Animals Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As the debate adjourned on the previous occasion I was referring to section 4 (2) (b) which reads:

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.

This paragraph calls for greater clarification. One must have regard to the situation at weekends, for instance, when there might be difficulty for the Garda in obtaining permission from a local authority to impound animals.

I make the point also that the impounding of animals, and here I refer particularly to Dublin County Council, can involve heavy cost in terms of transportation for local authorities. The only pound available in County Dublin is in the Churchtown area. There should be some provision in the Bill in this regard so that local authorities could recover some of the costs involved.

I referred on the last day, too, to the question of dog licences and I suggested that the collection of dog licence fees be transferred to local authorities. I raised this matter here during an Adjournment debate on 15 December 1983 and the Minister for Agriculture said, in his reply, and as reported at column 2709 of the Official Report for that day:

We all know that 20 or 30 years ago the Garda were very vigilant in these matters, particularly in regard to dog licensing and stray dogs. Nowadays their duties are so onerous with other serious matters that this seems to be beyond their scope. That is why I am suggesting that the collection of these fees be transfered to local authorities. As Deputy Hyland pointed out, a large amount of money is being lost to the Exchequer as a result of the non collection of these fees. A greater effort should be made in this regard.

I suggest also that greater responsibility be placed on county councils, particularly in Dublin, in respect of the provision of pounds. The Bill is very important. It provides for additional powers for the Garda and for local authorities but we must provide also what is necessary to enable the legislation to be put into effect.

Wandering and stray animals constitute a major problem in the Tallaght area. Dublin County Council made special efforts to provide a pound in that area but were unable to go ahead because of lack of finance. I hope, then, that whether by way of an amendment or otherwise, the Minister will make it mandatory on local authorities to provide pounds where necessary but bearing in mind the necessity for the provision of the appropriate resources.

The Bill deals with the question of marauding dogs in the context of the injury that is caused to sheep and so on but there is another matter which ought to be included also. I refer to the matter of dead animals in the sense of the problems that arise in regard to having carcases removed. In built up areas, for instance, in Tallaght and Clondalkin, there is much difficulty in having animals that are killed on the roadway removed. Up to some time ago there were agencies who engaged in this business. Perhaps the situation is somewhat different in the country but there is a problem in the Dublin area in this regard and consequently the question should be dealt with in the Bill. Another aspect of this problem is that when arrangements can be made to have the carcases removed, the removal people often use open lorries whereas the job is one appropriate to the use of an enclosed truck. Some responsibility should be placed either on the local authorities or on the people engaged in this business in so far as this aspect is concerned.

I welcome the Bill. It is long overdue but I trust it will have the desired effect especially in dealing with the problem of wandering horses and stray dogs in built-up areas.

Great hardship has been caused to sheep farmers down through the years as a result of damage caused to sheep by marauding dogs. We can only hope that the Bill will help in dealing with this problem. Sheep farmers have made a major contribution to the economy but they have suffered severe losses by way of the destruction of their animals.

I, too welcome the Bill. While the problems which the legislation seeks to deal with might appear to be in the main rural problems, straying animals have caused serious injury and even death in three cases involving people in my constituency. We can appreciate the trauma caused to the families of those who lost their lives in this way. While the increase in the cost of impounding stray animals may be a deterrent, I submit that it will be a deterrent only to those people who have a responsible attitude towards the maintenance of their animals. The problem that we in the city are confronted with is that the owners of the animals involved in the kind of tragedy I have referred to are usually either traveling people or young people who have been given presents of animals. It has become common to give animals as presents to children but these animals are being kept in the gardens of local authority houses.

We had the ludicrous situation last year where representations were made to the corporation to provide what was referred to as a "gallop" on an open space which had been left for amenity purposes for the community in general. Needless to say the request was turned down. In some areas of Dublin amenity spaces are turned into rodeos at the weekends.

The Bill is not addressing itself to this problem. This is a serious problem affecting many of our citizens and it should be covered in this Bill. The tragedies which have occurred because of straying animals occurred mainly to motor cyclists. One instance was where a young man, the father of four children, was returning home one dark night and an animal came out in front of him, the man collided with the animal and lost his life. Another young man coming from the airport on a bike collided with a horse which had jumped out in front of him near the Albert College. The third tragedy occurred when a young man on the threshold of a promising career collided with horses. In that instance the Garda had rounded up the animals and were herding them into the road when the accident occurred. That man survived but the quality of his life has been seriously impaired by the accident. The Bill does not provide for civil liability in these cases. All the people affected by these accidents must bear the full costs and there is no compensation. This is a serious omission from the Bill.

In this Bill responsible owners are being advised to take insurance. We should not just advise them to take insurance; it should be compulsory so that people who are involved in accidents with animals will know that they will at least be compensated for their injuries. The Minister should provide for civil liability in cases where the animals of travelling people or others are not insured, just as we take up the tab for cases of malicious damage.

Dublin Corporation have only one pound to cater for their whole administrative area. When the accidents referred to occurred the problem of straying horses was more prevalent. I pay tribute to the Garda and to the corporation, and particularly to Garda Superintendent Molloy, who spoke to Dublin Corporation about the problem. The superintendent devised a plan whereby his men on the beat would identify areas where stray animals were seen and they would go out around dawn when the animals were tranquil, round them up and take them to the nearest Garda station until they got the necessary transport to take them to Churchtown. A pound is badly needed in Finglas and Coolock. It would be easier to handle the problem if the animals in the area could be brought to a pound there instead of having to transport them to the far side of the city.

Section 5 (3) relates to private pounds and the laws which govern them. The Dublin Corporation officials are anxious to know if these laws will govern local authority pounds as well.

In relation to the problem of horses owned by travelling people, the Garda say that the travelling people are not amenable to the law and that it is quite useless to introduce regulations governing them. The Garda maintain that if they go to a caravan site looking for Paddy McDonagh they are told that there are half a dozen men named Paddy McDonagh and it is quite impossible to find the owner of the animal. If necessary the State should take up the tab for injuries caused by these horses.

It is obvious to any one who has canvassed the inner city that there are literally hundreds of dogs in flat complexes in local authority areas, none of them complying with the law. One hardly ever sees a collar on a dog and few of them are licensed. Nowadays young people are using huge alsatians as weapons. Too many of these animals look uncared for and are inclined to be vicious. These dogs are used to terrorise old people in their homes, and they terrorise everybody. It is truly a horrific experience to try to enter some of these flat complexes. We should deal with this problem in this Bill. The law in relation to dog licences should be implemented and the fee should be increased. Dog owners should be made responsible for their proper maintenance. A dog can be an important companion but we should take steps to prevent their being used to terrorise people. I appeal to the Minister to give serious consideration to increasing the licence fees and I would also appeal to him to introduce dog wardens in the city. Apart from the adverse effects on the ordinary population the streets are constantly being fouled by them. It is an absolute embarrassment to the people of Dublin and to visitors to have stray dogs wandering around the street doing all sorts of damage. The only way to prevent that is to introduce dog wardens. Otherwise we will only be introducing another law which will not be implemented and therefore will bring the whole system into disrepute. I would ask the Minister to take note of the need for civil liability and of the need to provide dog wardens.

While there are areas in this Bill which, if amended, would improve it, there will be general acceptance of the Bill by the farming community as well as the public in general. The public have long been demanding that stricter control be exercised in respect of straying animals. This is understandable when one considers the damage to property and, more important, the danger to life and limb involved. Over the years, numerous accidents have resulted from animals straying on to the roads and when cars have been involved people have often been killed or seriously injured. Often there was no entitlement to compensation because, as I understand it, the owners of such straying animals were not liable under the law.

The major problem facing farmers in respect of the report of the Law Reform Commission on this subject, on which this Bill is based, is that the commission advocated that strict liability be imposed in all cases of injury or damage caused by straying animals. I consulted the farming community in my constituency on this and found that this provision was not acceptable to them. It meant that however animals strayed from field or farmyard, the farmer would be legally liable for any damage which might ensue. I support the farmers fully in their viewpoint. In effect, if this strict liability had been incorporated in the Bill the farmers, having placed animals in the fields and ensured that the gates were properly closed and fencing was as carefully done as possible — in other words, having taken all possible care — would still be liable for damages should somebody else leave the gates open, deliberately or otherwise, and an accident occur as a result. Quite obviously, this was not reasonable because if one were to follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, it would mean that the farmer would have to remain in his field day and night to ensure that his cattle did not get on to the public road.

As I understand it, this Bill meets the case put by the farmers. While it places a responsibility on the farmer to take care to prevent damage by animals straying on to the public road, a case of negligence must be proved in court. The onus of proof of liability rests on the party claiming injury. A farmer whose animals are placed rightfully on lands situated in an area where fencing is not customary is exempt. That is reasonable, but in this regard there should be a responsibility on somebody, perhaps on the local authority, to provide large signs indicating to the motorist that he was passing through unfenced land and emphasising the need to drive carefully. While local motorists may be aware of that situation, people coming from a distance may not be, and accidents can ensue. Deputy Hyland recently mentioned that it would be helpful to have an interpretation of what constitutes an open area.

To return to the main point in section 2, it will now be the duty of the owner of the animals to take care to prevent damage caused by these animals straying on to the public road. However, he will at least be in the position that, should such damage be caused, it will be necessary to prove negligence on his part before he can be held liable for the damage. This is as it should be. An accident in such circumstances can mean a very grave loss for somebody and the person who suffers the injury is also entitled, if not held to be negligent, to compensation under the terms of the Bill.

My main reason for intervening in this debate is that it is very important that landowners, farmers and animal owners be properly insured. It would be well if the Minister took care that they be made aware of what the position will be when this Bill becomes law. I quote from the report of the Law Reform Commission, page 2:

The law is particularly indulgent to the owners of animals which stray on to the highway. Here the general rule is that no liability whatsoever attaches in respect of any injuries such animals may cause.

As that situation will be dramatically changed, farmers should take a good look at their insurance policies, to ensure that they are covered for this type of risk. Perhaps many think they are already insured for this purpose, but they would be well advised to examine their present policies. Some of these policies state that straying animals are covered, but this may well mean that they are covered where they break out of their own land into somebody else's land. At present that is an offence. Whether in the future, if found negligent and liable for considerable damage, the owners are covered is the major question with which they should concern themselves. I advise them to consult with their insurance companies in order to ensure that when this Bill becomes law they will be covered.

I was a member of the Joint Committee on Legislation which considered the report of the Law Reform Commission. We made some investigation into the premiums which might be expected in respect of the new liability which farmers and owners of animals will face in future. We had not finished our deliberations by the time the Bill was produced, so I cannot give very much information on this matter. However, the possibilities are that the premiums will increase considerably and it might be very well worth while for farming organisations to examine this question to see if bulk insurance could be made available to cover possible liability.

Deputy Hyland made an interesting point in referring to the ownership and occupancy of land. I should like the Minister to define what is meant by "occupier" in the context of this Bill. Does it mean the man who owns the land? or the man who has animals on the land? Should animals stray from a field owned by one person but where the animals belong to somebody else, who would be responsible if an accident occurred and negligence were proven?

The need for this Bill is very clear when one bears in mind the number of fatal accidents involving animals over the years. In the table attached to the report of the Law Reform Commission we find that between 1968 and 1970 animals were involved in fatal accidents in each of those years with a considerable number resulting in injuries, sometimes serious injuries, in many instances when the animals involved included cattle, horses, sheep and dogs. One must remember that the tremendous anguish, loss and hardship caused by such accidents. The provision of this Bill go some way towards alleviating that situation.

The removal of the strict liability aspect of the Law Reform Commission report renders this Bill reasonably acceptable to farmers and its general content is satisfactory so far as the general public are concerned. For example, section 3 "1. —(1) says:

The owner of a dog shall be liable in damages for damage caused in an attack on any person by the dog....

and it will no longer be necessary for the injured person to prove that the dog owner knew that the dog had a vicious disposition. I am glad to note that strict liability will not be incurred in respect of damage caused to dogs by trespassers and that the rules of law relating to negligence will apply in such cases. When replying the Minister might give us some idea of what is meant by negligence in these circumstances. For example, many old people living alone keep a dog for their protection. Suppose somebody attempted to break into the home of an elderly person, was attacked and injured by a dog, if the dog had been left outside the house to prevent such an eventuality, could that be construed as negligence? When one bears in mind the numerous attacks which have been taking place on old people around the country in recent times the point I am making is of particular relevance and the Minister might bear that aspect in mind.

There has been reference here by many speakers to the substantial damage being caused by dogs, individually and in packs, to sheep. Many sheep farmers have been brought to the edge of bankruptcy by the damage wrought by dogs on their flocks of sheep. I have no doubt that such farmers will be pleased at any attempt to curb such activity.

This Bill contains definitions as to the ownership of dogs and a section dealing with the impounding of dogs. The major problem is how to identify the owners of the many stray dogs. Dogs are supposed to wear collars bearing the name and address of their owner but rarely does one find dogs wearing such collars. That is not only because the owner does not bother to fit a collar but because dogs manage to loosen or get rid of their collars. Where dogs have not been fitted with collars the Garda can impound them, their owners having them returned on payment of a fine. The main problem relates to the large numbers of dogs without identifiable owners. This Bill endeavours to overcome that problem by having the occupier of a dwelling where a dog is kept, or is permitted to live or remain at the time, presumed to be the owner of the dog whereas the facts are that many dogs have no fixed abode, they being the ones that create the gravest problems for the community at large.

The ISPCA have done considerable work in endeavouring to have local authorities provide pounds so that dogs found straying can be brought there but local authorities in the past have not had the necessary finance to provide such pounds. While there is relatively little financial aid being made available under the provisions of this Bill it will not be sufficient to meet local authorities' needs particularly when one notes that the general funding of local authorities by this administration leaves much to be desired.

I shall conclude on my main theme, which is that of insurance. The Minister should bring to the attention of animal owners — who may not take much notice of the passage of this Bill — that the situation will change totally once this Bill has been passed, that while the strict liability aspect is not included in its provisions, if their animals are found straying and they are found to be negligent whenever an accident occurs, they will be liable to damages which, unless they have been properly covered, could have grievous effects on such owners.

The provisions of this Bill abolish the long standing immunity of animal owners from damage caused by their animals straying on public roads. Already a number of Deputies have spoken of the number of fatal accidents caused by animals straying on our roads. Nevertheless, I am pleased to note that the Minister has not imposed the concept of strict liability. As our city and its environs spread into rural areas the farming community must deal with many problems. A farmer may be very observant, doing his best to keep his stock on his land but, with this growth in urbanisation, people tend to trespass on farming lands, breaking hedges, opening gates and so on. If a farmer's animals stray from those fields — whose boundaries have been damaged by such trespassers — it would be most unfair to impose strict liability on them. I am glad that that concept — recommended by the Law Reform Commission — has not been accepted by the Minister. I have sympathy for farmers finding themselves in that situation.

In regard to the trespassing of animals on farms the Minister said he believed that to allow private persons to detain animals where the owner is known is not justified and might lead to bad feelings and even violence. From my contact with farmers in rural areas, and even in this county they become most agitated and upset on finding large numbers of stray horses on their lands. Under the provisions of the present Bill they must notify the Garda and have those animals impounded, which places great responsibility on farmers who, through no fault of their, must deal with this problem. They should be met some of the way.

This Bill allows greater powers to the Garda and local authorities for the impounding of animals, a provision I welcome. Its provisions also give power to local authorities to establish private pounds where necessary. I am pleased to note that the Minister has reviewed the charges in respect of these pounds, something which was indeed necessary. Up to now those charges were very low.

A number of Deputies spoke about the problem of stray horses in our city and especially on the northern side of the city. Horses can be seen grazing in public parks. In this Bill the Garda and the local authorities are given power to impound trespassing animals even where the owners are known. That is very important. I have some sympathy for travelling people who use these horses to make their living. In urban areas there is no place for them to graze their horses. Could the local authorities provide some areas where they could graze their horses? They could be designated as areas for that purpose only. That might resolve the problem.

The problem of straying dogs is well known in urban and rural areas. Some citizens living in built-up urban areas have shown a lack of responsibility in their care for dogs. I should like to pay tribute to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who have played an important role in this area. Small pups are often given as presents at Christmas. Deputy Treacy mentioned this point last week. They have no way of catering for these dogs and, when they grow larger, they are let out on the public roads to fend for themselves. As a result we have one of the highest uncontrolled dog populations in the world. Deputy Hyland mentioned a figure of 750,000 dogs. Even though they are covered by legislation, many of them are not cared for or looked after.

One serious problem which worries me and the chief medical officer of the Eastern Health Board is the danger of an outbreak of rabies. If one dog carrying rabies were to stray off a ship, because our dog population is so uncontrolled and uncared for the disease would spread quickly. It is very important that we should have greater control of our dog population. I wonder what percentage of those 750,000 dogs is registered or licensed. I wonder how many people know they must have a licence for their dogs. The Minister should publicise that fact and give it the necessary emphasis.

To come back to the rural problem, dogs stray onto farm land. It is frightening to see the havoc dogs can cause during the lambing season. This affects the livelihood of farmers who are rearing sheep. It causes them great distress and it creates bad feeling between farmers and the urban population. In the 1906 Dog Act there is strict liability for damage caused by dogs. In this Bill we are extending that strict liability. I hope it will be successful. We seem to think it is our business to pass through this House as much legislation as possible, but the only legislation worth passing is legislation that we can enforce.

This is a good Bill and a welcome Bill, but there are many loopholes in it. It falls down on the enforcement aspect. Many Deputies have mentioned that point. I cannot see the Garda going out on the roads and impounding wild horses. That is not their job. They are not trained for that. Society today makes many demands on the Garda. In a Bill like this we should have some provision for animal wardens who could take that problem out of the hands of the Garda, under the guidance of the Garda like traffic wardens. They should enforce the very welcome sections of the Bill which the Minister has introduced. The farming community and the urban community will welcome this Bill. It will go a long way towards solving the problem, but unless it has the necessary enforcement teeth it will not succeed.

Deputy Doyle makes a very telling point when he talked about the futility of introducing legislation which cannot be enforced. It puts at risk the respect people have for this House. Over a year ago the Minister for Justice introduced this Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill which provided for the employment of people on community operations rather than sending them to prison. On the surface that seemed to be a very commendable Bill. At the time I said to the Minister that, notwithstanding the grand language in the Bill, I guaranteed it would not be implemented inside 12 months. I do not want to be accused of indulging in bravado when I say that is still the position in respect of that legislation.

It was implemented last week.

It was referred to last week when a judge in his innocence said that a young man who had come before him should perform 50 hours of community work. What preparation have the Department of Justice made to provide an officer to supervise that youngster? What provision have they made in respect of the type of work he will do? When we introduce legislation we say all the nice acceptable things, but that is no good unless the legislation can be enforced.

In 1969, when I was a member of Dublin Corporation, at a meeting of the General Purposes Committee and subsequently by general acclaim we put down a motion to appeal to the Minister for Justice to introduce legislation to control the menace of wandering horses. The motion was accepted and referred to the Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice. Subsequent Fianna Fáil Government did not introduce legislation.

Now the Minister, Deputy Noonan, comes before us with legislation to which I can at least give a cautious welcome because it might be a step towards eliminating the appalling number of horses wandering at will, particularly in urban areas. Deputy Glenn said that many accidents have occurred because of them. That is so. Almost nightly, horses invade main and secondary roads in my constitutency it is not an unusual sight to see them moving in and out of gardens, upsetting bins and anything else that comes in their way.

However, I am most concerned about the danger they cause to young people. Now with spring around the corner we will have mares with foals at foot rambling around the place. Mares on their own are bad enough but from now on they will be accompanied by foals and be dangerous to everything and everybody.

Some years ago I attended a meeting and was happy to endorse the views of a father whose child had been kicked by a stray horse and who said that if he had a gun he would shoot the horse. Perhaps this is not the best time to be talking about guns and shooting. Present legislation provides freedom and liberty to a farmer who feels his sheep are at risk from marauding dogs to shoot those dogs. I agree entirely with that regulation. It is extraordinary that if a horse comes into a garden and is potentially a danger to a man's children he is not allowed to shoot the horse. Indeed he is prevented from turning the horse out on the road because if he did so he would become responsible for that horse and the damage it might cause.

Legislation like that which we are operating can be found embedded in the Magna Carta. Even in 1851, under summary jurisdiction it was possible to fine owners of wandering animals ten pence in certain circumstances. Now, when members of the Garda, because of their feelings and concern, move against stray animal owners they have to do so under a Road Traffic Act.

If you drive up to the Phoenix Park you will find at least 50 stray horses rambling at will. We have a Minister of State at the Department of Finance who is responsible for the upkeep of the Phoenix Park but when this was drawn to his attention he said nothing could be done because he has not the resources with which to impound the horses, that if he had the resources he would have no difficulty. The Phoenix Park should be a place to which parents could bring their children, but those children are at risk throughout the summer because anything between 30 and 90 horses ramble there at will. I am not referring to open spaces nearer to the city; I am only trying to point out how preposterous our legislation is.

Deputy Joe Doyle expressed sympathy for itinerants who try to make a living from rearing horses. I have not the slightest sympathy with any itinerant farmer who avoids all the responsibilities attached to the upkeep of his horses by shoving them into the property of other people. If that can be done at will we need to provide new rules by which society can behave itself. The big irritant is that we have not done so. People who own those horses are not poor itinerants. Many of them live in very fashionable houses but because of the weakness in our legislation or lack of authority or resources to apply the legislation they see a golden opportunity to indulge in the very remunerative occupation of rearing horses at the expense of their neighbours and others. Why should we accept that principle in relation to wandering horses and not accept it in other respects?

Deputy Doyle would provide free grazing and commonage for those people but would he do it in the safe built-up area of Donnybrook? I suggest he would not think of encouraging the invasion by wandering horses of the RDS grounds. Does he suggest that Dublin Corporation should continue to provide open and free grazing for the hundreds of horses who constitute such a danger to people? Deputy Glenn referred to the inevitable nuisance that arises in other respects. One could make the point that with horse droppings there is the danger of tetanus but my primary concern is the danger that exists, not so much in daylight, but from dusk to dawn. One never knows when a horse will step out of the darkness on to the main road. That is not a theory or hypothesis but a fact. It is happening every night. In the case of minor accidents people accept them and move off but many fatal accidents have been caused by wandering animals. We may be told that the man who owned the animal involved was a James Joyce or a Paddy McDonagh but nobody was aware of where he lives or comes from. One Paddy McDonagh may be located and his response may be that it was his father's animal. People who have lost a son, a daughter, a father or a mother in such an accident do not have any redress. That concern explains the caution I am expressing in regard to the provisions in the Bill.

As sure as there is a bill on a crow there will not be anything arising out of the legislation in 12 months time. Nothing will happen. The Minister is exhorting local authorities to do certain things but in the past local authorities, in respect of their own developments, were the greatest offenders in this area. In deference to their desire to build up land banks they took large strips of land but did not fence that land and horses wandered through it at will. I accompanied several deputations to many Ministers for Justice, under Fianna Fáil and Coalition Governments, in an effort to get them to accept the urgency of this matter but they did not do anything about it.

Verbal homage is being paid to the problem in the Bill. Will the Minister assure me that in the Finglas Garda station there will be gardaí whose only duty will be to pursue the owners of wandering horses and bring them to justice, impound the animals and discourage the menace. I can tell the Minister that he will not get the gardaí. I have occasion to call to that station about many matters and I am convinced that they do not have the Garda personnel to attend to the miscellany of needs that exist. What I have said about Finglas applies to areas such as Coolock and Tallaght also. Deputy Cosgrave will no doubt outline the problem in built-up areas south east of these districts. However, I can tell the House that from Tallaght to Sutton hundreds of horses stray at will. The legislation before us could do something about that problem but what financial provision will be made for the employment of additional gardaí? Will money be made available to local authorities to enable them to hire out pounds? Will money be made available to hire lorries to transport wandering animals to the pounds? I do not think any money will be provided.

It may be embarrassing for the Government to introduce promised legislation on family planning and divorce and for that reason they slip in the legislation to deal with wandering horses or community services to keep the troops happy and talking. This is being done so that it will be recorded that a lot of legislation was passed in the House but I do not think it can be demonstrated that the people will benefit, although many people have been suffering due to the absence of such legislation.

With regard to the Phoenix Park, I should like to refer to section 2 (2) (a) which states:

Where damage is caused by an animal straying from unfenced land on to a public road, a person who placed the animal on the land shall not be regarded as having committed a breach of the duty to take care by reason only of placing it there——

I will leave the other matters to Members who have been agitated more by dog nuisances. I have felt agitated about wandering horses since I became a member of Dublin Corporation in 1967. I have more or less given up the ghost. We should consider the problem that will exist when we have tourists from America, France and Germany in the summer — I hope we have thousands of them this year. They may accept horses in the Phoenix Park as part of the natural furniture but if they are not careful such an animal may take the head off them. Those wandering horses have learned the art of defending themselves against those who may be trying to bring them to a pound. If those tourists move to our built-up areas they will find that in every available green space horses graze at will. At that level we do not have much to boast about; we have much to be ashamed of.

Will the legislation, after it passes through both Houses, be left aside? I do not like to be pessimistic about such matters but my pessimism has been nurtured in respect of legislation that passed through the Houses in the last two years. I am referring in particular to the legislation on community service orders. Members welcomed that legislation and, in the course of its passage through the House, studied it in detail but the first case referred to in any court was last week when a justice, instead of sending an offender to prison, ordered him to do 50 hours community work. There is no provision for his doing those 50 hours. I commend the Minister, our spokesman and all who contributed to the debate on the criminal justice legislation but we have not seen one change since that legislation was introduced, nor will we see it, until the complaints tribunal, which was to run in tandem with it, is set up.

The Deputy is wandering from the Bill.

The Chair will accept, on reflection, and when his thoughts are centered not in his constituency but on what we are saying, that I am asking the point that my pessimism grows then I realise that legislation passed in this House does not have relevance to presentday life. I am unhappy to accept the charge made usually by foe, but ofttimes by friends, that what we are doing here is not as relevant as it should be.

I would be happy if the Minister could give an assurance that this legislation will be implemented as soon as possible. At long last the people of my constituency and the people living in the other Dublin constituencies, regardless of any other problems they may have, can rest assured that they no longer run the risk of being injured by wandering horses.

I welcome this Bill and hope that when it is passed the intentions in it will become a reality. I agree with the last speaker when he spoke about the inordinate delays in implementing legislation because ministerial regulations and so on were not prepared in time. This practice does not apply only to recent times; it goes back a long way. Hopefully the ministerial regulations necessary under this legislation are in the pipeline and will be ready to be published as soon as possible. When Bills have been drafted, regulations and so on are not always ready to take effect when the Bills are passed.

This Bill arises out of the Law Reform Commission Report regarding civil liability for animals. I compliment the commission on their work. The points raised in the report and covered in this Bill are very important. This is a brief Bill by some standards but what it achieves, and what it hopes to achieve, could have far-reaching effects, particularly when one realises that at times a person's life or his livelihood may be at risk. This Bill relates to straying animals, and control of dogs, extra powers for the Garda and the local authorities, increased penalties and regulations to be introduced soon by the Minister for Justice. The recommendations of the commission contained in this Bill are to be welcomed and, in certain cases, are a long time overdue. We are updating the penalties in the 1851 Act. We must ask why it takes so long for such penalties to be updated and made realistic in the presentday world. After a certain period has elapsed legislation should be compulsorily reviewed with a view to making it more relevant and bringing the monetary fines up to date. Up to now under this 1851 Act and the Dogs Act, 1906, the fines imposed were for 50p and 10p.

I support section 3 which calls for more control of dogs. This will mean that the free first bite by a dog will no longer apply. Now, a dog owner can be made liable for an attack by the dog on a person or on other animals, such as cattle and sheep. It will not be necessary for the person seeking the damages to show that the dog had a previous mischievous propensity to cause damage, bite a person or cause a person injury. This is a sensible, if overdue amendment because it means that owners must control their dogs. People should not have dogs unless they can care for them. When this legislation is passed I hope people will realise that if they have a dog they must accept responsibility for it by buying a licence and maybe even taking out insurance. Hopefully this will mean that owners will keep their dogs under control.

Apart from biting people or doing damage, another nuisance is the dog which strays on to the road and runs after cars. This can be a considerable nuisance for a motorist whose natural instinct is to avoid the dog, thereby putting himself, other motorists and pedestrians at greater risk. We must plead with dog owners to exercise control over their dogs, to keep them on a leash and not to allow them to wander.

As I represent a constituency bordering on a partly rural area extending into a mountainous region where there are many sheep, I am well aware of complaints regarding dogs roaming in packs causing mayhem by killing, maiming or worrying sheep, especially in the lambing season. It must be made clear to dog owners that farmers owning sheep deserve better treatment and, when this Bill is passed, an extra effort should be made by the Garda and local authorities and by an overall response from the public to prevent dogs roaming in packs from urban to rural areas to kill sheep. Deputy Seán Walsh and others emphasised the damage which has been caused and the sheep losses to farmers. It may not be the biggest problem facing us at present but we should not underestimate it or take it lightly.

There is concern about animals wandering on to roads, especially dual carriageways, where cars travel at high speeds. The Garda and local authorities should be given extra resources and manpower to deal with the problem. I do not know if this can be dealt with expeditiously as the Garda have many other problems with which to contend. I do not know if it is reasonable to expect them to deal with the problem of straying animals but people who allow horses and cattle to wander should be firmly dealt with by the law. As a result of this legislation, these animals should be impounded, which might bring home to their owners that they are creating a nuisance, causing damage or even loss of life. The problem with regard to itinerants' horses in south County Dublin and other areas is a disgrace. Loose horses should be rounded up and their owners held responsible. Perhaps we could consider confiscating the horses because people move from area to area, breaking every law, and will continue to do so. People are involved in road accidents as a result of wandering horses and this practice must be stopped.

I do not know if the Garda or local authorities can implement the provision of the Bill. If they have the resources, the will and the back-up they will be successful in their efforts. Money will have to be provided for setting up extra pounds because if this legislation is to be successful money will be needed for the upkeep of animals for the duration of their stay in the pound. Section 4 provides for increased powers but, taking all the other duties of the Garda into consideration in enforcing the law, I hope this aspect will be a central part of local government reform which is due to come before the House later this year. It is futile passing legislation if nothing is done about it subsequently. I hope that ministerial regulations in relation to this will come before the House as soon as possible and that there will be an effort to ensure that the message from this House is loud and clear in regard to straying animals. There was a time when traffic was not as heavy as it is at present and this practice was taken more lightly but that cannot continue.

Where the owner of land leases it for grazing purposes and if animals stray off this land, will the owner of the land or the owner of the animals be responsible for any damage caused? Of course the owner would be responsible for fencing the land but the legislation is not clear in this regard. Perhaps the Minister will clarify this point in his reply or on Committee Stage because either the owner or the lessee will have to take out insurance to cover this eventuality. There will be an extra duty imposed on farmers and landowners to ensure that their lands are properly fenced. Hopefully, following passage of this Bill landowners will ensure that their fencing is kept up to a reasonable standard.

The increase in penalties was long overdue especially when we consider that under the 1851 Act the penalties corresponded to approximately 50p and 10p today. Hopefully we will not see as many animals wandering on the road when this Bill is passed. Wandering animals are a menace to motorists and other road users. As a result of the amendment to the Dogs Act there will be greater control of dogs in relation to licensing and keeping them under control.

The Minister should ensure that a certain amount of publicity is given to this Bill prior to its date of operation so that people will be aware of what is contained in it and what they will be liable for. It is important for people to realise that, if a dog wandering on the road is the cause of an accident or causes damage of some kind, the person who owns the dog will be responsible and will have to face the full rigours of the law. I hope that as a result of the passage of this legislation people will be more careful and that we will not see the kind of accidents which have occurred up to this.

Like speakers from both sides of the House, I sympathise with the Minister's intention and with the intention behind the Bill. However, that intention will not be realised as a result of this legislation.

The Minister for Justice when in Opposition sent around a petition in Limerick and got 5,000 signatures to petition the then Fianna Fáil Government to do something about the problem of wandering horses. This legislation will not do anything of that kind. When the next election takes place, be it in two weeks, two months or two years, there will still be as many horses wandering round the streets of Limerick. As well as the Minister, I also represent Limerick.

Deputy Tunney referred to the community services legislation. Nothing has been done in practice in relation to that and this legislation will turn out to be the very same. As drafted, the legislation is totally vague. Without substantial financial allocation and will on behalf of the Government and appropriate authorities, the legislation is not capable of being implemented.

In his speech the Minister pointed out that the intention behind the Bill is to change the law in relation to wandering animals, particularly in relation to liability for damage caused by them. Broadly speaking, two categories of animals are dealt with by the legislation. There are the animals defined in section 1 and then there is a separate provision for dogs, the effect of which is to amend the Dogs Act, 1906, in a number of ways.

There are many problems in relation to the definition of the kind of animals referred to in section 1. The term "animal" is defined as a bovine animal, horse, ass or other equine animal, sheep or goat. The term "bovine" is not commonly used and the term "equine", which is purported to explain the term "bovine" in some way, is used even less frequently. It seems remarkable to explain a rather remote word by referring to a far more remote one. Perhaps the Minister will look at the definition of "animal" contained in section 1.

If I can anticipate the Minister's reply to a point raised by Deputy Yates, section 2, which changes the law in relation to animals wandering on to the roadway, is not confined to those categories of animals referred to in section 1. The animals dealt with in section 2, which concerns the liability of landowners for animals wandering on to the public roadway, does not confine the term "animal" in any way. The general perception of this legislation outside the House is that landowners will be liable for damages when their cattle or horses wander on to the public roadway. The effect of the legislation is that an occupier of land will be liable for damages in negligence if any of his domestic animals wander on to the public highway. He could be liable if, for example, a duck, goose, chicken or pig wanders on to the public highway. Deputy Yates encountered some confusion on that point and I am merely anticipating the Minister's reply to him.

The main section of the Bill is section 2, which purports to remove the present legal immunity from landowners for damage done by animals who wander on to the public road. This is purportedly specifically laid down in that section. However, we are prepared to argue on Committee Stage that the section is far from specific and far from clear. The relevant common law at present, which comes from British law, is the law contained in the rule known asSearle v. Wallbank after the decision of the English House of Lords which was handed down in 1947. In that case the decision of the House of Lords was to the effect that the owner or occupier of land whose land adjoins the public highway is under no duty to users of the public highway to prevent his domestic animals, which are not known to be dangerous, from straying on to the highway and accordingly he will not be liable in negligence or under any other particular legal heading for damage caused by the animals when they wander on to the public highway. This rule means that if cattle, sheep or other domestic animals not known to be dangerous go out on to the public roadway and cause an accident, the owners of the cattle or sheep will not be liable for any damage suffered by a road user, either personal damage, financial damage or damage to his property arising from the fact that those animals are on the highway.

The House of Lords decision inSearle v. Wallbank essentially is rooted in history and is not relevant to modern conditions. The decision originated from the fact that most of the roads of England were on unenclosed land when the open fields system prevailed, and its relevance has passed. The law was changed in the United Kingdom in the Animals Act, 1971, and the Minister proposes to change the Irish law on similar lines. The explanatory memorandum states:

The main amendments of the existing law which are proposed in the Bill are as follows:

(a) It abolishes the present immunity of occupiers of land adjoining the public road in relation to damage caused by their animals straying on to the road. (Special provision is made for the areas where fencing is not customary.)

Section 2 seeks to change the law in a very peculiar way. The section is loosely worded and is vague and many different interpretations could be taken. I ask the Minister to go back to the parliamentary draftsman before Committee Stage and get him to set out precisely what it is intended to change. Since this section is central to the legislation precision is essential.

When the Minister is replying to this debate will he confirm that the result of the change he proposes to bring about is that a landowner whose animals stray on to the public road and cause damage will now be liable but only if it can be shown that the animals got on to the roadway because the landowner was in some way negligent? Has the position changed from one of total immunity under the House of Lords decision to immunity which is based only on negligence?

I have been rereading the House of Lords decision and I put it to the Minister that that decision is confined to landowners whose land adjoins the public highway directly. Will the Minister tell us what is the position in relation to animals straying on to the road and are owned by a landowner whose land does not adjoin the public highway? What is the position of a person who owns land that does not adjoin the public highway but whose animals wander on to land of a person that adjoins the public highway and that get out on to the public highway through the negligence of the latter? What will be the law in relation to people who own animals but who are not landowners? The most common example was given by Deputy Doyle and by Deputy Tunney, namely, itinerants. I should like the Minister to spell out clearly what is the law in relation to those two categories: first, non-landowners whose animals wander on to the public highway and, secondly, landowners whose animals wander on to the public highway but who do not themselves own land that adjoins the public highway. Section 2 is extremely vague and loose and it does not answer those questions that will be of practical importance.

Section 2 also states that the position will be different in relation to areas where it is not customary to fence land. Apparently the areas the Minister has in mind are places such as the Curragh in County Kildare where it is not customary to fence. The position that will obtain as a result of changes brought about in this legislation will be that the landowner cannot be held liable simply because he did not fence in the land because in the area in question it was not customary to fence. However, it seems to me that the legislation leaves open the possibility that landowners in areas such as the Curragh can still be liable in negligence for damage caused by their animals that wander on to the public road. In other words, the total immunity enjoyed in the decision ofSearle v. Wallbank no longer applies here to such areas and it is envisaged that people can still be liable for negligence.

However, it is difficult to envisage an example of negligence of which a landowner is guilty because of his animals going on the public roadway in an area where the legislation specifically states that the landowner is under no duty to fence. It would be difficult to envisage a situation of ordinary negligence here. I should like the Minister to give me such an example and to confirm that my interpretation of the legislation is in accord with the Minister's intention.

Section 4 provides for giving increased impounding powers to the Garda and to local authorities. The section extends the present impounding powers in relation to the Garda in that it gives them the right to impound animals even when the owner is known. It also gives the Garda power to impound any animals found trespassing on public parks or other public spaces owned by local authorities or State authorities. Local authorities are given similar powers.

The term "public place" is defined in section 4 as a place to which the public have access with vehicles. However, section 4 refers not just to public place but also to "public road", "public park" and "open space" but these terms are not defined in this section and I wonder why. A public place means a place to which the public have access with vehicles but the term "vehicle" is not defined in this context. Can it include a two-wheeled vehicle such as a motorcycle or a bicycle? Is there any difference between a motorcycle which is mechanically propelled or a bicycle which is propelled by a human being? I remind the Minister that it is by no means unusual to encounter cyclists in public parks and because the powers are given to the Garda here will depend essentially on the definition of public place I should like to see this matter clarified.

It appears in relation to animals wandering on a public road — I must use my common sense here and assume that is a road to which the public have access with vehicles — or a public place, the Garda can act immediately to impound the animals. However, in relation to animals found wandering in a public park or in an open space the Garda cannot impound the animals at their discretion. They may do so only when requested by the local authority. The local authority who must forward the request is the authority in whose area the public space or public park is situated. This is unnecessary red tape. I know from my experience of dealing with local authorities that sometimes it is extremely difficult to get them to move even in the most trivial matter. The legislation seems to assume that emergencies or imminent or present danger can occur only in relation to a public road or a public place and that an animal wandering on either an open space or a public park cannot constitute an immediate or present danger. That is a mistaken assumption. Section 4 (2) (b), which imposes this restriction, is something that the Minister should look at and he should consider seriously taking it out of the legislation altogether. It is an example of the type of bureaucracy which tends to strangle the effectiveness of legislation of this sort. The Minister should look again at the whole tenor of section 4.

The section goes on to give local authorities this power to impound animals found wandering on these latter two places, an open space or a public park. This seems an unnecessary and unreal duplication of powers and responsibilities. It would be as well if these powers to impound generally were given either to the Garda alone, to the public authority alone or to some other body and that whatever body were given sole authority to exercise these powers of impounding would do so without any constraints, bureacratic or otherwise.

Finally in relation to section 4, who is to pay for the new powers? These new powers will cost a great amount of money if they are to be really effective. For example, it should not be forgotten that under the law as it stands the Garda have power to impound wandering animals if the owner is not known. I know of dozens of examples in my constituency where the Garda have not exercised this power. When we went to them and pointed out to them that the animal was in a certain place they did not know the owner, they had no reason to know the owner and they still did not exercise their power in that regard.

The Garda are now to be given power to impound even more animals. How does the Minister think they will be more effective when with the manpower and resources available to them at present they cannot get around to impounding what they have power to impound under the present law? How are they to impound this far greater number of animals? The present position will change effectively only if a substantial financial allocation is provided to allow the Garda and the local authorities sufficient personnel to undertake these extra duties, sufficient vehicles to enable them to undertake these duties properly and sufficient pounds to keep animals when they have rounded them up. Would the Minister like to state whether this extra finance is to come by way of increased local charges or will it be allocated from central funds? I agree with Deputy Joe Doyle and Deputy Liam Cosgrave that bringing laws in to this House is a useless exercise without sufficient financial commitment and sufficient backup generally to make these laws effective.

Section 6 is a peculiar section. It states briefly — the term "occupier" is used throughout the section — that the occupier of property in certain underdeveloped housing estates will be liable for damage caused by animals which stray from the estate provided that the local authority has designated the land as required by the section. I would like the Minister to clarify exactly what type of problem this section is aimed at. Section 6 (2), which defines the type of land to which the section relates, generally is rather vague. I ask the Minister when he is replying to tell us whether it includes a site where planning permission has been given but on which no development has taken place as yet. Up to what stage does section 6 apply? For example, does it apply where an estate has been completed and is inhabited either totally or partially but has not yet been taken over by a local authority? If it applies to that situation the Minister must answer the question: what is meant by the term "occupier" in that type of case? Does the builder remain the occupier until the local authority has taken over the estate, or does the occupier mean the person or persons who have now gone into occupation of some of the houses? Does it make any difference whether the entire estate is occupied or only part of it is occupied by the people purchasing the houses? If the term "occupier" in the case of an estate which has become partly or totally inhabited refers to the builder still, then the provision has only to be stated for its absurdity to become manifest. If the term "occupier" here still means the builder, how can a person who has built a housing estate where people must purchase houses and which has not been taken over by the local authority give power to the Garda to take into custody and impound animals which belong to the new occupants of the houses? I do not know how he can do that under ordinary law or under the Constitution. On the other hand, if the term "occupier" here means the occupant of a house — it is by no means clear that it does — what happens to the original exchanges of notices between the original builder and the local authority or between the builder and the local Garda superintendent? I would like the Minister to give total clarification of that section because it is extremely vague and imprecise. I do not know what it is aimed at, what it purports to do or what it will do in practice.

The legislation contains a separate provision for dogs to amend effectively the Dogs Act, 1906. The old position was that before and after the Dogs Act, 1906, a person who owned a dog would not be liable for any damage caused by that dog unless the dog had an inclination to do the sort of damage complained of and the owner of the dog knew about that inclination. That was the position prior to the Dogs Act, 1906, and is still the position in common law. The Dogs Act, 1906, however, imposed strict liability on owners of dogs in relation to damage done to cattle. In other words, if a dog damaged cattle the owner of the cattle who was sueing the owner of the dog for damages after the Dogs Act, 1906, would no longer have to show that the dog had the inclination to do the sort of damage complained of or that the dog's owner knew that. In other words, strict liability applied under the 1906 Act in relation to damage done to cattle and liability in negligence only applied in relation to damage done to human beings. That was extremely illogical and perhaps reflected the values of the time. The net effect of it was to place cattle on a higher plane than human beings and from that point of view a change in that provision is long overdue. I welcome the section of the Animals Bill in so far as it purports to change that anomalous provision.

However, a person can raise a number of queries. Some of them have already been raised from this side and I do not want to go over them again in relation to this section dealing with dogs. In ordinary, everyday life a dog may leave home. Is the owner of that dog, if he can be traced, to be still strictly liable for any damage done by that dog even though he no longer has any effective control over the dog? What is meant by ownership in this context? The section makes a halfhearted attempt to define ownership for some purposes but it covers only a very small part of the ground and is by no means clear. I would like the Minister to explain in a little more detail at what point ownership or, more relevantly, at what point the responsibility of an owner of a dog for the activities of his dog will cease. That is by no means clear in the section. To say the least, it seems onerous that a dog owner should be liable strictly for damage done by a dog that has left home but which has not gone into the ownership of any other person. However, if the Minister cannot find appropriate wording to change the law so as to rectify that anomaly, it would be better to leave the situation as it is. I say this because I have always subscribed to the principle that where possible the law should be clear and simple.

The section goes on to provide that the amount of damages for which a dog owner will be liable in respect of damage caused by a dog shall be reduced if the person who has suffered the damage has been negligent, that means if it can be said that to some extent he brought the misfortune on himself. That is a general principle which is to be welcomed. But the position is different in respect of damage or injury caused by dogs to trespassers. In this instance the legislation provides that the owner of the dog will be liable only if it can be proved that he was negligent. I do not have to remind the Minister about the recent spate of deplorable attacks on elderly people living alone especially in isolated areas. Regardless of the extent to which we might raise taxation or provide additional finance for the Garda, it would be impossible to police that situation adequately so as to protect those people. Consequently, we must recognise that at least to some extent they are entitled to protect themselves, keeping a dog on the premises is a well recognised method of protection. It is preferable to some of the methods that have been used in recent days for instance. That is why I should like the Minister to think about this provision.

As I read the section relating to dogs, it provides that if a person enters the property of another with intention to murder the occupier of the property and if the occupier is saved only because of the presence of his dog, he can be sued by the would be murderer for any damage caused to him by the dog. That is a deplorable provision. Perhaps a way out for the Minister would be to have a different rule whereby further criminal intent can be proved or can be presumed in the case of a person entering illegally the premises of another. Of course the illegal entering of a premises is in itself a crime but I am asking the Minister to consider the section again in the context of where there is further criminal intent.

Section 3 is confined to dogs but I would remind the Minister that the scienter rule which the section proposes to change was not confined to dogs but referred to all animals. For instance, the case ofBradley v. Wallaces Limited, 1913 — 3 King's Bench, 629— concerned a horse while the case of Beherens v. Ber-tram Mills Circus Limited, 1957 — 2 Queen's Bench, page 1— concerned an elephant and the case of McQuaker v. Goddard — 1 King's Bench at 687— concerned a camel. I should like the Minister to tell us whether the ordinary scienter rule of law still applies to damage done by animals other than dogs.

The fundamental point about the legislation is that while the criminal sanction for allowing animals to wander is being considerably increased, the civil law will remain largely vague and unsatisfactory. It seems to ensure that landowners, and for landowners, read farmers, will be liable in civil law if they are negligent in allowing their animals to wander. The position in relation to non-landowners who allow their animals to wander is not clear and neither is the position clear regarding farmers whose land adjoins roadways. Has the Minister considered various suggestions that have been put forward by various interested bodies, for example, the question of compulsory insurance? Has he considered the suggestion that all animals be ear-tagged? There has been no indication in his speech that he has given serious consideration to these worthwhile suggestions.

The legislation is hedged in by much red tape. Many of the definitions are so vague and so wide, and the new powers in relation to the impounding of wandering animals are to have so little back-up in terms of willpower or extra finance, that if we are to judge from the Minister's Second Stage speech the Bill will be inoperable. I should like the Minister to clarify all of this when he is replying.

I cannot speak for other members of my party on this but it seems to me that the legislation is typical of the general approach of this Government. It can be summed up as being the minimalist approach, that is, doing as little as possible, as late as possible but with as much public relations as possible. The Bill is entitled, the Animals Bill, 1985 but unless the Minister comes in with some proper intent and makes some real and effective changes there is a danger that the Bill will prove to be strictly for the birds.

It is my pleasure to welcome this Bill. I compliment the Minister for bringing it forward. The legislation is needed badly to update the existing legislation. For too long we have tolerated far too generously animals straying on our roads and in our public parks and causing major damage to persons and to property, sometimes damage that results in loss of life by way of road accidents caused by these animals.

I shall not delay the House by referring to elephants, camels, or other such animals. I intend to speak about animals which we encounter frequently on our roads, such as the bovine animals referred to in the Bill. It is time the State took a positive stand to ensure that the practice of cattle and horses straying on our roadways is discontinued. In some parts of the country animals are allowed to roam freely thereby endangering lives and property. It is time the owners of such animals are made aware of the seriousness of the problem. The substantial increases in fines and the new powers being given to the Garda and local authorities should ensure that people who have been breaking the law in this way will now take the necessary steps to prevent their animals straying on the roadway.

The previous speaker was very sceptical about some sections of the Bill. By and large the Bill is a happy medium. It protects the interests of the citizen. I welcome the Bill, which will undoubtedly prevent what was a common sight in rural Ireland — straying animals. We are all aware of the damage these animals can do to property and life but we are less aware of the damage that straying animals can cause to our economy due to the spread of disease. There is a high incidence of bovine TB throughout the national herd at the moment. Very often the owners of straying animals have diseased herds, yet they do not feel compelled legally or morally to prevent their animals straying. It is high time the law of the land ensured that these people be penalised for their actions. Although this is not directly referred to in the Bill it is an aspect that will be tackled by it. In the past rural communities were not conscious of the damage that could be done by straying animals under the heading of disease but the problem has become more obvious over the past two or three years.

I welcome the increase in fines, because the old fines were a total mockery. The Garda had no incentive to bring people to court because the fines imposed were ridiculous. I welcome the increase from 10p to £150 for a first offence and to £350 for a second offence. I would ask the Minister to have those fines indexed to inflation so that people who create this problem are penalised at a proper rate.

The tagging of animals was referred to earlier. That can be done with cattle herds but it is not possible or practical to do this with other animals. When animals are found straying the Garda should act immediately and have them impounded. I welcome the provision for private pounds. The local authorities should not go to the expense of building pounds because with a substantial increase in fines there should be a substantial reduction in the numbers of straying animals. It could be quite difficult to get the use of private pounds to impound straying cattle. Would the Minister in his reply outline what he intends to do with regard to straying cattle because with the animal disease regulations it will not be possible to use private pounds. I do not see any difficulties with other animals. I also welcome the substantial increases in fines for tampering with impounded animals and the increase in pound charges for having animals removed from the pound.

In this legislation we must concentrate on the prevention of animals straying. The Bill is designed to do that and it is to be welcomed.

I also welcome the provision relating to straying dogs. I am a little concerned as to how the owners of straying dogs can be identified. Stray dogs often cause damage to sheep flocks. I would welcome some clarification from the Minister as to how the legislation which compels an owner to provide a collar for a dog will be implemented. The legislation is there but it has not been implemented up to now. If that legislation were implemented together with this Bill, it could eliminate the problem of sheep being slaughtered. Every effort should be made to ensure that the mass slaughter of sheep will be stopped.

I would like some clarification in relation to the owners of watchdogs when a person entering the property is injured. We would want to be careful in that area. There has been a lot of destruction to property over the last number of years and people have been killed in remote rural areas. People keep watchdogs for protection and it would be undesirable, if that animal caused damage to somebody straying on to the property, that the owner would be liable for damages. I would like the Minister to refer to that aspect in his reply. I welcome this Bill, it is a step in the right direction. It was badly needed and I compliment the Minister on introducing it.

I agree with Deputies about the need for this Bill. However, it is the will to implement the Bill that is important. Eventually we will have to put a time limit on the implementation of such Bills. There is no point in introducing legislation without making provision for adequate funding and for the staff to administer it. The fact that dog collars were made mandatory in previous legislation was referred to and I wonder how effective that legislation has been since it was introduced.

This scheme is to be implemented by the Garda and the local authorities. The last thing in the minds of the Garda in my area up to now has been straying animals. Certainly, they had their work cut out in other areas of police work and had no time for that. Also, it would take some time for the local authorities to provide the pounds. The Bill raises many pertinent questions, especially with regard to the impounding of cattle, because of the problem of disease. Very few farmers would like to see cattle brought from a distance and impounded on land adjacent to them.

Straying animals have become a very serious hazard over the last number of years, with a number of fatal accidents occurring. Along the Dublin to Derry road there is one stretch which is always subject to straying animals. One would be surprised not to see such animals there. I know of one motor passenger who was killed outright as a result of such animals straying on to the road. As a member of a local authority, I would hope that the local authorities would try to implement this legislation, the cost of which implementation is recoupable. A previous speaker asked about self-financing of the legislation. However, out of 750,000 dogs, only 12 per cent are licensed. If 50 per cent of these animals were licensed, that would bring in £2.5 million, which would be sufficient. However, it is easy to quote those figures, but it is much harder to implement the legislation.

Private pounds were mentioned earlier, but I can see real problems there with regard to insurance and administration. I cannot see these being the answer. A questionnaire about dog shelters revealed that only a small number of local authorities provided these shelters, even though 50 per cent of the finance was recoupable. In my county the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did great work, but were severely restricted in the finance available from all quarters to administer the scheme.

As one previous speaker mentioned, the situation is extremely serious with regard to the ravaging of sheep. Sheep numbers from the mid-seventies to the late seventies dropped in number, but they have now recovered. This increase was due to sheep farming being fairly remunerative. In my county the one drawback for people thinking of going into sheep production is the damage done by stray dogs. On one occasion, of a lorryload of sheep bought for a farm, 15 were killed that night by marauding dogs who were ranging loose in the vicinity of an old council dump. Sheep farmers down the years have suffered substantial losses to some very good flocks. These stray dogs will have to be got rid of. We cannot afford to have sheep savaged. Farmers in many areas are unable to keep sheep because of this danger.

One matter concerns me with regard to section 3 of the Bill which imposes direct liability in all cases of injury or damage caused to any person attacked by a dog. This is a re-enactment of section 1 of the Dogs Act of 1906. It will now no longer be necessary to prove that the dog owner knew that the dog had a vicious disposition. Such proof is at present necessary before strict liability can arise. Many old people live alone at present and most are dependent on the protection of watchdogs. Many would prefer to have a dog with a fairly vicious disposition because there is great fear of attack in the rural areas — not only in the rural areas but in the built-up areas of the cities as well. Attacks on old people are common and practically the only safeguard for people living alone in isolated areas is their watchdog. The Bill mentions that strict liability means that the dog's owner is liable, but that the amount for which he is liable may be reduced if there was considerable negligence on the part of the injured person.

The question comes up as to who is a trespasser. Any person coming with the purpose of attacking an old person and who is bitten severely by a dog could claim that he was not trespassing, but was paying a social call, or making an inquiry. There is fairly wide scope there. I hope cognisance would be taken of those who have to rely on dogs of a fairly vicious disposition for protection.

I welcome the Bill, but see many problems relating to its implementation, problems both at local authority and at Garda level. There are many anomalies but these have been dealt with very effectively by Deputy O'Dea. I hope these matters will be resolved and that there will be the will to see that this legislation is administered to the last letter of the law.

I want to say a few words in relation to the Animals Bill, 1985. Certainly, this Bill is welcome and one must take it in that spirit. However, I wonder how implementable it will be. This Bill has three specific functions — one to alter liability in respect of ownership, the second to increase Garda powers with relation to impounding and the third to give powers to the local authorities to impound. This House passed legislation some years ago in relation to litter. A lot of hot air was wasted in this Chamber because the legislation does not work. It has not been effective. I wonder if this legislation will also be ineffective. Is there the will and are there the resources available to see that it is implemented as it should be? It is very obvious to anybody who has to drive many thousands of miles each year that something should have been done about straying animals. One must call into question the will of the ordinary Irish farmer to ensure that the fences on the public highway and roads are sealed off effectively. The Department of Agriculture have recognised this need down through the years, particularly in the last decade. They insist that in order for farmers to get grants from their Department they will have to meet certain specifications in relation to the quality of fencing and of work done. That is as it should be.

With the difficulties confronting all local authorities at present in relation to finance and the constraints and pressures on them to do other things, I cannot see them going overboard providing pounds, ensuring that animals found wandering or trespassing are impounded there to be dealt with at a later stage. Local authorities appear to be empowered to impound animals found wandering in public parks. It should be remembered that many small rural towns do not have public parks and those that do probably have not got pounds. I should like to see action taken in this regard because one can always see animals wandering about that should be impounded. Indeed there might well be some employment potential here. For example, at one time there used to be rat catchers. Perhaps we should set up a new league of dog catchers.

I heard recently of a farmer losing 86 ewes in one night because they had been savaged by two dogs. One of those dogs was shot by the Garda. They decided to let the second go, placing some sort of impediment around its neck, to see if it would return to its owner. Being the animals it was, that dog swam the nearest river and vanished into the hills. The farmer in question cannot ascertain who was the owner of the dog and therefore liability and compensation have been denied by the Department of Agriculture.

One might ask what will happen animals that are impounded? Will they be sold off? Will they be put down by the Garda or by other officers authorised by them? What will happen to them after their disposal? Will we be back to the days of the free beef or will they be disposed of by other means? There is potential for a spread of bovine tuberculosis brought about by wandering animals, cattle who have been straying for some time, who have not been tested. If such animals are to be inter-mixed with others in a public pound there could well be risk occasioned in some cases. I should like more information in regard to the establishment of pounds, how they are to be staffed, funded and how the Garda or local authorities expect to recoup money from owners whose cattle have been impounded.

Our roads are already in a sufficiently poor condition, deteriorating over the winter period as a result of frost and so on, that any motorist encountering a black bullock on a dark night—unless the animal happens to raise its head as one approaches so that one can see the eyes—could indeed be in trouble. There have been occasions when cars or lorries have crashed through fences, when stock have broken loose and when a second accident was likely to occur. In those circumstances liability could not be placed on the owner of those animals in that he was not responsible in the first place. Old farmers will tell one that the grass growing on roadsides is often the sweetest because of lime dust fallen from passing trucks or whatever. It used to be described as "the long acre" where farmers used to stake their animals.

Driving our roads nowadays, except perhaps the national primary routes, one sees a number of animals straying or wandering about, normally bullocks, cows, heifers, horses, sheep or goats. A black Aberdeen Angus bull grazing peacefully on the long acre is all right but if some avaricious farmer has dosed the animal with a high level of hormones then one could find that its normally placid nature might vanish. Motorists should be made aware particularly of the kinds of animals they may meet. Probably the hen is the most unpredictable one can think of in this respect and can cause serious accidents.

The question of animals breaking loose onto minor public roads must be examined also because there the fencing is not of as high a standard as that on main roads. I do not know how much the passage of this Bill will bring home to farmers the realisation that something must be done about the quality of their fencing. In fairness many have improved its qualitv in recent years. I hope the Department of Agriculture, ACOT instructors and others will continue to encourage that trend.

Wandering dogs are a different matter and quite a number of dog bites have been reported in recent years. It is disgraceful that people purchase pets for children at Christmas and then the pets are disposed of when the children go back to school in the new year, usually being driven out into the country and let loose to wander about. This is to be deplored. I am not sure how effective will be the provisions of this Bill in that respect. The old dog licence collected by a garda or sergeant on his bicycle was a reflection then of people's responsibility in relation to the keeping of animals. For example, I am not sure how many dog licences have been collected in, say, the last ten years when the Garda have been subjected to much pressure and strain and, in most cases, have much more to do than collect dog licences.

I think they got more bites than licences.

The effectiveness of the provisions of this Bill will have to be examined if it is to be successful in that respect. The fines specified are realistic, if imposed. Wandering dogs have caused an enormous amount of damage to livestock generally. If local authorities are to be reimbursed a certain amount of money for the provision of pounds then let us take action, having the Minister for the Environment issue an instruction to all local authorities to provide pounds. The number of stray, wandering dogs in any average sized town of, say, 10,000 people, has become significant, and they are causing untold destruction. These animals should either be put down in a humane way or impounded by the relevant local authority until such time as they have been disposed of in an efficient manner. There is no point in all the verbiage in this Chamber unless effective action is taken and people can see its results.

The violation of old age has become a new phenomenon in western democracies and is something to be deplored. Old people have been savagely attacked, particularly in the last 12 months. Many such people have acquired dogs or other animals by way of protection for themselves, many of these people being insufficiently agile to follow an animal beyond the end of the road. While such people are entitled to have such protection at night, if any such animal were to be the subject of liability in case of an accident, then some leniency should be shown. In that regard people driving cars should be licensed, and more effectively than the animals wandering the roads, something the Garda and the Department of Justice should be examining.

I welcome the Bill. I question the effectiveness of its provisions. I sincerely hope that the necessary resources will be made available and the necessary publicity will be given to it in order to clean up this aspect of our countryside. I hope the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Justice will see to it that this becomes an effective piece of legislation and not just pie in the sky or hot air.

Like other speakers I welcome the Bill which is based on a report by the Law Reform Commission on civil liability for animals. I compliment the commission on their fine work and on their proposals. I also compliment the Minister on bringing forward this legislation which is long overdue. It is my opinion and the opinion of many others that he diluted the proposals of the Law Reform Commission a little too much.

I do not want to repeat anything anybody else has said. Most of what I should like to say has already been said. There are three main aspects of the Bill: wandering cattle, horses and dogs. Cattle do not present nearly as big a problem as horses and dogs. The bovine species is a reasonably predictable animal. To say that wandering cattle is not as big a problem as wandering horses and dogs does not take away from the fact that they present a very serious problem. Cattle wander because of hunger, bad fencing, or bad farming generally. We should pay more attention to farmers who let their cattle wander because of hunger. Perhaps some reference should be made to cruelty to animals.

The movement on the roads of the bovine species is generally slow and predictable and for that reason accidents caused have not been too serious. It is probably easier to solve the wandering cattle problem than the problem of wandering horses and dogs. With a new awareness of tight margins within the farming community and in agriculture generally, farmers will not want to see their cattle wandering any more.

The Deputy from Mayo said he heard that the grass on the side of the road, known to all country people as the long acre, is the sweetest grass. That is not true. Good farming and good husbandry will ensure that cattle are kept properly fenced and fed on good land. The problem of stray horses is completely different. I remember the first Sunday of September 1970 for two reasons. The first is that Cork destroyed Wexford in an all-Ireland hurling final.

That is worth remembering.

The Minister may well smile. On my way home from that hurling final injury was added to insult when I hit a horse and killed the car as well as the horse. I had to buy a new car and I got very little for my car which was new. The people I brought with me from the match sued me and, apart from that, I had to pay for the horse, believe it or not, even though he or she was wandering on the road. It was an ordinary farm horse and being a farmer I believe it was worth £60. I had to pay £300. Suddenly it was related to Arkle. I am delighted that will be changed under this Bill. My legal advice at the time was that the horse had a right of way. I was not drinking that night. Dusk was falling. I did not stay in Dublin to celebrate. I could not escape what happened.

Every horse wandering on our roads is a potential killer and must be treated as such. No legislation is too strong to resolve this problem. In a period of two weeks four people were killed in my constituency. It is an ongoing problem. Nothing appears to have been done about it. We talk about local authorities and the Garda impounding animals but, when the Garda are contacted they tell you to contact the local authority and vice versa. Even if a citizen reports the fact that there are horses on the road nothing is done. I assume this Bill will be passed and then there will be an obligation on the Garda and on the local authorities, and I hope neither will try to dodge their obligations. The equine species is far more unpredictable than the bovine species. It takes very little to frighten a horse. I learned my lesson and I either almost stop or crawl past a wandering horse. A frightened horse can do almost anything. Something must be done to ensure that they are not allowed to wander.

From my own experience I remember the expression "an Act of God" and I see it mentioned in the Minister's speech. I should like him to define exactly what it entails, and how broad or narrow it is. Perhaps politicians may try to broaden the scope of the phrase, but I am sure people in the legal profession will. I should like to hear a fairly clear definition of the phrase.

I am pleased that the fines are reasonably realistic. The fine for a first offence is £150 and £350 for a second offence. Perhaps we should think about index-linking the figures or reviewing them every year so that they can be raised. To date these figures have been absolutely crazy.

There is also the question of the destruction of property by horses. I am sure every rural Deputy has had the experience of meeting irate women complaining about horses wandering onto their front lawns and destroying them. When approaches were made to the Garda the people were referred to the local authority who referred them back to the Garda and eventually nothing was done. I want to refer to the horses of itinerants. It is a national scandal that because they have no land probably the biggest horse owners in this country will put their horses into the first field they see, particularly if they think no one will notice them until morning. The Minister must take a serious look at this because if a person intends to keep horses he must have the capacity to feed them.

I am delighted to see that part of this Bill accommodates the destruction of impounded animals. This will encourage people who have allowed their animals to wander to be more particular. To date the person who was hurt was the innocent person. He must be protected but to date only the animal or the owner was protected.

I often heard it said that a dog is entitled to the first bite, but I am delighted to see that that provision has gone by the wayside. As most speakers said, there are too many stray dogs and the number seems to be on the increase. Deputy Leonard said that only an estimated 12 per cent of dogs are licensed. Too many dog owners are careless, as anybody who saw the pictures in the papers or on the television will agree. The savagery visited on sheep by dogs must bring it home to the Minister that this situation must be looked at very seriously. If there is one weak point in the Bill it is this one, which I would like to see tackled more vigorously. In my view any farmer who sees a dog on his land tormenting sheep, or who appears to be intent on worrying sheep, should with immunity have the power to shoot that dog. I say this because of the savagery which I have seen in Wexford, Wicklow and other parts of the country.

It is well known that there is no such thing as sheep production near towns. That ought to make it clear what is happening. Dog owners do not care where their animals are at night, and that must cease. That is why it is necessary for strong action to be taken and why I say farmers should be allowed with immunity to shoot any dog on his property. We should look at this from an economic point of view. A great number of sheep have been attacked and slaughtered and there is no longer any sheep production near our towns. This is very bad for the economy.

The previous speakers spoke about watchdogs. If there is somebody on my property with doubtful motives and if my watchdog bites him, I say fair play to the dog because for far too long we have been protecting the criminals as against the person who is offended.

I welcome the Bill, which is a step in the right direction, and hope the next step will be taken in the not too distant future.

I welcome this long overdue Bill. Thousands of people in our cities, towns and throughout the country have been affected by stray animals. Having taken the decision to bring in new legislation in this area I regret the Minister did not go all the way and incorporate the proposals for the new Dogs Bill in this legislation. I come from a mainly rural constituency and for a number of years the farmers there have been crying out for help because of the damage done by stray dogs. As chairman of ACOT in Meath I have been working with the voluntary organisations — the IFA and the ISPCA — to try to discuss the necessary legislation with the relevant Governments over the last three or four years. Would it be possible even at this late stage to discuss these serious problems?

I welcome the fact that the Minister has reviewed the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission but I think some of the recommendations went a little too far. The people who own animals which are allowed to stray on the roads, particularly horses, should pay the bill for the damage caused by these animals, or the animals should be impounded and destroyed after a very short period. At a recent ACOT meeting in my constituency the members of that committee said they were very disappointed that they were not given an opportunity to discuss this Bill because they were all members of different farming organisations and would have welcomed the opportunity to make proposals to the Minister. Maybe even now it is not too late for that to happen. I am delighted to see that where animals stray onto the road because of an accident, such as a broken fence, the Bill provides that there is a degree of negligence on the part of the farmer.

I welcome the increase in fines but they should be linked to inflation because it could be years before a Bill is brought into the House to increase fines. Does the Minister know the effects this Bill may have on insurance premiums in certain cases? I know from experience that people in farming are finding it harder to get public liability insurance. We do not want to bring in legislation which will make it more difficult for these people to get insurance. We must protect these people and ensure that moderate quotations are available at all times.

I welcome the extra powers being given to the Garda and the local authorities but I wonder if we are proposing that pounds be set but not saying where the money will come from. I do not want to see a situation develop where the local authority will set up a pound but must also provide the money. That should not be the intention because if it is it will meet with objections right down the line, from councillors and the public generally. This will be particularly obvious in areas where money is limited. This fact must be taken into consideration. I believe local authorities and the Garda authorities can work together but if large sums of money are involved they will come up against resistance because every local authority are in debt. I hope, having gone to the trouble of bringing the Bill before the House, that when it is passed there will be pounds available and that there will be no hassle in county councils about money to provide them.

I should like to revert to the first problem I mentioned in regard to stray dogs. There are about 25,000 dogs in my county of which 4,000 are licensed. When people buy pets for children they do not realise that they grow and when this happens their owners cannot cope and allow them to stray. Over the last five years we have lost thousands of pounds worth of mutton and lamb which would have been exported. We are not getting to grips with the problem of stray dogs killing sheep. In 1981 I was part of a deputation which met a junior Minister regarding this problem and the following year we met a different Minister. Three different Departments were dealing with the problem and we did not get a positive response from any of them.

The Bill does not go far enough. We should be working to ensure that in conjunction with the ISPCA and county councils, dog pounds are set up and that the money collected in dog licences should finance that project. A warden with a van should be appointed for each county to collect licence fees or to impound the dogs whose owners did not pay. If that was done, we would come to grips with the problem in a few short years. I have been a Member of this House for nearly four years and it is past time for legislation in this regard to be introduced. The county committees of agriculture would be quite willing to look after the operation of the system if they were given an opportunity to do so. We could provide wardens who would pay for themselves in the collection of licence fees. The licence fee should be increased to £10 which would lessen the problem of unwanted dogs. In the thirties the Garda paid dog catchers to get rid of unwanted dogs and, with so many people unemployed, some could be employed in this area. This would ensure that more of our sheep and lambs were available for export which would improve our balance of payments.

I welcome the proposals in the Bill which will solve some of the problems of wandering animals but much more could be done in this area and I am sure we would have the backing of people in rural areas as well as of those in cities and towns.

I congratulate the Minister for bringing in this Bill. This legislation is a triumph for the Minister who lives in a city which has been plagued by wandering animals. In conjunction with the potholes on the Limerick roads, no other part of local life has given rise to such adverse comment in that city or its surrounds as wandering horses. I also congratulate the Minister for expediting the Bill.

The Law Reform Commission reported on this matter in 1982. There were continuous complaints before Christmas by Deputies regarding the lack of legislation in this area. In bringing in this Bill, the Minister will eradicate the grievous problems which exist, mainly in urban areas. Other Deputies were very concerned about the control of animals in rural areas but on the national primary route from Clare to Dublin there are very few wandering cattle. However, there are wandering horses in towns and villages, some of which belong to travellers and other to residents of the area who barter them at horse fairs. Horses on the outskirts of Limerick have destroyed developed front gardens and have caused enormous problems. The Minister has addressed himself to these problems and I was very disappointed to hear Deputy O'Dea deriding him for bringing in this legislation. I do not have any doubts about whether the Bill will be implemented. It isolates the problems and its provisions are very clear. It provides for the impounding of animals and also ensures that there will be adequate penalties for offences. As a member of a local authority, I can say that one of the greatest frustrations has been the ambivalence of the officers of local authorities and the Garda when it comes to correcting the problem of wandering animals. They pass the buck from one to the other. In the regulations which the Minister will draw up at a later stage he should ensure that all the various bodies implement the legislation to the letter.

The problem in constituencies vary. In some of the more enlightened constituencies where halting sites have been provided the problem of wandering horses will be alleviated. The Departments of the Environment and Justice should work together to ensure that this legislation is effective.

Other Deputies were concerned about the problem of stray dogs attacking sheep. This problem is widespread. I was glad to hear that it is intended to bring in a Dogs Bill to deal with this problem. Sheep worrying is a problem in my constituency. As a result of pets being abandoned at coastal resorts packs of dogs have ganged together and caused damage to sheep in the Lahinch and Liscannor areas recently.

I commend the Minister for bringing in this Bill. I notice that some of the Acts referred to go back as far as 1847. Much of our legislation needs to be consolidated. By introducing this Bill and the Dogs Bill the Minister will have done a good day's work.

I am happy that such a Bill is being considered and I congratulate the Minister for having the courage to face up to the very serious problems which we have had for a long time. I am sure that similar ground will be covered by speakers in relation to different aspects of the Bill.

The Bill has two important sections. One deals with the legal liability arising from wandering animals as defined in the Bill, which covers straying cattle, horses and sheep, although sheep probably would not have the potential to cause the same amount of damage as horses or cattle. The Bill confers on local authorities and the Garda a new level of power in relation to the impounding of stray animals. We must be very careful about the section which extends the powers of the local authorities and the Garda. I know the law needs to be amended and modified but cases can arise where animals wander through no fault of the owner or occupier of the land. It may be as a result of vandalism or a local dispute or difference between land owners.

Serious accidents have occurred which resulted in the loss of life. A personal friend of mine was killed on the public road. The accident was caused by a wandering horse which jumped on to the roof of the car. A gate was left open by someone and the horse got out on the road, saw the lights of the car and jumped on it.

We have a serious problem with itinerants' horses but they are quite used to the road and seem to have a level of tameness that we do not normally associate with horses. However, the Minister is quite right to examine ways in which the legislation can be updated. This legislation will give greater protection to road users and will ensure that fewer animals will stray on the public roads.

The fines associated with existing legislation are ridiculous today. These have been substantially increased. There are problems about the impounding of animals and I hope the Minister will examine this, particularly in relation to bovine animals where disease could be a problem. We must exercise extreme caution in relation to the impounding of such animals because disease can spread rapidly. I hope that the manner in which the legislation is implemented will ensure that this does not happen.

I have no doubt but that when this Bill is passed some people will get a rude awakening because of the increased fines. For the offence of pound breaking the fine was £50. This is a matter which will have to be seriously considered. We all know that people have sought to release impounded animals in the dark of night. This fine has now been increased to £750. I hope that increasing the fine will have the desired effect.

In another instance where there is a breach of the regulations there is an increase from £20 to £500, which is quite substantial. The fine for a first offence for allowing an animal to wander on to the public road increases from 10p to £150 which is very considerable. Every effort must be made to inform all animal owners that such fines can be imposed. I have seen instances where very heavy fines were written into legislation, for instance, the measure dealing with litter, but I do not think that the effect achieved was what was desired originally. The legislators did their job and it is a matter for those who administer the law to carry out their responsibilities. The countryside is still strewn with litter and it seems impossible to pin the blame on the culprits. I hope there will not be a similar situation arising as a result of this legislation.

It was obvious that radical changes were needed. We have to take into account the increase in the volume of road traffic, the improvement works that have been carried out and the increasing speed of traffic. There is nothing more dangerous than to have stray cattle, whether single or in groups, on roadways. One never knows what turn or twist they will take and many serious accidents have occurred. It is only right and proper that action be taken in law to protect the public.

The other important part of the Bill deals with stray dogs. I am a dog lover like most other Deputies. All of us know that the number of stray dogs has increased and nobody seems to take responsibility for them. Many of these animals attack sheep. We have seen pictures of such attacks on television and in the press and people have written at length in a very sickening way about the effects of an attack by marauding dogs on sheep flocks. It affects the farming community to a very considerable degree. It is about time we updated the law and I anticipated much stronger regulations in relation to dealing with marauding animals.

In my county we do not have the same sheep numbers as they have in other countries but in neighbouring counties, such as Carlow, large flocks of sheep have been attacked regularly and farmers have suffered severe losses. To a large extent their redress has been inhibited by the cumbersome legislation that exists. While a person may have the right in court to seek some kind of compensation often that compensation is very small and the person has to be absolutely sure he has found the culprit. Because of the nebulous nature of the legal system most of the awards go in legal costs and the farmers who suffer the most end up with very little. The Law Reform Commission made certain recommendations which had they been implemented in this Bill would give a much wider range of powers to individuals. I am glad the Minister saw fit not to go that far at this stage. However, if this legislation is not effective the Minister will have my support to carry the matter further if that is necessary.

I note from some reports that in 1984 some 15,000 sheep were killed or maimed by marauding dogs. That would apply mainly to places close to urban areas. It appears that in urban areas there is very little control over straying dogs. The dog will be no longer entitled to his first bite. It is most important to ensure that every dog is licensed. I remember the time when every dog in rural areas was licensed and gardaí called regularly to farmers to ensure that they had the necessary licences. If that were followed up in urban areas the extent of the problem would diminish, particularly in the Dublin area.

I realise that it is not always unlicensed dogs that are responsible for damage to sheep. There is nothing so heart-breaking or so disgusting for a farmer as to see tame, innocent animals such as sheep killed and maimed. It is one of the greatest of crimes against animals. Vigilante groups of farmers have been set up and this is quite right. They have taken the law into their own hands because the law has not given them any protection up to now. They shoot the dogs on sight and that is the only way to deal with them. All of us have sympathy for owners of dogs but they should take care to ensure that their dogs do not roam in packs at night time. Not only is it essential to license dogs but it is also essential to keep them under control in public places. The fines should be more severe if dogs are allowed to roam on land, which constitutes a form of trespassing. We must take the necessary steps if the problem is to be dealt with effectively.

The existing dog licence costs about £5 which is a very small fee. The Minister should consider increasing it substantially. There should be a regulation with regard to licence fees: I think they are due on 1 January of each year, unlike licences for motor cars. Speakers have referred to the responsibility falling on local authorities for the impounding of stray animals and dogs come into this category. Every county has given serious consideration to the setting up of pounds to give adequate protection to animals and to look after them and provide for them until ownership is established. In the event of non-establishment of ownership they can be very easily put away, as is happening in a number of counties. I noted from a report in a weekend newspaper that it is happening very effectively on a wide scale in County Waterford. If the owners are not found these stray animals are very sympathetically put to sleep. Only in that way can we ensure that we will not have the type of growth that we do not want in the dog kingdom.

It appears that the law of strict liability is in existence. I believe that if an animal strays on to a public road and is hit by a motor car and there are no witnesses, in existing law the motorist would be liable for the loss of the animal. I stand to be corrected on that. The modification and amendments brought in by this Bill would transfer the liability across the other way, in other words a person struck by an animal would be able to claim damages. I hope there will be an opportunity to clarify that further on Committee Stage. In regard to strict liability a dog's first bite was disregarded. That provision is to be changed and that will make people think twice about holding on to a dog which has a tendency to be vicious.

Only last week somebody said that animals, particularly farm animals, must be insured. Insurance is a great growth area. Insurance will always cost money. If you go to a doctor he will ask if you are a member of VHI and his fee would appear to be somewhat higher if you say that you are. I am not suggesting that that is so but it would appear to be so. The same would be true in relation to the level of liability that can be extracted from insured animals straying on the public highways. Also, there will always be legal costs in adjudicating on a case and dealing with it. We are in the same situation here as the drivers of mechanically propelled vehicles on the public road. I suggest that the Minister give consideration to providing for an upper limit of liability or a simplified system whereby the level of liability can be arrived at. If the liability means that farmers will be forced into taking out large insurance policies the take will be not back to the person who has the right to some form of redress, but to the legal agents who operate for him. I hope that that will not arise, but I am making the point.

The Bill is set out carefully and it takes into account most of what most Members would wish would happen. I support the Bill and wish the Minister success with it. Perhaps we will have an opportunity of getting further clarification on some of the details on Committee State.

I welcome this Bill and I assure the House that very few pieces of legislation will give more general satisfaction to the people in my constituency. Somebody mentioned in a contribution that, taken with the potholes in the Limerick area, the subject matter of this Bill became the subject of humorous comment from some RTE commentators on the very popular morning programmes. I assure the House that it was anything but a popular subject for people in the Limerick suburbs. Very serious accidents have occurred there, resulting in one case in the death of a man who was a very good friend of mine. One morning when taking children to school I saw spancelled horses let loose. They were terrified by children going to school and turned on the children and it was by the grace of God that several fatalities did not occur among the children.

In particular I welcome the Minister's proposal in section 4 of the Bill to provide powers for the Garda to impound wandering animals which will apply even where the owner is known. One frustrating matter that arose was that in certain circumstances concerned residents saw animals wandering and threatening to do damage on the road or by breaking into schools as in the case of Ballynantybeg in my area. The people approached the gardaí in the local barracks who said that they could not do anything about that. The public were under the impression that they were being sent from pillar to post between the gardaí and the local authorities. I am delighted that a clear, unequivocal directive provides that the gardaí can impound these animals even when the owner is known. That is very welcome. I welcome also the provision which will extend these powers to include animals trespassing in public parks or other open spaces owned by a local authority or State authority. Another example of terrible frustration was public representatives telephoning the gardaí to be told that this was part of the public highway or belonged to the local authority and the gardaí could not move into that situation. This Bill will put paid to the lack of clarity in that regard.

I welcome the Minister's intention to make regulations to provide that the sale, disposal or destruction of impounded animals will be carried out by the order of a 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. Anyone who saw a certain RTE film some years ago will be more than amused about an individual in Limerick city who was interviewed and who obviously had responsibility for some breaches of the law in this regard. He denied owning horses. The horses were let off on their own and walked right into this individual's yard. I think that no other situation brought so much into focus the maxim well known in the legal profession that legislation is one thing and administration is another. The law was made a complete laughing stock in that context. I am delighted that an end will be put to such situations as I have described.

I compliment the Minister on his raising of the maximum fines for pound breaking from £50, which was anachronistic, to £750. We are all aware of situations in which people decline to acknowledge ownership of animals. There have been cases in which owners of animals broke into pounds in which local authorities had put the animals and spirited them, away at night. The provision is very welcome in that it will help to curb that kind of activity.

I understand from what the Minister says that local authorities will now be empowered to enter into arrangements with private interests for the impounding of animals either by the authority or by the Garda. I have some concern in this respect and that concern relates to the suggestion that the section will not come into operation until such time as regulations are made by the Minister for Justice concerning impounding in these private pounds. These regulations are to 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 pound breaking offences are the same as those for similar offences in respect of public pounds. I urge the Minister to provide that the regulations be introduced immediately on this Bill becoming law so that the Act can be put into operation without delay and that so far as possible fines, sentences or the disposal of animals would be mandatory, that it would not be optional for a district justice to take certain circumstances into account and perhaps to allow people who are clearly in breach of the law to get away lightly. There are few aspects of public life in my constituency that have caused so much public anger as the manner in which the law has been flouted and treated with contempt by people who allow their animals to wander. I think everybody will realise to whom I am referring.

Again I compliment the Minister on bringing the Bill. It is very welcome.

I join with the previous speakers in welcoming the Bill which has been brought in by the Minister as a result of the many problems caused by straying animals particularly in his city and throughout the county of Limerick. I was of the opinion that the problem applied in a major way only to Limerick but from listening to the many speakers who have contributed to the debate I realise that we are dealing with a problem that is nationwide. The owners of straying animals must realise that they have a responsibility to the community in general. It is wrong that immunity should apply to those people. I am very pleased that that immunity is being discontinued. We can appreciate that when the legislation allowing for that immunity was drafted the volume of traffic on the roads bore no relationship to today's situation.

A very welcome provision, too, is the empowering of the Garda and the local authorities to impound straying animals. I take this opportunity of paying tribute to my local authority, Limerick County Council, for the very good job they have been doing in this respect. While they have powers to impound animals they did not have the power to use private pounds so this change will be very welcome. The Garda, too, are to be complimented for the work they have been doing in trying to deal with the problem. A couple of months ago I witnesed a garda walking through Limerick city with a horse by the head and about ten other horses following. They were going in the direction of Ballinacurra. While I considered it degrading for the garda to have had to undertake that task, it showed a sense of responsibility and of dedication beyond the call of duty.

Many accidents, some fatal, have been caused in the Limerick area by straying animals. As Deputy Prendergast has pointed out, this whole problem was of grave concern in the region.

Section 2 is causing me some concernvis-à-vis its application to non-fenced areas, areas that I would describe as commonages. It is difficult to determine responsibility in the case of an animal straying on an unfenced area. For that reason I urge that there be a good deal of signposting and of publicity in respect of areas that are not fenced so that people driving in those areas at night may be forewarned of the danger of straying animals. The presence of a black horse on the road, for instance, might not be detectable in sufficient time to enable a driver to avoid an accident. The proposed increased penalty should be a big deterrent for those people who allow their animals stray on to the roadway. These people, too, will be conscious of the fact that road users will be aware of the new legislation. We are talking of penalties of up to £500. Perhaps before the Bill is passed the Minister will introduce an amendment to deal with the question of unfenced areas.

I am very interested in that aspect of the Bill that applies to dogs. I say this because of the high incidence of crime. I am a dog lover. I have three dogs in which I have a great interest and I know many people, particularly old people, who depend entirely on their dogs to protect them. It is true that a person's best friend can be their dog. I have been aware of a number of cases in my area in which dogs have had to be put down because of their having attempted to bite someone approaching their owner's premises. When we are speaking in this regard we must bear in mind that in many cases today people entering other people's property are not acting legitimately. That is why I urge that due regard be had to situations in which a person depends for protection on his dog. It would be too bad if in such a case a dog had to be put down by reason of his having bitten or attempted to bite a friend of the owner who was approaching the house late at night. That would be terrible. The business of the intruder should be legitimate.

I wish this Bill well. It will serve the purpose for which it was introduced.

I congratulate the Minister on bringing this measure before the House. One of the unique aspects of this Bill is that it reverses legislation that was basically misunderstood by many people in rural Ireland. Many hundreds of people had the misfortune to crash into animals on a wet dark country road and the misfortune was compounded by the fact that they were expected to put up with their own injuries, pay for the damage to their cars and to the stock in certain cases. This is an enlightened approach. People will now know where they stand.

It is reasonable to assume that the owners of animals should take care of them, keep them under adequate control and ensure that they are not a danger to the public. It is important that this legislation be well publicised so that people will be aware that when this Bill is enacted the owners of wandering animals will be responsible for any damage to property or life. There are occasions when animals will break out through no fault of the owner but on balance the onus of responsibility must rest with the owners. In a highly mechanised country it is vital that our roadways are kept as clear as possible and that there should be no doubt as to who is responsible for an accident involving straying animals.

Many side issues have arisen because of this debate. One such issue which will effect the western sea board is the whole question of liability where a group of persons own land and animals in common ownership. I envisage many legal complications relating to the whole area of commonage. I assume that it will be left to the courts to decide where the liability lies in such cases. Where there are commonages one would get a situation where everybody would own the land and the cattle, and nobody would own them. There would obviously be registered owners and either they or their representatives could be liable for damages. The central issue here relates to who will be charged with the liability for terrible accidents that occur due to animals straying.

In relation to the impounding of animals it has been a time honoured tradition that animals would not be impounded unless the owner was unknown. This Bill envisages that whether or not the owner is known to the person who had trouble with the animals, it is possible to bring these animals to the pound and it will not be as easy as it was to get them out. Heretofore, because of the size of the fines it did not pay the local authority to go to great lengths to look after the stock in the pounds and it was cheaper to let the animals out than to provide the fodder for them. With the maximum fine increased dramatically from £50 to £750 it will now be possible for the animals to be well looked after in the pounds. It is likely that more animals will be impounded when the facilities are available. Because of the finance that will accrue to local authorities from the fines facilities can be made available.

I do not have to remind the House of the trauma caused to motorists and others involved in accidents. People involved in accidents with animals have found that because the animals have not been marked or tagged, nobody claims ownership. The law needed to be tightened up. This Bill will certainly do that. There are many peripheral items about which we can argue and I am sure that there will be a great deal of argument on Committee Stage but from the general response from the public I feel that the public would agree that it is fair and reasonable in normal circumstances that the owners be responsible for their animals.

I must refer to the problem of straying dogs. As many previous speakers have said this represents a huge problem and one which has been come to grips with in very few places. There are many reasons for this. There are at least three Departments concerned here — the Departments of Agriculture, of the Environment, through the county councils, and of Justice — and over the years this appears to be nobody's problem. I am delighted that a very in-depth review has been taking place over the last 12 months and it is hoped that we will get from it legislation which will run parallel with this Bill and which will bring reasonable control over wandering animals. This is most essential with regard to marauding dogs which cost losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds to sheep farmers. One would hope that the imagination which has gone into the present Bill will go into the coming legislation.

People will have to bear greater responsibility for the actions of their so-called pets. This is what the agricultural community and others are crying out for. Once this Bill is passed into law, bringing this imaginative approach, I hope to see legislation based on the recommendations of the three Departments involved which will ensure that marauding dogs can be dealt with in a humane way so that they will not be a bother to themselves, the sheep, or the sheep owners. Even from the point of view of the national economy, this is essential.

Deputy Hyland is our party spokesman on this Bill. Unfortunately he is not here this afternoon and I would apologise for his absence. I welcome the principle of this Bill. The points involved have been outlined very well by Deputy Hyland and the other Members on both sides of the House. The provisions which the Minister is making to provide for greater safety on the roads are supported by all of us. We are all too well aware of accidents which have happened to drivers, particularly at night, who are confronted with wandering animals. These are a great danger to people, whether farmers or those from the cities. The measures which the Minister is taking to deal with the situation are very much to be welcomed.

It is interesting to learn from the statistics put forward by the Law Reform Commission that one is in far greater danger from other persons on the road than from animals. Nevertheless, one must make provisions to deal with and reduce all the dangers which exist on our roads and this is clearly one.

I shall be taking up on Committee Stage the point that the Minister is not making provision to impound from private property animals who are wandering there. He is concentrating on parks and open spaces. Unfinished housing estates are also mentioned. Quite often animals wander on to private property causing anxiety to the residents. I know that the Minister is taking care not to cause difficulties for farmers over straying in that context. As far as cities are concerned, horses will often wander on to private property and into estates and there should be some means of dealing with this. It is also important that the resources be provided to the local authorities in particular to deal with the problem effectively. The Minister is very aware of the problem in his own city of Limerick. There is no point in passing laws such as this and making regulations if adequate provision is not made for the handling of the impounded animals. I know that the Minister says it would be a bit pre-emptive to make arrangements in advance, but this would appear to be a matter of the numbers available. I appreciate the Minister's difficulty in this respect, but we must deal with these problems urgently.

This matter of immediate action came up with regard to the disposal of dumped cars, with the question of whether they were stolen cars or had been dumped by their owners. In the city of Dublin we had enormous difficulty with this. Eventually arrangements were made, directly by the local authorities and through some of the AnCO projects and other means, to take these cars out of the built-up areas. There has been a great deal more activity in this respect and that is what the people want to see, not just the passing of legislation.

Onecaveat which I would enter in relation to the Minister's proposals in this respect is that he should make arrangements in parallel with this Bill to ensure that this legislation is implemented. Our problem is that we are always too far behind. People hear about such legislation going through the House and are naturally delighted that some action is being taken and expect to see things changing. They do not realise that a Bill takes some time going through this House and the Seanad and some further time before the Minister makes his arrangements for the preparation of the detailed regulations and their promulgation. The ordinary citizen has a right to expect something to happen when we in this House pass legislation. The Minister should try to ensure that the local authorities provide the necessary facilities. I ask him to prevail on his colleagues in the Cabinet to make the resources available.

Just as the Minister has many problems in his constituency, we experience very considerable difficulties in ours, from wandering horses in particular, which cause great trouble. There seem to be no facilities for dealing with these animals. The Minister's approach will help this in theory and from the legislative point of view. If we could deal with some of these matters in practice, people would be assured of the effectiveness of this Parliament and of the administration in general. With regard to dumped cars, there has been some action but we repeatedly have to ask for more because some places are littered with them. There are also far too many animals straying about the city of Dublin and other cities as well. Effective follow-through at local authority level should be arranged.

I should like the Minister to explain how he sees these proceedings operating in practice. He is amending the law in relation to liability.

In section 4 it is proposed to give the Garda specific powers to impound wandering animals. Local authorities are being given parallel powers to impound animals found trespassing in public parks or open spaces. I hope somebody will be appointed to deal with this problem rather than taking more Garda off the beat and assigning them that duty. This applies to dogs and animals generally. Perhaps, through the local authorities, we should be considering the provision of personnel to deal with this problem effectively so that members of the Garda are not taken from their ordinary duties for which they are well trained. How does the Minister envisage these provisions being implemented? How soon does he envisage their implementation? When may we expect to see something happen on the ground with a real improvement in this area?

If people driving round the country generally were to gain the impression that some action is being taken and that therefore they could drive more safely, especially at night when one may encounter a brown or black animal on the road, that in itself could be dangerous. Indeed some friends of mine have crashed into animals in such circumstances. There will also be complications in relation to certain areas or zones where there are problems of commonage because the ordinary motorist will not necessarily be aware of such areas or zones or where they are sited. The ordinary motorist would be well advised to maintain the same cautious eye until it is evident that something is being done in this area.

If we are really serious in our aspirations in this respect we should be looking at the general containment of animals and how we go about that, for example, what provisions are to be made for fencing? There are many parts of the country where fencing is inadequate and where it would be very difficult to prevent animals from straying onto the roads. If it will be some time before adequate fencing is provided then the Minister would need to make clear to people that they will need to continue to take great care travelling throughout the countryside, that the provisions of the Bill will not make much difference in that respect, except that it will mean that liability will be transferred, but such transference of liability will not be of much help to anybody who is seriously or fatally injured in a road accident.

In the course of his opening remarks the Minister spoke of another recommended impounding provision by the Law Reform Commission. We should recognise that the Law Reform Commission have done a great deal of valuable work. I would not attempt here to assess this in an overall manner and it is this House which has been remiss in not implementing many of their recommendations. In this area they undertook a valuable study, giving their views in a clear and concise way. They have been particularly helpful to Members of the House, to the Minister in his preparation of this Bill and to Members who wanted to contribute to the debate. In the course of his remarks the Minister referred to another impounding provision recommended by the Law Reform Commission which would have allowed the private detention of trespassing animals where the owner was known, with power to the occupier to sell the animal, if necessary, and to reimburse himself out of the proceeds, giving the balance to the owner. As matters stand, under the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851, the occupier of land trespassed by an animal must return the animal to its owner, where known. Where the owner is not known he may impound the animal in a 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. In relation to private areas within cities there is a problem to be encountered in this respect, when the private citizen needs assistance in dealing with animals who wander onto his or her property. When the Minister is re-examining this aspect he might ascertain whether any provision can be made for dealing with animals who stray onto private property.

The Minister said that where a motorist or other road user suffers damage caused by an animal straying onto the public road, he has not recourse against the owner of the animal, that this situation derives from the fact that, under the law as administered by the courts, the owner has no duty to prevent animals from straying. This means an owner will not have strict liability but will be liable for negligence which, in itself, will lead to considerable argument about where negligence exists and what it means. For example, does it mean that a farmer must provide adequate and proper fencing? Would that constitute a basis for providing that there was negligence on the part of the owner of the animal? Under existing law, an occupier is not liable in negligence for an animal who strays from his land onto an adjoining public road and causes injury or damage.

Under the provisions of this Bill in future the liability of the occupier 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 defence available against a claim based on negligence. In that respect I would ask the Minister to spell out what this will mean in terms of negligence. For instance, there is the question of traditional fencing which was not found to be too strong against the encroachment of animals on to the public road. Will that traditional type fencing still remain, or does it imply an onus on the owner or occupier of the land to provide adequate fencing? If it means that, then any motorist travelling our roads would be in a much safer positionvis-à-vis straying animals. As I see it, the only comfort the provisions of this Bill will give is that one may drive down a road like the Naas dual carriageway and if runs into an animal one will have a claim for negligence if one can prove it. Most people would like to bring about a situation in which one would not run into animals, in the first place, when there would be a stronger onus on an occupier and perhaps support for him in providing adequate fencing. This is a difficult area so far as the law is concerned.

The Minister has gone away from the concept of strict liability to the concept of negligence. That leaves a fairly wide area in between. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say about that. The first requirement is that people do not meet with accidents and are not killed on the roads through such accidents. Adequate fencing should be installed and people who do not comply with a phased introduction of adequate fencing should be seen to be negligent. The Minister said that all defences available against a claim based on negligence will apply.

In general I welcome the provisions of the Bill. Questions can be raised on Committee Stage. The public want safety on the roads. We must ensure that animals do not escape on to the public roads. Strict liability was the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission and, once the Minister went away from that, he left a void in regard to the onus on the occupier to provide adequate safeguards to prevent animals straying. Perhaps this could be looked at again on Committee Stage.

When the Minister is replying he might outline his views on how improvements might be made and the extent to which he has discussed these matters with the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture has spoken on the Bill. The agricultural sector have welcomed the broad provisions of the Bill. To what extent will the Minister for Agriculture support the Minister for Justice in the work he is doing and make parallel arrangements to ensure that animals do not stray on to the roads? The Minister is working with the Minister for the Environment on the regulations and their application.

We want to ensure that things will happen and people will see them happening. I wonder could a phased programme be introduced to upgrade the fencing on the public roads particularly in areas where the driver is especially exposed. We take these things too casually. We are inclined to say the difficulty is considerable, but are we to go on forever saying we cannot do as much as the Law Reform Commission wanted us to do? I appreciate the Minister's position. Nevertheless should we not bridge the gap between these two things over some period of time in some parallel programme in the Department of Agriculture to provide safe and secure fencing on the roads and particularly on the main highways? The Bill does not impose any duty to fence. It would be useful if the Minister could give us a clear statement in this regard. Who is responsible for fencing? Can we have standards set at this stage? This question must be dealt with adequately. Could we have some rules or regulations with which we could start?

The Minister is making arrangements to bring in regulations to deal with the keeping of animals in urban areas. This is particularly welcome. One wonders whether this should not be done by the local authorities responding to their local councillors and people concerned with safety in the area. The Minister is proposing that strict liability will be imposed in all cases of injuries or damage caused to any person attacked by a dog. This might be described as abolishing the principle embodied in the old saying that a dog is entitled to its first bite. We want to deal with a gratuitous attack by a dog on an individual, where a dog, without provocation or without any cause, attacks an individual. The owner of the dog will be held liable. The Minister said that, under the present law, strict liability applies only in two specific cases. Of course a dog may be provoked or kicked and may retaliate to defend itself or its owner if the owner is being attacked.

The Minister referred to the ordinary rule of negligence and not strict liability applying where trespassers are injured by dogs. This is a very important provision in section 3 and it is very important that it would apply. The Minister might outline how this will apply in practice. Blind people rely on their guide dogs to protect them. Increasing numbers of elderly people and others keep dogs to provide protection and to prevent housebreaking. Perhaps the Minister would outline how the ordinary rules of negligence would apply where trespassers enter a premises in such circumstances because this is a matter of some concern to many residents.

In recent times, because of the very high level of housebreaking and a lack of security in the home, a dog barking can help residents. Many trespassers or housebreakers come equipped with sprays to kill the dog or to put him out of action for a time. This unprecedented savagery of attacks by housebreakers is very disturbing. Many people feel safer if they have a dog because it can raise the alarm at an early stage. This gives the residents an opportunity to try to get help. If a person is breaking and entering most people would say that the dog has the right to defend the home owner. I appreciate that under the rules of negligence it is probably not allowed to have a particularly savage dog which would bite somebody who merely put a foot over a wall. However, most people would — dare I say it? — condone keeping a dog which would take the seat out of somebody's pants or bite the leg off his trousers. The presence of a dog can be very important because it gives residents a feeling of security.

Many old people living in flats are keeping dogs — even in flats where dogs are not allowed but fortunately a blind eye is being turned to this — for safety reasons, particularly during the night because the dog will give a warning. This is particularly important when the elderly person can press a button calling for local assistance. I hope that in the near future this system will be used more. At first the local authorities tentatively introduced this scheme in certain blocks of flats, but it is more widely applied now and a warden is on duty in these areas. When the dog has given the warning the elderly person can call the warden and this will give such people a much more secure feeling. I agree with the Minister that we must prevent gratuitous attacks by dogs. I do not know why but postmen seem to upset dogs — perhaps it is their uniform. As I said, I would like the Minister to set out the rules on the law of negligence as they apply to dogs so that the people will know what is happening.

Another important consideration is that very few dogs are licensed. We are back to the old story where the same people pay for everything. They buy dog licences, television licences and so on. If the Minister wants to implement this legislation and ensure that the intention is carried through, he should ensure that all dogs are licensed. This should be the responsibility of the local authorities who will provide officers to deal specifically with this matter. This will ensure that the Garda are not tied up with this routine work. This can be worked out by the Minister with the Minister for the Environment. They can come to an arrangement which will ensure that there is a fair system in operation because at present the majority of people do not have dog licences. It is possible that the price of the licence could be reduced if more people bought them. The price has been increased from £1 to £5 for each dog. I am sure most people merely overlook buying a licence and it might be possible for the local authorities to make it more convenient for people to pay their licences and buy them at the appropriate time.

In this legislation we are denying the dog the right of the first bite but at the same time we are not making sure that we know who owns the dog. There are a large number of dogs roaming Dublin city and presumably other cities as well. Perhaps the Minister would spell out the rules of law in relation to negligence. Perhaps he would make it clear that there is no intention to discourage people from having dogs provided they are kept under reasonable control and that they do not gratuitously attack people. He might also explain how the owner stands if the dog attacks a trespasser. If a trespasser comes into a garden, where does the owner stand in relation to the dog's first bark, snatch or whatever? The Minister 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. Perhaps the Minister would explain in more detail if he has made any calculation of the implication of this change in regard to the insurance which needs to be taken out for a dog. Has he considered whether the liability which rests with the householder will be increased to cover the change to strict liability? The Minister did not spell this out although he indicated that it should not be excessive. What does the Minister think it might be? Has he given any consideration to it?

Members have made the position clear in regard to dogs worrying or attacking sheep and other farm animals and the question of dogs with a vicious disposition has also been dealt with. The Minister has the full support of the House in dealing with this problem and Members on both sides have emphasised the need to provide stricter controls in this area. Many farmers on the outskirts of cities have suffered greatly in this respect and we need solutions which will help them to continue farming close to cities because this is where the greatest problems arise.

The Minister indicated that the dog population has increased considerably in recent years and includes a substantial number of larger dogs, such as alsatians, which are unlicensed. People will continue to acquire dogs as pets and for protection and we should look at the implications of this. Can we make provision to ensure that people are adequately covered and that they know what the change to strict liability means? It will affect hundreds of thousands of homes and the Minister should indicate how people will make provision for this. What will the extra cost of insurance be in this regard? The Minister said that it will not be excessive but it will mean a substantial change and people could find themselves liable for very substantial claims. A person could trip over a dog and damage an arm or a hip. What is the liability for negligence in a case like that? Obviously if dogs are kept indoors most of the time, people will have less difficulty but, if they are on the road without a leash, they can cause accidents. Responsible citizens will want to make adequate provision to ensure that they are properly covered and I should like to hear what the Minister has to say in this respect.

What is the position in regard to a blind or handicapped person if their dog injures someone in trying to prevent an attack on their owner? Are they liable in such circumstances? Could the owners of guide dogs be assured that they need have no fears in regard to a dog acting in their defence and that they will not be considered negligent or will they have to make sure they are properly covered? This question is not answered in the Bill, it will remain to be answered in the courts because the rules of negligence may apply. Where a trespasser is concerned, it is fairly clear that you are entering a house, garden or place. However, a blind or handicapped person is probably not covered by the ordinary trespass law and we should make provision to ensure that they are covered and that they would not be threatened by civil costs and expenses. The Minister should look into the situation and ask his colleague, the Minister for Health, to make direct arrangements to cover guide dogs adequately if this is not already the case.

Generally I welcome the abolition of the immunity enjoyed by occupiers of land in relation to damage caused by their animals straying on the public road. The Minister is making a genuine effort to improve that position. The debate has been wide ranging and Members on both sides of the House have expressed their points of view and I trust the Minister will bear these in mind and consider them when he responds.

Debate adjourned.