister rejected the views of the Law Reform Commission and my views. I am referring to the problem of ownership of strayed stock. In my area it is very common for farmers to get up in the morning and to find in one of their fields a strayed piebald donkey or a pony or a collection of both. The farmer makes inquiries among his neighbours to find out who owns these animals and they say that they do not own them. After a week of exasperation he puts an advertisement in the lost and found column in the local papers that he has these stock. Typically near a small provincial town there may not be a pound in use in that area and there is no response to the advertisement. That farmer is at great inconvenience through no fault of his own, probably due to someone who is more than careless, who has nowhere to graze his stock and deliberately puts them on the farmer's land. What does that landowner do? Surely there should be some procedure whereby landowners can not only recoup their expenses, be they for putting an advertisement in the local paper or for grazing the stock, but should be able in direct terms to have the onus put back on the original owner of the stock, and not on them, to locate the untraceable owner. I understand that the Law Reform Commission recommended that there would be private detention of trespassing animals even where the owner was known but especially in areas where the owner was not known. Therefore, the onus would be shifted to such an extent that whoever had lost stock or ran them in the nearest gate to a neighbouring farmer would have to get them back. In this Bill, as laid down by the Law Reform Commission there would be powers of detention by that farmer and if, by a given date of two months when the farmer had advertised and so on, the stock was not claimed then it is finders keepers and losers weepers. That simple maxim would be only fair and would deal with this problem very quickly. The Garda and local authorities are not really interested in chasing after stock. The poor, unfortunate landowners landed with these groups of horses and so on should be able to deal with them in their own way. The owner of the stock will leave them there as long as he thinks he can get away with it, and what I suggest is the only way to deal with it. For the Minister or the Department to say that going by the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851, there would be rows or violence between neighbours is totally irrelevant and out of date in 1985. I ask the Minister to think about this position because it is untenable.

In conclusion I would like to turn to another topic to which Deputy Hyland referred, a missed opportunity in terms of this type of legislation, a serious national problem. I am referring to the savage, cruel and abominable attacks by stray dogs on defenceless sheep. As Deputy Hyland said, it is estimated that in 1984 over 15,000 sheep and lambs were slaughtered or injured by vicious dogs. Being a sheep farmer I know that it is simply impossible at certain times of the year to be in intensive sheep production because of the dangers of dogs and many sheep farmers living near urban areas have been driven out of sheep production because of it. No words of mine can describe the remorse that farmers feel when they see these innocent sheep mauled, cut apart and slaughtered. It is appalling. Every time we see a farmer on the local or national media this matter is referred to. It is on the media, on television, on the front page of the local papers and there is always an outcry that something should be done about it, and here is an opportunity to do something, a missed opportunity. To combat this growing problem the national action committee for dog control was established a number of years ago made up of farmers' representatives, the IFA, the ICMSA and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Some time ago this group submitted a detailed report to the Government on what should be done. Moreover, an inter-departmental committee was set up with five Departments, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Finance. They deliberated for one and a half years, as all good inter-departmental committees do, and they presented their report recently to the Government. This Bill should have incorporated both of those reports because this matter is so urgent. It seems to the average punter that there is buck-passing between Departments in this area. I understand that now it rests with the Department of Agriculture. When you ask the Department of Agriculture about it they will have a different story. There is consensus on what would be the contents of a new dog control Bill. The practical suggestions put forward are the full enforcement of the collection of the £5 licence and that the funds would finance one or two dog wardens per county, that there would be more dog shelters in an organised way, utilising the 50 per cent grant from the Department of the Environment through the local authority, and that there would be effectively proper and practical prevention of the problem of stray dogs attacking sheep.

Those are my few scattered comments on this Bill. In a general sense I commend the Bill strongly to the House and I compliment the Minister for Justice particularly on the volume of legislation that he as Minister has put through this House since he has been in this Department. In reply to Second Stage of this debate I hope he will clarify some of the points raised in the debate and that he will liaise with his colleagues in Cabinet to ensure that the necessary measures are taken in relation to dog control and the attacking of sheep.

Deputy Michael Barrett and then Deputy Seán Treacy.

(Dublin North-West): I am not going to delay too long. I followed the Minister's speech word by word and I am satisfied and delighted that he has brought in this Bill. My hope and wish would be that when the Bill passes all Stages in this and the other House the law will be enforced. I want to say to Deputies here, and particularly to Deputy Treacy, that I am going to make a few remarks that I think are important.

I am glad that people are no longer immune from having to repair fences on lands adjoining roads. Many farmers have neglected fences on public roads and have been the cause of animals getting on to the roads, with a resultant loss of human lives. Such straying animals have caused serious injuries and loss of life to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

This Bill imposes direct liability, without proof or fault, in cases where injuries are caused by dogs. I do not represent a rural constituency, but have been always greatly concerned at the slaughter of sheep. My sympathies are with the sheep farmers involved. Up to now there was not much that could be done about this slaughtering. Cattle are allowed to stray on to the highway and in my own constituency there is a great problem with regard to itinerant horses, particularly in the Finglas area. One farmer in that area lets trailer loads of cattle out on the various greens in the area. This causes many people concern. When this Bill becomes law I hope that it will be strictly enforced and that offenders will be dealt with under that law.

I am anxious about some implications of the Bill with regard to the control of dogs. There are many blind people who can get around only because they are helped by guide-dogs and these people depend on those animals. Many blind people have been attacked and mugged by pickpockets, who are very prevalent in Dublin. There has also been an increase in house robberies and the houses of blind people are no exception. A blind person living alone whose house has been broken into and who has a dog to protect him should not be responsible for damages or injuries caused to an intruder. In recent times an increasing number of people, particularly in my own constituency, have dogs to protect their property. These could be described as watch-dogs. Many people are away from their homes for long periods—for example, married couples who because of mortgage repayments both have to work. Such people have returned home from work to find their whole houses cleared out. Where such people, or old people, must have the protection of a watch-dog, it would be very unfair to put on them the responsibility for damages or injuries caused to those who unlawfully enter their houses. I shall be calling on the Minister to bring in an amendment to exclude such people from that responsibility. I am speaking of dogs enclosed in a house or building.

Many business people, owners of supermarkets, shopkeepers, chemists and so on, have no option but to keep dogs as watch-dogs. I appeal to the Minister to exclude such people who keep their dogs under control. My attention has been drawn to a recent court case in which a householder had a dog which caused injury to a person who broke into the house to rob. I am told that the robber took the owner of the dog to court and the judge agreed that the householder was responsible for the damage. This should not be the case.

There is another aspect in relation to this Bill, with regard to the impounding of animals. This may not be as simple as the Minister has envisaged. I can foresee great difficulty in my own constituency in the provision of pounds. There would be widespread objections by the local residents to such pounds being placed near their houses. Some time ago I raised this matter with Dublin Corporation and asked that the City Manager agree to look around the area of Finglas for the purpose of finding a site for the provision of a pound for stray animals. Dublin Corporation agreed and took some considerable time in making this examination but where there were sites there was widespread local objection. The people in the vicinity did not want those pounds. In this legislation the Minister should have made it obligatory on the local authority to provide these pounds on local authority land.

There are widespread problems in Dublin north-west with regard to stray animals. Many people have lost their lives as a result of such animals crossing the road, or the pathway. The whole operation of the impounding of stray animals now depends on the Garda Síochána. I agree with the contention of my colleague, Deputy Hyland, that the Garda will be unable to enforce these provisions themselves because in the Dublin area in particular the Garda in every station are very much under strength and it would be totally impossible for them to provide this service.

I would endorse Deputy Hyland's suggestion that special wardens be appointed, whether to be employed by the Department of Justice or local authorities, who would perform their duties under the jurisdiction of the Garda, as do traffic wardens at present. I should say those traffic wardens provide an excellent service and relieve the Garda in relation to illegal parking. Perhaps part of such special wardens' duties could be to look after dog licences. That would be a full-time task for them. Indeed not alone should such special wardens be appointed but special vehicles should be provided to take stray animals to pounds. The Minister will be aware that whether such pounds are established privately, by the Department or by local authorities, somebody will have to be appointed to keep watch on them. I recall not so long ago that in the only pound in this city, on the south side, itinerants came along at night and broke down the gates in order to take away their horses. I do not believe the operation of the provisions of this Bill will be as simple as the Minister envisages and that, unless he is prepared to appoint special wardens to carry out this duty on a full time basis, then I certainly do not envisage their successful operation.

Stray dogs constitute a serious problem in many housing estates in my constituency. In the past the Garda have experienced great difficulty in identifying their owners. Some time ago legislation was passed here to control dogs, obliging owners to keep dogs on a leash in public, dogs to wear collars with discs indicating the names and addresses of their owners, a law which has never been enforced because had it been we would not now have packs of stray dogs rampaging around housing estates.

I hope this will not be the case in relation to the provisions of this Bill and that they will be enforced. That can be done only if it is not left to the Garda but rather with the assistance of special wardens to be appointed under their jurisdiction. We are all aware that when such complaints are made to the Garda at present they will say they have not the time or the manpower, that such must be devoted to more serious matters such as those of attacks on people, of housebreaking, Garda attending courts and dealing with road accidents. If the provisions of this Bill are enforced then I have no doubt but that they will eliminate the problem of stray animals.

This is a welcome and practical Bill. Indeed, it is long overdue. In the interim too much damage has been done to property, there have been too many deaths, too much damage to life, limb and property as a direct result of straying animals. It has been a matter of some astonishment to many of us that in recent years Governments did not take practical steps to remedy this serious problem. It has been evident to us all that neither the Garda nor local authorities were sufficiently empowered to deal effectively with the problem. Accordingly, I welcome this Bill most enthusiastically. I feel sure it will be received with a high degree of jubilation throughout the country generally, in cities, towns and rural areas because the terrible hazard of straying animals on our main roads and roads generally poses one of the greatest threats to all of us who are road users. Large numbers of straying animals rampaging through our towns and streets in built up areas constitute a frightening scene and has intimidated people without their having any effective redress. The provisions of this Bill grapple effectively with that problem. Its various sections indicate that the Government are making a serious effort to overcome what has become a major problem in recent years, existing legislation being totally inadequate to deal with the problem of straying dogs, horses and animals generally.

I hope that the fines stipulated here will have the effect of inculcating in all animal owners an awareness of their responsibility to control their animals and the fact that they are primarily responsible for any damage done by them. The fines are substantial. For example, contravention of the regulations may be punished by fines of some £500 and/or six months imprisonment. That constitutes a reasonable deterrent, as do fines of up to £750 and/or nine months imprisonment for pound breaking offences. I hope these penalties will ensure greater control and elimination from our roads and streets nationwide of these dangerous straying animals.

I share the view that the matter of stray dogs has not been adequately dealt with in this Bill. I believe the main brunt of responsibility in this area has devolved on and is being carried out by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I should like to avail of this opportunity to pay tribute to that body for the work they have been doing in this area, an invidious task. In the main they are dependent on private resources, being essentially a voluntary body, dependent on voluntary assistance, State aid, in this area being very niggardly. It is true to say that local authorities can provide a grant towards the assistance of such bodies but in these times of financial difficulty many local authorities simply do not provide any such financial assistance. Those who provide such assistance do so in a rather mean and niggardly fashion.

The State should intervene here. The Minister should play a greater role in this area. I understand the Minister for the Environment can recoup the local authorities to the amount of 50 per cent of any moneys they may pay to this voluntary society. That 50 per cent should be increased to 100 per cent so that the State would be seen to be playing its full role in enabling the society to provide dog shelters and, if our local authorities are unable to do so, and the Minister is not prepared to provide for it in this Bill, to enable dog wardens to be provided to collect stray dogs, to impound them, and to put them down if this has to be done.

Let no one think that I am knocking dogs in these remarks of mine. Essentially I am a dog lover. I have always kept dogs. I possess a dog at present. I realise what a wonderful pet and a wonderful companion a dog can be. We can all become very deeply attached to our dogs, or cats and our animals generally. We all love our animals, but we must deal with lost and straying animals. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should be assisted in greater measure to enable them to perform their duties more effectively by way of the provision of shelters, the provision of vans to convey the dogs and the manpower to deal with the dogs. A warden system should be implemented.

It is quite evident that the dog licence should also be increased, and that a serious endeavour should be made to ensure that every dog is licensed. Only a small fraction of dogs are licensed. Parents should be dissuaded from bringing home pets to their children which may grow up and be discarded and thrown onto the roadside. There is a tendency at Christmas time to bring home a dog or a cat for the family. Sometimes the welcome wears out rather quickly and the animal is discarded. We should dissuade people from bringing home pets unless they are prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for and maintaining the animals properly.

I should like to ask the Minister what the position is under this Bill in respect of the animals of travelling people. The animals referred to here in the main are farming animals, animals from private households and the animals of itinerants. These people tend to move about with all their goods and chattels. Steps are now being taken to provide a better chance for those people to live at least in frugal comfort in our society, to be rehoused and absorbed into our society.

The provision of halting sites is now a reality. Power is now vested in county managers to provide halting sites. Despite the wishes of members of local authorities that power is now there. Halting sites are being provided for the travelling people, but with them will come their animals. I pose the question: what is being done in respect of these halting sites where we will provide sanitary services, water supply, and so on? Reasonable surroundings will be provided and everything will be done to make these people comfortable. What of the animals? Will there be a space for the animals? Will it be fenced in? Will there be grazing for them? Will there be fodder and water for them?

Will the animals be cared for as well as the people? If not, we will still have to contend with straying animals, for stray they will. I should like some thought to be given to that aspect of the matter so that when we provide halting sites we will also provide for the animals, which will include large numbers of horses, goats, dogs and asses. We cannot blame these people if their animals continue to roam around the roads, the streets and the housing estates if we do not come to their rescue along the lines I have indicated.

There was a tendency for certain members of our farming community to avail of what was known as the long acre and to put cattle and horses on to the roadsides to graze. That practice may have been all right in the old days when we did not have large numbers of cars and vehicular traffic on our roads. It may have been all right when our roads were much quieter but the day has gone when we can permit anyone of set purpose and deliberately to allow animals to stray on the main roadways or even the minor roadways. They present a most horrible hazard to all of us who use the roads.

I disagree with the sentiments of Deputy Hyland who feels that certain proposed powers in this Bill should not be proceeded with. I very much welcome the powers devolving on our local authorities in respect of the acquisition of pounds, and so on. As members of local authorities we found ourselves in a very frustrating situation down through the years when we discovered that our officials were incapable of dealing with this problem. Even the Garda were handicapped in large measure in dealing effectively with the problem. Hence this legislation. It is very desirable that powers should be vested in the local authorities so that we can have an effective say in this matter and have a controlling interest in this whole area to see that the law is enforced and that our officials do their duty. I ask the Minister to differentiate between the powers to be vested in the Garda and in the local authorities and the extent and nature of the liaison between them.

As a member of both south Tipperary County Council and Clonmel Corporation I will have to make representations about stray animals. To whom will I go? My county manager and town clerk or the Garda? Will I have to go to both? We must be given a clear indication of the demarcation of powers as between local authorities and the Garda. To what extent will they co-operate with each other?

Has the Minister any hard facts on the losses sustained through deaths of animals, damage to property and loss of sheep and other animals through injury? Do we have any reliable statistics? Figures have been given. For instance, it is estimated that there are 750,000 dogs in the country. A figure has been given of the loss of sheep killed by marauding dogs. How many people have been killed or maimed because of straying animals? What has been the loss of property? The continuing slaughter of sheep is a disgrace to our society and something has to be done to end it. If owners of animals cannot control them this House must take the appropriate steps to deal with the problem.

The Bill is rather limited because the liability rests with the animal owners. What will happen when an owner cannot be found? Will farmers and urban dwellers get compensation when their property or farm animals are damaged or injured? Can the Minister give us an indication of the size of the compensation that may be claimed when animal owners are not known? There are people in our society who can, and who by reason of their occupations do, abandon animals quite easily. In such cases it is difficult to locate the owners. It is a pity the Bill does not provide for redress by way of compensation in such cases.

The Bill increases the powers to impound stray animals. We accept that and indeed I welcome the entire Bill. It is necessary and I hope it will get a speedy passage through the Oireachtas. I congratulate the Minister on his initiative and I hope he will deal with the various questions asked. The Bill will be welcomed by our people, especially by local authority members. Therefore, I commend the Bill to the House.

As a local authority member I wish to be associated with the welcome the Bill has received, limited though the Bill is in many ways. I have raised this matter here on many occasions and on 15 December 1983 I raised it on the Adjournment when the Minister for Agriculture replied. He referred to the losses suffered by sheep farmers. I had brought to his attention particularly the problems of Dublin sheep breeders. I represent a constituency comprising many built-up areas and districts such as Bohernabreena, Brittas, part of Rathcoole and Saggart. I was so concerned about the problem involved that I endeavoured to raise the matter again before the Christmas recess, knowing the trouble sheep farmers in the Dublin mountains were anticipating.

The Bill gives additional powers to the Garda and the local authorities but I doubt if it goes far enough. It is all right to hear about the Bill providing additional powers, but what about providing facilities to back up those powers? As a member of a local authority I fought for many months to have a pound provided in County Dublin. To add to the problems and difficulties confronting the officials of Dublin County Council, there were objections from members of the public and of the county council. In the end it was discovered there was no money. In other words, the provision of the pound was held up by lack of finance. If Fianna Fáil were in power I would now be referring to this problem in the same way. A suitable site had been got and the pound was to be operated by a veterinary man, but when it came to signing the deal there was no money in the coffers and the matter was deferred. As a result sheep farmers on the Dublin mountains continue to suffer heavy losses and wandering horses continue to cause havoc in built-up areas. We must be honest and accept that the Garda have very few powers to deal with this problem. I am pleased that the Bill proposes to extend extra powers to the Garda and local authorities but I hope the Minister, before the Bill passes, will tell us if the necessary finances will be made available.

I do not think the Bill has gone far enough to deal with the problem of dogs that worry sheep and of unlicensed dogs. The Bill should have placed the responsibility for dog licences with local authorities. We are all aware that the majority of dogs are unlicensed but the Bill does not deal with that. I hope an amendment to deal with that will be introduced on Committee Stage. I urge the Minister of State, Deputy O'Keeffe, to have discussions with the Minister for Justice to ensure that a provision is included to deal with the licensing of dogs. Such a provision would cover the problem of marauding dogs and would mean additional revenue.

Last December I referred to the appointment of dog wardens. The first dog warden was appointed in the constituency of the Minister of Agriculture and that county also provided the first dog shelter. There is no doubt that they proved of great assistance to those trying to deal with stray dogs. Some money was provided by Dublin County Council last year for the appointment of a dog warden under the ISPCA, an organisation that deserves our praise. The dog warden operating in the Tallaght area is very efficient and must drive twice daily to Grand Canal Street to put dogs in the pound.

We hear a lot nowadays about the importance of sheep production but what have we done to help? In December 1983 when I raised the question of marauding dogs I pointed out that while the majority of the population would be enjoying their Christmas meal the sheep farmers on the Dublin mountains would be patrolling their farms night and day to save their flocks. On that occasion the Minister for Agriculture announced that a committee had been set up to investigate the problem. He hoped they would consider all the relevant points raised in that debate but there has been no reference in the Bill to the problem of marauding dogs.

Wandering horses have become a major problem in urban and rural areas. It has been raised on many occasions in the House. The powers of the Garda in regard to them are limited. I accept that they have been given additional powers under this legislation but have they been given the necessary facilities? I do not wish to be critical of the legislation but I must point out that at every meeting I attend in my constituency the first item on the agenda is the problem of wandering horses. Public representatives have often raised the matter in the Dáil.

I note that a section deals with fencing. As a member of Dublin County Council I am aware that the biggest problem for the people of Tallaght, and other built-up areas, was created by Dublin Corporation. That body purchased large tracts of land and left them without fences. They can best be described as derelict sites. Hundreds of horses roam those lands grazing during the day but at night they ramble throughout the built-up areas causing a lot of damage. Local authorities should be held responsible for the fencing of land they purchase.

I am not too clear about section 4 (2) (b) which states:

(b) In relation to any such public park or open space, the power to impound conferred by paragraph (a) on a member of the Garda Síochána may be exercised only where the authority concerned has so requested.

Debate adjourned.