I remind Deputies that the working group agreed on the definition as being based on the number of female dogs on a premises with breeding potential. The working group included a representative from Veterinary Ireland, the senior superintendent veterinary inspector of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Louth County veterinary inspector and the ISPCA inspectorate supervisor. There was, therefore, no shortage of veterinary expertise in the group.
The definition which the working group has come up with is clear and unambiguous and as such will aid enforcement. The group noted the difficulties experienced in the UK with definitions based on breed, which became unenforceable. The working group's report noted that it was agreed that the number of litters produced on a premises would not provide a suitable basis for defining a dog breeding establishment as constant supervision would be required to ensure compliance. I cannot accept the Opposition amendments.
Amendment No. 5 refers to the definition of a dog breeding establishment. The Bill currently defines it as a premises at which bitches are kept, not less than six of which are four months old and capable of being used for breeding purposes. The stipulation of "four months" was to ensure that any bitch which fell pregnant, regardless of how young, would be reckonable when defining a breeding establishment. I am willing to substitute the "four months" with "six months" in response to calls for same in the Seanad although this does not invalidate the rationale for specifying an age threshold, which was to ensure that any dog with breeding potential was included. As I have stated already, this should not be considered as setting down a marker for when to start breeding.
It would not be wise, as some have proposed, to have a threshold at 12 months or even two years, an issue debated in the Seanad. Everyone will acknowledge that most breeds of bitch could breed in the first 12 months of life and as such a 12 month threshold would discount litters born before a bitch reached 12 months of age, possibly leading to an increase in the overall number of litters per bitch to the detriment of her welfare.
An amendment stipulating a term of two years was tabled in the Seanad and supported by the Labour Party Senators. I could not make out why they did this. It is hoped that on this occasion Members will understand this does not make sense from a welfare point of view.