Written Answers. - Stray Ponies.

40.

asked the Minister for Justice whether he has satisfied himself with the present system for dealing with problems of stray ponies entering into institutional grounds; and whether he has considered the options of licensing and/or increasing penalties at pounds in order to deal more effectively with this problem.

Under the present law, an occupier of land must return a trespassing animal to its owner, if known; where the owner is not known, he may impound the animal in the public pound. He may recover damages for any loss incurred from the trespass once the owner is identified.

During the preparation of the Animals Act, 1985, this area of the law was examined and it was decided that changes would not be appropriate. Instead, the 1985 Act sought to deal with the problem of stray ponies and horses at source, i.e. by increasing the powers of the gardaí and local authorities to impound wandering animals; by improving the effectiveness of the impounding process itself and by increasing substantially the fines for turning animals loose or allowing them to wander on the public road and for pound-breaking. Also pound fees were raised to a realistic level and are kept under review.

The question of a licensing system for ponies and horses would not be a matter primarily for my Department to consider.