Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are similar and may be discussed together.
Control of Dogs Bill, 1986: Committee Stage.
This is a technical amendment. It arises out of a desire to maintain consistency of wording with section 2 which makes it unlawful to keep a dog without a licence.
The Bill would be better if we amended it by simply providing that a dog licence means a licence entitling a person to keep or have in his possession a dog. The words "have in his possession" should be retained and should not be deleted as the amendments suggest. I urge the Minister between now and Report Stage to reconsider these amendments and to provide instead "to keep or have in his possession." They are two different concepts. Both could be provided for and would make these interpretations better interpretations.
We can have a look at that between now and Report Stage.
This definition is necessary to complement section 10. The wording is exactly the same as that in section 2 of the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965. The term was defined in that Act to complement sections 19 and 20 of that Act which are, of course, now being replaced by section 10 in the current Bill. In other words a whippet is a racing dog like a greyhound but smaller.
On the section I feel that there should be a definition of the word "dwelling". There is a definition of the word "premises" and that is: "premises" includes any house or land. There is a specific reference in section 16 which is the section which gives very wide powers to this new type of constable we are to have marauding the countryside, namely, the dog warden. The powers of the dog warden are specified in section 16. His powers are restricted in that they do not operate in certain respects in relation to dwellings. The definition of "dwellings" should be spelled out very clearly in this Bill. A different definition of "premises" is given in the Air Pollution Bill, 1986, also. "Premises" in the Air Pollution Bill, 1986, is defined as including "any messuage, building, structure or land (whether or not there are structures on the land or whether or not the land is covered with water) or any hereditament of any tenure, together with any outbuildings and curtilage." I raise this because we have in the Control of Dogs Bill a very loose definition of "premises." Premises includes any house or land but we have a restriction in relation to premises in section 16 by excluding a dwelling. "Dwelling" should be spelled out in the interpretation section to include the curtilage and garden of a dwellinghouse.
We are giving vast powers to dog wardens. We are establishing in this Bill a new form of police who are to police the landscape for a very particular purpose. We must be clear on the powers we are giving them. Do we want these people to have powers to snoop around one's dwellinghouse, to enter into one's barns and stables, to come into one's yard, to come into one's garden on the basis of statutory power? I do not think they should have that power, even if it is to find dogs which are worrying livestock. For that reason there should be a specific definition of "dwelling" in the interpretation section. I also urge on the Minister that that definition should include the curtilage and the garden of a dwellinghouse. I do not think a dog warden should have the total freedom to come right up to one's kitchen window, and to go no further. This should be looked at very very closely between now and Report Stage.
I might draw an analogy: power is conferred in the 1959 fisheries Act and that power is exclusive. It is conferred by section 296 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, the section which gives general powers to authorised persons. Subsection (2) provides: "Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising any authorised person to enter any enclosed garden or any dwellinghouse or the curtilage thereof except where the ordinary road or passage to any weir, dam or dyke is through such garden or curtilage". The same applies in this case. To give exactitude to the meaning of "premises" as defined in section 1, there must be a definition of the word "dwelling" because the word "dwelling" is specified in the later section. I urge the Minister to include in the section a precise definition of "dwelling" and to specify that definition along the lines I have mentioned.
A premises is a premises and includes the land owned by the person. A dwelling is a dwellinghouse. We have had quite a debate on this with our officials and with various people and we decided that "dwelling" means exactly what it says, the dwelling house.
I seem to be rather supportive of the Minister in this case because this will be an expensive scheme. In our local authority in Louth we have had this scheme in operation for the past few years. It is true to say we cannot continue indefinitely spending money without seeing some progress. We must achieve progress. I do not like to disagree with my colleague, Senator Durcan, on this point but if you do not give power to these wardens to go almost wherever they like to catch the dog, this is all for nothing. I must confess that I am not a dog lover.
The reason I am so interested in this legislation is, firstly, that it is overdue and, secondly, it is great legislation from an agricultural point of view. I did not get an opportunity — through my own fault — to speak on the Second Stage of the Bill. This is most welcome legislation not only to sheep farmers but also to many other sections of the community. Dogs are roaming all over the countryside. They are a danger to man and beast. The country is polluted with dogs. No matter how harsh the measures the Minister is going to take, he can be assured of my wholehearted support on every section.
In relation to the power the Minister is giving to these dog wardens, I have watched the scheme in operation. In fact, I was mainly responsible for getting the scheme introduced in my own local authority.
You must relate your remarks to the section.
Senator Durcan talks about the word "premises" which is on page 5, line 21. The word "premises" is defined to include any house or land. Senator Durcan's point is: does that premises, which includes any house, include a dwellinghouse which is also a house? We want a distinction between the words "any house" and "dwellinghouse".
Senator Ferris has spelled out what I am saying. I fully support the tenor of this Bill. I come from an area which is essentially a mountainous sheep farming area. I am faced, in my various capacities, with people who have to cope with this problem. I am faced, in a professional capacity, with defending people who own dogs that worry livestock. I am faced, politically, with many worried people who have livestock. I am fully supportive of the Bill but we have to be clear on what we are doing. I have no objection to giving powers to wardens under this section, but to give a warden the totally free power to come into my back yard and my sheds without any authority other than his warrant of appointment, is a very drastic power to give him. We could provide that for a warden to do that, he should have a warrant signed by a district justice, or something of that nature. That is the usual power given, for instance, to a fishery bailiff, if he is to enter into the curtilage.
We are discussing section 1.
This is very relevant to section 1. I think section 1 should include a definition of "dwelling". Otherwise, it is much too wide and very dangerous.
Unless the warden has an effective measure of power or authority he will not do his job correctly. I disagree with Senator Durcan on this. If the warden is restricted from doing his job completely the game is over and the thing becomes totally ineffective. For that reason I believe that a dwelling must mean a dwellinghouse and the areas surrounding it. The warden must have the power and the right to enter the premises to do his job correctly. If we were to take the other interpretation, the warden would be rendered quite ineffective.
I agree with that. We will come to that later in section 26 where, if we have to search the dwellinghouse, we will have to have warrants. Certainly the obvious thing for a dog that has chased sheep or done any damage is to hide itself away in some shed or house and if the warden is hot on his heels there is very little he can do to pick up that dog if he has to go to a district justice or somebody like that. We have to give these powers. Incidentally for the benefit of Senators who have concerns about the implementation of the Bill, we are not talking today about hypothetical situations. I will list the areas where these wardens are working very effectively under this type of legislation.
I do not want to labour the point but it is a bit like the Garda working effectively. It is a bit like anybody with with authority working effectively. Ninety nine point nine per cent of authorised people with statutory power work effectively but we have the .01 per cent of people who will abuse these powers. These powers may be abused for the wrong reasons in rural areas. Power can be abused for the wrong reasons. My concern is that nobody should be given unlimited powers.
You are straying from the section.
I am trying to be very relevant to the section. I am simply suggesting that we provide power to enter the barns, the sheds, the yard and the immediate area around somebody's house with a warrant signed by a peace commissioner and there are many of those.
I wonder does Senator Durcan——
Before the Senator comes in, could I make it quite clear that in a particular area this Bill would be administered by county councils and by the county manager and the members of local authorities. If there are local problems that need local solutions, then you can implement local solutions. For instance, if the person is as bad as that, fire him and appoint somebody who will carry out his duties to the satisfaction of the councillors and the county manager.
If he decides in his wisdom to go into a premises to search for a dog that may well have killed some man's sheep, or have done some damage, if he is good he will follow that dog no matter where he is. The only possible hope the owner of stock has is that the dog warden has power to go in search for that dog no matter where he is. If the dog warden has not got those powers, and if he has to go to a district justice who might be in Timbuctoo at the time, or a peace commissioner what compensation is there for the poor sheep owner who lost his sheep? Not alone could he not find the dog, but he could not find the peace commissioner or the district justice.
There is a certain merit in what Senator Durcan is proposing. I agree to a certain extent but if we are to make a success of this scheme and this legislation a dog warden cannot be expected to chase a dog up to a certain point and then, because he goes into hiding in a certain area where the warden is prohibited from entering, get a warrant to do so. That would be defeating the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of this legislation is to try to control dogs. I would agree with what Senator Lennon has said. Dog wardens will have to have a certain amount of freedom. If a warden who has been chasing a dog has to return and get a warrant signed by a peace commissioner or a district justice, God knows where that dog will be when he gets back with his warrant.
Incidentally an amendment to section 1 has been put in by the Department of the Environment which will have to be taken on Report Stage. I have been advised that Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation have traditionally been given the functions which, in the case of the other boroughs, are operated by the relevant county councils. The control of dogs functions seem to be appropriate matters to be operated by the borough corporation and I am considering, therefore, introducing an amendment on Report Stage to include Dún Laoghaire borough as a local authority for the purpose of the Bill. The borough will, of course, form the nucleus of one of the new administrative counties which will emerge from the proposed reorganisation of the Dublin local authorities.
I am not trying to be unhelpful. I am trying to be as helpful as I can even though we disagree. I am worried that the definition of the word "worry" may not be sufficiently embracive. The definition refers to, to attack, to kill, or to chase. The mere presence of dogs in a pack can be a worry to sheep and I can think of situations where sheep could be worried which would not come within this definition. Between now and Report Stage would the Minister see if the word "worry" can be made more expansive than it is?
I am sorry if I have to be so negative with the Senator but "worry" means exactly what it does mean, and I cannot deviate one iota from it. If dogs are in a field unaccompanied by their owner where they should not be, they are worrying the sheep even though the sheep may be at the other end of the field.
That is just the point I am making. I agree totally with what the Minister has said but taking that into account it is not to worry within the meaning of the section.
It does, if you study the section.
I agree that the presence of dogs in an area can worry livestock, and sheep in particular, but the definition as contained here does not actually cover that.
If the Senator has a little patience, that is fully covered further on where even "about to worry" comes into the Bill. We are making quite sure that there will be no loopholes in it.
The Minister made one further comment about later on but, in fairness, if "worry" is defined as meaning to attack, to kill, or to chase, is it ruling out their presence? Do they have to be attacking, killing or chasing?
If the Senator has patience he will see that that aspect of it is also covered further on in the Bill.
Should the definition be waiting on something. If the Minister is defining "worry" as one of three things specifically mentioned, is he ruling out other things?
As I understand it "worry" as it is interpreted here gives certain powers to private people — stock owners in particular — to shoot dogs if they are worrying livestock, or about to worry them. The word "worry" is not to be taken in isolation. It is used as we use it in other sections which give certain powers.
This amendment is required to remedy a defect in section 2 which, as it stands, could be interpreted as requiring two people to license a dog, namely, the keeper of the dog and the occupier of the premises where the dog is kept. In many cases the occupier and keeper will be one and the same person but, where they are not, the amendment will ensure that where the occupier can prove he is not the owner of the dog and that it was kept on the premises by some other person who had a licence he, the occupier, would not be deemed to be the keeper and consequently would not be liable to license the dog.
The section, as amended, will provide that where a dog is not licensed the occupier of the premises where a dog is found will be deemed to be the keeper and will be liable for the licensing. Therefore, a prosecution for failure to license a dog may be taken out against the occupier of the premises. The occupier of a premises is the person legally entitled to possession — the owner or tenant.
I welcome this amendment because it meets the concern I expressed on Second Stage of the Bill. You could have a licensed dog being kept temporarily by another person with the owner's permission, or at the owner's request as a result of the owner going on holidays or going to hospital. If the licensed owner of the dog was unable to look after his dog he could arrange for a neighbour or friend to keep that dog for him but that would not mean the dog was not licensed. It would mean the keeper of the dog at that time was not the holder of the licence. This amendment tidies up the section.
In relation to licences, will a definite effort be made to collect licences or will we have the same situation as we have had with dog licences for the past number of years? Will the local council implement this?
We will deal with that at a later stage.
Section 2 (i) (a) states:
... keep a dog unless he holds either—
(i) a dog licence for that dog, or
(ii) a general dog licence, or ...
That could be tidied up and we are talking about tidying up the section by simply providing "keep a dog unless he holds a licence for that dog".
We are trying to maintain a distinction between somebody who has a general licence as distinct from an ordinary citizen who has a licence because there will be different sets of rules governing both types of licences. The general dog licence, for instance, is normally held by kennel club people and greyhound owners and costs about £100. Right throughout the Bill we are keeping a distinction between the two types of people.
How does the general licence work? Does the general licence cover any dog in the possession of the owner of the premises or kennel clubs? Is there a specified number of dogs mentioned which the licence covers?
This is unspecified but there is a whole area governing how many dogs you can keep from the point of view of hygiene, etc. Owners must decide whether they should go for one general licence——
Or 19 individual licences.
Exactly. You must decide whether it would be more economical to take out a £100 licence or to license the dogs separately. From the point of view of keeping a large number of dogs, this is pretty well covered in the Bill.
I cannot speak for the kennel clubs but I have been talking to some of their members. When dogs are over the weaning stage they are kept on. Is there scope to allow them——
We will deal with that later.
With regard to the issue of licences, this is a matter which may have been raised on Second Stage when unfortunately, I was unable to attend. I suggest that, while talking about the issue of dog licences, we should consider the position of old age pensioners and other social welfare pensioners who may wish to keep a dog and may need it for protection and company if they are living alone. I am not suggesting they should have a dog without a licence or be exempted from having a licence. I do not think that would be right because it is important that there should be a licence in respect of each dog and that dogs should be controlled by us knowing that the dogs are around and have licences. I suggest that possibly persons in this position might be exempt from the licence fee so that they could be issued a licence and they would not be discouraged from owning a dog or from getting a licence because of the fact that they could not afford the fee. I suggest to the Minister that that possibly could be considered.
I welcome the reiteration of this point which was made on Second Stage by me. I am glad Senator McGuinness has raised it again. Under section 5 (h) the Minister will have the power to do that. I hope that when we get to that section he will accept the views expressed about the exemption of certain categories including social welfare recipients.
I have no good news on that.
We will have difficulties with section 5 then.
Like Senator Ferris I was waiting for section 5. Obviously I am misreading every section today. It has been mentioned a few times that a pet dog for an old age pensioner is very valuable. While the Minister may have difficulty I appeal to him to accept what has been said and to exempt old age pensioners living alone.
I take the points raised by Senator Ferris and Senator Browne but they are talking about exempting old age pensioners from holding a licence and I do not think that is particularly desirable. It is desirable that as many dogs as possible should have licences attached to them so that there will be a way of controlling these dogs. This is the whole point of the Bill. I am simply asking that a licence be issued under section 3 to old age pensioners. They should be exempted from paying a fee. This is a slightly different thing and arises under section 3 rather than section 5.
I agree with what Senator McGuinness says because section 5 deals with exemption from holding a licence. I agree with the point she makes that every dog should have a licence for various reasons, for example, so that dogs can be controlled. That is the purpose of this Bill. It is appropriate to raise the matter on section 3 rather than section 5. Between now and Report Stage it might be possible to draft an amendment which will provide that, for certain categories of persons, dogs would be licensed but that no fees would be payable in respect of that licence.
One category who should be looked after are widows who are not properly looked after within the social welfare code. Very frequently dogs may be the only protection they have. I do not think it is impossible. If we are to control dogs, all dogs should have licences. It is simply a question of the State showing benevolence to a very weak section of the community. It seems wrong that a dog which is used by a blind person or a dog which is kept by a widow for protection should not be controlled by the State. It should be licenced and controlled but the State should not demand a fee for that licence.
I am not arguing with my two legal colleagues who are quite right — they can raise it on any section they wish. This probably is now becoming the more relevant section on which to deal with the problem about a waiver scheme for social welfare categories. In my Second Stage speech I mentioned old people living alone who must have a dog for their protection. They may be in the category which allows them to have a free television licence, free electricity, a free telephone etc., but they cannot have a free dog licence.
Section 3 needs to be amended to give the manager power to allow a person to apply for a waiver scheme. The reason I used section 5 is that the Minister was taking it upon himself in section 5 to exempt certain categories, including guide dogs for the blind. I thought it appropriate to keep them in the same category. However, I will await the Minister's response. I was worried because the Minister said he had bad news for me, in other words, he was not going to exempt social welfare recipients. The Minister will have to——
I do not think you can raise that on section 3.
If the Minister is prepared to amend section 3 to take into account our wishes in this regard, we can deal with it on Report Stage. We cannot deal with it now because we have not got an amendment to it. I suggest to the Minister that, in response to our pleadings on this section or, indeed, on section 5 if he considers it more appropriate he might do it before Report Stage. Everybody I spoke to about this legislation — including members of the Animal Health Council and the chairman of the sub-committee, Dr. David Poole, who has put much of an effort into this — was emphatic that they did not wish to penalise people in that category who, by their very nature need a dog. We need dogs to be licensed but we do not wish to penalise that group of people. We hope that the Minister will take this matter into account between now and Report Stage either on section 3 or section 5 (h).
Both points of view might be met if the Minister were to amend section 5. There would be difficulty in mentioning it at this stage but it is relevent to what has been raised in relation to section 3. The matter could be resolved if section 5 were amended to read: "A licence fee shall not be payable in respect of any dog held in the circumstances envisaged in section 5". That would get over the difficulty.
This section states:
A local authority shall not issue a dog licence or a general dog licence to any person who——
(a) is under the age of sixteen years...
Why is that?
This is chiefly because at Christmas many children are given presents of nice little fluffy puppies who grow up after a while to be very ungainly animals and are usually dumped in the country. It is more or less in line with what happens all over Europe — to ensure people are aware that becoming the owner of a dog is a big responsibility. We feel persons should be at least 16 years of age before they can be issued with a licence.
I noticed at dog shows and competitions that it was mostly young people who were in charge of the dogs.
There is no problem about a child owning a dog but the parent in that case would have to take out the licence on the child's behalf. Therefore, there is no problem in relation to show dogs.
The point is that if a child under 16 years of age knows that the licence has to be in somebody else's name even though, theoretically, he or she owns the dog, it will take from the ownership value to the child. Some modification of that might be possible because it is very cut and dried. It may be appropriate in certain urban areas but it may be inappropriate in certain rural areas. I do not think it would meet the situation to have the licence in someone else's name. There are bits of paper which denote ownership, title etc. but to a person of 16 years the fact that he or she cannot license a dog diminishes the value of ownership of that dog.
I am longing to get to the stage where I can find out how effective we will be in collecting all these licences. I am not so sure that all 16 year olds will be rushing out for licences. The kennel clubs have a special junior section for handling dogs. In 99 cases out of 100 their parents can get a dog licence for them but children who bring a dog over to Crufts dog show in London would like to have a licence themselves. I accept fully what the Minister said in relation to puppies being given to children as Christmas presents and being abused later, but would it be possible to make an exception in the case of special breeds of dogs which are looked after so well?
The type of persons the Senator is referring to are people with a general dog licence. It would not arise in the case of people who are members of kennel clubs or Bord na gCon because they have general dog licences.
Not everybody has a kennel but there are members of dog clubs and so on. An individual may buy a Boxer. He may be lucky enough to have what it takes to win a championship but the owner may only have one.
On Second Stage we discussed this point and the Minister responded. I made the point my colleagues have made about canine clubs who have junior sections for children who own dogs, show them and win prizes. It is a matter of tremendous credit to them for doing so. There is much satisfaction in dog ownership. The Minister said ownership did not necessarily go with licensing. The Minister is saying he is leaving the responsibility for licences with adults against whom action can be taken. I suggest to the Minister that, in the implementation of this section as it is written, if a person under the age of 16 years is required to have his or her name on the licence, the name of the parents should also be on it. That would cover the question of ownership and the licensee. It would leave the legal responsibility with the parent but give the child under 16 years of age the pride and satisfaction of owning the dog, perhaps having paid for the licence. Many children who show dogs professionally in canine clubs here and abroad have a certain pride in ownership.
We want to stimulate a love of animals in young people. If removing some authority from them was a disincentive to that, I would not like that to happen and I know you do not want it to happen either. I know the section could look as though it would make that happen but we could overcome that by having a dual name on the licence. As regards ownership, the child would know he owned the dog if it were his dog.
This is a section the Minister might very well have a look at because even though we know that every 16 year old is not going to go hammering on the doors of local authorities looking for licences, there will always be the exception. There is always the case where young people who are involved in the handling and rearing of dogs from a very early age would like to have the responsibility for those dogs and also to have the licence in their own names. We know that, in most cases, there would be no objection to having the licence issued in their parents' names. There will always be the odd case where, for example, parents are deceased and there is no brother or sister older than the child interested in the dogs and they may not like to have to go to some outsider to get a licence for them. I am sure there are always cases like that and this is something the Minister might very well have a look at because not all 16 year olds are going to go scampering off looking for licences but there will be exceptions. There will be people who have a genuine interest in handling and rearing dogs from a very early age and their particular positions should be taken into consideration.
I find myself in a quandry because I am standing up to disagree with my colleagues on the points they have made. I am doing this for three reasons. We all welcomed this a short time ago as a very necessary measure. I agree with that view. I am concerned that at this early stage we are taking the "teeth" out of it. Should we ever have bothered bringing it in at all?
With regard to the points we are dealing with, I believe that in facing up to the reality of the dog situation one must insist on the licence being available to the owner who can be held responsible in court of law for control of the dog. Therefore, if you come below the 16 year old point, you are certainly losing that control and power.
We are talking about very nice little dogs — they could be little dogs for shows and competitions but there are other types of dogs. When Senator Hourigan was speaking I was reminded of an encounter he and I had some years ago with a yard full of Alsatians. We were very glad that those dogs were under the control of a responsible adult. It is very likely that the progeny of one of these dogs — if the Minister agrees to take the teeth out of this — could be under the control of a minor and he would be the licence holder. One has to look at both sides and so far as I am concerned, the measure was necessary. If we accepted and agreed that it was a necessary measure, there is no use in weakening it as we go down along the line.
Would the two Senators have called to a minor or would they have had any reason for being there?
They would not have a vote.
I have no great axe to grind on this except that I find many young people under the age of 16 years going out hunting and shooting with dogs. There should be some responsibility laid on their shoulders in this respect. If they feel they do not have to be responsible for taking a dog out, if he is not licensed, the responsibility must rest somewhere.
Their parents should have the licences.
I know that but the parents might say, for example, that an uncle owns the dog. I would like to put some responsibility on the shoulders of any young girl or boy who is in charge of a dog. We are talking about £5, about the price of admission to a disco I suppose. If these young people profess to be fond of their dogs they might consider licensing them. If they can get the money from either the father or the mother, that is fine; we should welcome with open arms anybody who is going to pay it for the licence.
The situation might be met by what was said earlier, where the minor could be included with the parents or the adult in a licensing situation. However, I do not consider it to diminish in any way the effectiveness of this Bill to make some concession with regard to those under 16 years of age. I totally support the concept of the Bill as I did on Second Stage. It is a necessary piece of legislation but I would again state, as has been referred to already, that not all 16 year olds own dogs and that those who do may not license them.
The ownership aspect is very important to a youngster. There is a pride in owning something. In an Irish context, it is extremely important. As Oliver Goldsmith said "The price of ownership turns sand dust into gold". We should not in any way take the pride of ownership away from those who have a high regard for owning a dog but we must give a measure of responsibility to those dog owners of 16 years and under. If persons under 16 years of age cannot exclusively be given the right to license and to own together, which is understandable from a court's point of view, they should have a part in being included in a licensing situation. I do not believe that the aspirations of the ordinary youngster who owns a dog, would be met by the licence being held in the name of somebody else.
I am inclined to agree with Senator Howard's approach because if we are going to put in all the bits and pieces, we will end up with something which will be totally impossible to implement. The whole thrust of this is to discourage. It is all right to talk about the people in the kennel clubs. For the information of the House I have had long and arduous discussions with the kennel clubs, with Bord na gCon and with responsible groups of people, including the ISPCA, and unanimously they all say to set the age at 16 years to try to discourage very young people from the ownership of dogs. We are not really talking about the sort of young people who are proud of their dogs, we are talking about young people who have no interest in dogs at all but who get a licence and then because they lose their interest in and attraction for the dog, let the dog run loose, thereby making the job of the warden infinitely more difficult. I do not have a lot of sympathy with that point of view having spent hours listening to the various approaches to it. I appeal to the House to allow the provision stand at 16 years of age bearing in mind that an under 16 year old would be allowed to own the dog while the licence would be the responsibility of the parents. After all, responsible parents who will allow an 11 or 12 year old go off with a dog are going to be doubly careful if they realise they will have to pay a very substantial fine if that dog goes in among sheep.
Leaving aside the matter raised on section 3 which also might have been mentioned in section 5, there is one other small point I should like to mention. In section 5 (d) we are dealing with the exemption from holding a licence for a dog which is kept wholly or mainly used for the purpose of guidance by a blind person. In relation to the Irish Guide Dogs Association, who breed and train guide dogs for the blind, could the Minister let us know whether dogs kept by this association, which are on their way to being guide dogs for the blind, are exempted. If not, could the Irish Guide Dogs Association be included under section 5 as an exempted body so that dogs being prepared to be guide dogs for the blind would also be included.
I agree with Senator Durcan that rather than saying a licence shall not be required for dogs in all these subsections it would be better to say they should have licences but we will not charge fees for them. If we are going to control dogs, then we are going to control them. This is a very welcome Bill in this respect. It is much easier to control them if we know what they are and who holds licences, so that people cannot make excuses saying, this dog comes under this and that heading and does not need a licence. It would probably be better to issue the licences but not to charge fees to organisations such as the ISPCA, the Garda and so on. In these categories we should include the Irish Guide Dogs Association. This is where the dogs covered by paragraph (d) come from.
I agree with Senator McGuinness. Her request is very reasonable. I presume dogs kept by the Irish Guide Dogs Association would be under the control of the association and would be kept under strict guard. Eventually when they are trained and given to blind persons for their guidance, or to persons whose eyesight is defective, those people are exempt from holding a licence. The same should apply to the Irish Guide Dogs Association.
I too agree with this point. The reason I feel strongly that there should be a licence in respect of every dog is that in that way we can have a register of all dogs. While an exception might be a dog under a few months old, a licence is very desirable. It would make certain that one had ultimately a complete register and record of all dogs.
On Second Stage the Minister confirmed that all dogs used for the purpose of guidance of blind people — whether in training or otherwise — would be exempt. Is that still the case? Are all these dogs exempt as the Minister said on the last occasion? All guide dogs are the property of the Irish Guide Dogs Association. If, in the process of training them for that purpose——
That is a different matter. We will come to that in a moment.
I will let the Minister come to it before I say any more.
We had discussions with the people concerned. This is a difficult matter. The Senator will see paragraph (h) which says: "... by such other class of person as may be prescribed by the Minister". At any stage we could have a look at that again. In the case of guide dogs for the blind we are talking in a very broad field because they select their dogs from various people around the country, mostly people who deal in Alsatians and people with very special types of dogs. These people, in turn, are subject to their own set of rules. At any one time the guide dog people would have very few dogs, maybe one or two. They would usually have them on a lease arrangement from the owner. It may well be that after one, two or three weeks that dog would be found to be unsuitable and he would go back to the owner. It is not as simple as it sounds. They do not have big stocks of dogs at any one time being put through their paces. It is not like that at all. They go out to breeders. They select very carefully what they think would make a good dog. They work on it for a week or two and, as often as not, these dogs will end up back with their owner again. It is not a big issue.
I take the Minister's point. I am worried about dogs which are the property of the Irish Guide Dogs Association. Those are dogs on which a decision has already been made by them. They are suitable dogs and they go through a training programme and then are given out to blind people. I accept that we might exempt them in a general dog licence situation which will cover them. I am worried about the individual dog, at farm level or breeding level, which has not yet been acquired by the Irish Guide Dogs Association and its prospective purchase or lease. Because the association are very special and provide a very worthwhile service in the community, the section confirms that they should be treated differently. We do not want it wide open so that it could be abused by people who might say the guide dogs association might take the dog from them. We do not want that. Once the guide dog association make a decision that the dog is suitable for training, it becomes the property of the association.
Even when the dog is taken in for training, three-quarters of the way through they could still scrap him. The dog might be vicious. While the dog is in the course of training he is owned by the person who gave the dog for sale. The dog, even though he is on other premises, is covered by that licence. What you are really talking about is a very short period between the time they say the dog is all right and the time they hand him over. That is something we could look at. It is not a big problem.
A licence may be transferred under section 6 "to any other person" and section 3 states it shall be issued to a person by the local authority for the functional area. In Carlow, on the edge of Kildare, if somebody transfers a dog to a person in Kildare, is it outside the functional area? Does the licence still hold in Kildare?
Even though the licence is officially issued under section 3 for Carlow?
But then assuming the person is living in Kildare his next licence is taken out in Kildare as applies in the case of a motor car.
He will not own the dog; it is only on lease. If the dog is on lease anywhere in the Republic that licence covers the dog.
Does section 6 overrule section 8 where disqualification comes in? Which section overrules which? Could somebody who is disqualified have a dog under section 6?
No. We will have an amendment on Report Stage as a result of some points raised by Senator Hussey and Bord na gCon. We invited them back to discuss the points raised by Senator Hussey on Second Stage. They came up with suggestions which we are hoping to be able to meet. As a result of their representations it is proposed to introduce one amendment on Report Stage providing for the exemption from the licensing of greyhounds those purchased for export within 30 days. It is quite specific.
What happens in the case of a person who may get a dog under section 6 and who may be disqualified under section 18?
He could not hold a dog. If he is disqualified from having a dog he may not even have a dog that is held under licence by another person. He is disqualified from having a dog because he is deemed to be unsuitable to have a dog.
Earlier the last point was lost on me but I think I have got it. Perhaps it might be just as well to take that point again. A farmer with land in two adjoining counties is licensed in one county and has the use of the dog in the adjoining county.
Section 7 states:
A dog licence or a general dog licence shall be in the prescribed form and shall be valid for the period of twelve months from the date of its issue.
If a dog was killed during the period of the licence and was replaced by another dog, would the owner have to get a new licence for the new dog?
He will not be able to transfer it.
The licence fee across the board for dogs and bitches is £5. Did the Minister consider at any stage charging more for bitches than for dogs?
Section 8 (2) states:
The Minister may, by regulations, vary the rates specified in subsection (1) of this section and may specify different rates in respect of different classes of dogs.
For instance there may be a higher fee for undesirable breeds or large breeds.
In my many discussions with farming people and sheep owners they always pointed the finger at bitches as the cause of most of the trouble where damage to sheep took place. Naturally enough, everybody knows dogs gather at certain times of the year and go off in packs as they are attracted to the bitch. These dogs generally end up in some field of sheep. Many people keep bitches, not necessarily for breeding purposes. The suggestion at one time was that the licence should be dearer for bitches. I am sure that suggestion has been made to the Minister also.
If a dog dies the licence of the dog dies with him and a new licence has to be got for a new dog. How does one recognise this new dog unless one has some means of tattooing or tagging him?
There will be identification. We will come to that too. We are keeping it as simple as we can from the point of view of charging. When local authorities start to implement this Bill, the Minister for the Environment may decide to recommend to the Minister that he should vary charges for a whole lot of things. We hope that will take place. For the moment we are keeping it simple.
We have wild guesses at the dog population at the moment. We are trying to cut down the dog population; one way is to charge a higher licence fee for bitches than for dogs for any purpose other than breeding. As the Minister is aware problems are caused by dogs leaving their own homes.
I hope this problem is caused only in the dog population and not in the human population as well. I do not know about some of the suggestions from Senator Lennon because my experience in this field has more to do with cats than dogs. Being a cat owner or a dog owner the same thing seems to apply. I agree with the Minister that it is correct to keep the section as simple as possible now.
I might suggest to some of our urban local authorities that one might charge a higher fee for a dog licence to those persons who insist on keeping enormous dogs in small suburban houses with small suburban gardens and with no way of exercising them. These dogs tend to be the kind that run wild and if there are other animals nearby they may worry them. This is something that local authorities might well consider because, while it is grand for a family to have a small dog in a small house, some suburban areas are rendered quite dangerous by the keeping of huge dogs in small houses.
I support Senator McGuinness and I might go even further. I suggest that cruelty arises at some stage where big dogs are confined completely against their nature.
These options will be open to the Minister for the Environment in conjunction with Senators. There will be latitude here. He can give a reduction or he can increase fees. He can give a reduction in the case of sterilised dogs or he can increase the fees in the case of an undesirable breed of dogs and, indeed, large dogs.
In relation to subsection (3) I mentioned on Second Stage that the owner of the dog should be responsible for compensation to the aggrived farmer. I understand that a person whose livestock are hurt or destroyed as a result of an attack by a dog will be covered by section 21. Is that right? I thought it might be dealt with in this subsection.
We looked at this because the Senator mentioned it. The point we came up with — some of our legal people having discussed it — was that any damage to sheep would involve a civil action. A person found guilty of this offence and fined in the courts obviously would have almost a clear cut case for compensation. If a person is found guilty under section 9 (3), automatically in court that person has to cover the cost of the damage which can be very substantial.
It would be essential. I take the point the Minister is making. It is parallel to a running down action where one can get a conviction for dangerous driving in the district court. It helps very much in one's negligence action. It is essential that these prosecutions should be taken fairly quickly so that people who are looking for damages in a civil action will have the result of the prosecution there in order to assist them, and of course it would assist them.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, subsection (2), line 4, after "place" to insert "and such greyhounds shall be muzzled".
This is a matter which I mentioned also in my Second Stage speech in relation to greyhounds. It is important for the safety of the general public that greyhounds should be muzzled when they are being walked in a public place. While the vast majority of greyhounds can be very pleasant animals some can be vicious. They can be vicious not only with the general public but with themselves, often fighting amongst themselves and causing damage to themselves. If two dogs see other dogs in the street while they are being walked this can cause problems. For that reason this amendment should be inserted in the Bill and I hope the Minister can accept it.
Although the Minister reassured me on Second Stage, may I ask again if exercising dogs is permitted at the seaside? Section 10 (1) states:
A person shall not permit a greyhound to be in any public place unless such greyhound is being led by means of a sufficiently strong chain or leash.
Does that mean they cannot exercise them?
It does not mean they cannot exercise them.
On a leash.
Not in public. I looked very sympathetically at Senator Hussey's request and saw a lot of merit in it. I discussed it with a number of experts including greyhound people and I mentioned to Senator Hussey that I was disappointed that I could not meet his request. Provision to muzzle was in the 1965 Act but it was deleted at the request of interested parties. Dog kennel groups and Bord na gCon said that to keep a greyhound muzzled for a walk of several miles could in itself cause suffering. Dogs like to have the mouth open and the tongue out while exercising and by so doing they salivate and cool the mouth. Veterinary opinion is against muzzling except when very necessary. Greyhound owners know when to muzzle their dogs and generally use discretion in the matter. That is the best I can do.
They have their mouths open when they are chasing somebody too.
We are coming to that now. In reply to Senator Browne's query, unfortuantely a beach is a public place. When the tide is out in the middle of the winter they may not exercise their dogs on the beach for the simple reason that, at the other end of that beach, Senator McGuinness might be walking a little poodle——
——and that is the end of the poodle. We discussed this at length with Bord na gCon. They said it is not really a problem. I am not saying they do not do it now but they are taking a risk. They are actually breaking the law when they do it. Normally they have suitable places where they can exercise their dogs. In Senator Browne's own area there are special privately owned courses laid out for this very purpose.
I must express disappointment because the last time I raised this the Minister assured me that on a beach they were under control if they were being galloped. It is very important for dog owners to be able to go on the beach, if they are lucky enough to be near it, because in winter time the ground can be as hard as it is in summer time. This is where dogs and bitches get their toes damaged. I know of one that went out of a major stake only last Friday because of such a happening on a local track. It is very unfair to greyhound owners not to be able to take them to the beach because it is the only place that is soft enough for them to gallop and not damage their toes either in extreme warm weather in summer when the ground is very hard, or in winter when there is frost. If they can only exercise on a leash that is grossly unfair.
There is nothing to stop the greyhound owner from walking all day and all night on the beaches with his dogs. There is no rule against that.
Provided he has them on a leash.
There are no races to be won by owners walking their dogs on leashes. You would not win a stake by walking your dog. They have to gallop. It is in the greyhound's nature to gallop.
This brings us to the point of effectual control. If a dog is under effectual control whether on a leash or otherwise, he can be controlled even in the——
Not in the case of a greyhound.
Greyhounds can be controlled effectually especially by people who walk them regularly. The industry consider that greyhounds can be under effectual control. The owners of these animals are not the kind of people who would let them off the leash if there was a danger. They would let them off for a gallop only in an area that was safe and, of course, beaches are the obvious places. I listened to the arguments on Senator Hussey's amendment and I am not sure whether he wants to press it. I had discussions with people who were very worried about this amendment being accepted because, above all animals, greyhounds need to be able to have their mouths open especially in an exercising position such as in walking. At times owners of greyhounds decide to muzzle dogs because some are more dangerous than others. Legislation providing that all the greyhounds had to be muzzled would be inoperable. People could not walk greyhounds at all. Anybody who has seen them exercising will be aware, that they like to have their mouths open and their tongues out. They are on a leash and are not dangerous whether they are muzzled or not. The only reason people muzzle them is to stop them biting each other. The owners know that, and they do it without legislation.
It must be possible to manufacture a muzzle that would allow the greyhound to have his mouth open. If that is the only argument against it, it is a very poor argument.
While I supported the Minister last time I spoke, I am in disagreement with him now. I support Senator Browne's argument because I am familiar with a practice, with centuries of tradition behind it in my county, that is, greyhound owners exercising their dogs on the beaches.
In our county too.
Should we introduce legislation that goes against something that has centuries of tradition behind it in the knowledge that it will be ignored? For many greyhound owners, greyhounds are their means of livelihood. Many successful dogs have come out of my region. Exercise is part of the standard training of greyhounds. People will continue to exercise their dogs. This problem needs to be examined and between now and Report Stage it might be possible to reach a compromise.
I do not know what the Senator is arguing about because I am not bringing in anything new. That is the law of the land and has been.
Well, it has been broken——
The Senator should not ask me to take a retrograde step. Many people who are not greyhound owners like to use the beach and especially those who live near the beach. I live near a beach and I know that all the year around many retired people like to walk on the beach with their dogs. That is the position as it stands and I certainly would not like to take a retrograde step and change the law in regard to greyhounds. I certainly would not like to take a retrograde step and bring in something to change the law as it stands with regard to greyhounds.
I would not try to give the impression that greyhound owners go to the beaches to gallop their dogs on glorious sunny days when everybody is out in their bikinis or swimming trunks. They do not do this for two reasons, first, they have respect for the people on the beach and, secondly, they have respect for their dogs. Many of these dogs are very valuable animals.
Have they respect for other dogs?
Greyhound owners go to the beaches when nobody else is there, usually early morning or very late at night. I would not suggest that greyhound owners should have the freedom to wreck people's enjoyment at the seaside. That should not happen. I would be extremely worried about that kind of terminology, whether it is old or not. The greyhound industry is an old industry and the training of greyhounds is an old practice. If a dog can only appear in public on a leash, what can you do with it?
I have to be firm on this. A dog hunts by sight. Recently I saw greyhounds tearing smaller dogs to pieces. I would not condone legislation that would allow, even on a winter's morning, dogs to run on a beach if, at the other end of that beach which may be a mile in length, somebody happens to be out with a small dog. That is the problem.
With respect to the Minister, I do not think he has seen greyhound owners exercising their dogs.
Does he know a greyhound owner who goes off to one end of a beach and unleashes a greyhound on the chance that he might meet a dog at the other end? At least two people are needed, one at each end of the beach. If there is a loose dog running around, the greyhound owner will be the first to make sure that nothing happens to his young dog. The Minister is giving hypothetical examples which would never arise in practice.
They have arisen.
I am not quite sure what we are arguing about at the moment. I live next door to a man who keeps greyhounds. They are not very valuable. I can assure the Minister that if most people want to give their dogs a run, they will head for some fields, or towards the beach first thing in the morning. It is unlikely he will find anybody on the beach at that time. The owners will also take into account the possibility of some dog damaging their own valuable dog. The owners would be thinking about their own dogs.
I have some sympathy for the Minister on this point because I do not think he could legislate for all the things we are talking about. If we were to have this type of legislation, I could see one redundant warden in Louth tomorrow morning, because he could not operate that scheme. No warden could. Scarce though jobs are at the moment, I do not think we would get a warden to operate a scheme at the moment because if he was to study all these Bills, he would never catch any dogs.
We know what the Minister wants to do. We are talking about greyhounds not under control in a public place.
We are still on Senator Hussey's amendment. I have not cleared it yet.
I was suggesting that a beach, early in the morning, might not be considered a public place. One thing is certain; there would be no dog warden on a beach at 6 o'clock in the morning to tell the greyhound owner whether he is in a public place.
Is amendment 5 withdrawn?
All I have to say is that if any amendment were accepted all the problems that have been highlighted by Senator Browne would be solved.
I can see the Senator's point. It would solve all the problems if we could run dogs everywhere, but I am afraid that would lead to bigger problems.
We are only arguing about what is a public place. There is a precedent for beaches to be used early in the morning for running greyhounds, which could be interpreted as a public place. I suggest that at the hour of the morning when greyhound owners use the beach it is most unlikely to be considered a public place and there would not be a dog warden in sight.
I am puzzled as to what Senator Ferris is suggesting. If I misunderstand him I hope he will forgive me, but I would not like it to be suggested that at a particular time of day a beach is not a public place. A beach is a public place in law. There are other countries where beaches are largely privately owned but this is one of the virtues of our country and we should stand by it. Beaches should be public places at all times.
There is always a danger when you are talking about a beach that people have visions of a crowded beach. There are lovely stretches of sand which are wet and safe and so on, but where you would see nobody.
Subsection (2) reads:
A person shall not lead or cause or permit to be led by any one person more than four greyhounds at a time in any public place.
I also mentioned during the Second Stage discussion that there should be an age limit, that any person under 16 years of age would not be allowed to lead greyhounds. There can be various arguments for that. Section 4 defines quite clearly persons who are disqualified from holding a licence and one of those is somebody of 16 years of age. Could the same thing apply here? I know the Minister will have strong arguments against it, but we all know what can happen when dogs are being led. They can be savage and can create problems. It is very important that the person leading such greyhounds would have full control. Maybe something could be inserted here saying that only persons of 16 years of age or over should be allowed to lead greyhounds.
I am aware of the objections to the muzzling of greyhounds in public. As one who has had the pleasure to lead as many as four greyhounds many times on the public highway, I would always insist that they be muzzled, but I know there might be objections. It is the nature of the greyhound to be muzzled. Somebody mentioned that they should also be muzzled when galloping, but when training a dog, he is led for 300 yards and he is galloped from whoever is slipping him and back to you. That is naturally done without a muzzle and therefore you try to pick a safe place. I support the section which says that greyhounds should not be set loose in a public place, that they should be at all times on a lead. I would prefer that they would be muzzled also.
We must remember that it is the nature of greyhounds to be muzzled. They are muzzled in the kennel. Every Irish trainer will have every dog muzzled, less so the bitches. If you go racing you will find that every dog in the kennel is muzzled. When the dog is taken out of the kennel for racing he goes into the trap and he is muzzled for his race, whether it is a sprint of 330 yards or it is more than 1,000 yards. They run with the muzzles on. That is nothing new for a dog. It is the nature of the dog to be muzzled, and it is the nature of the trainer or the owner to make sure that at all times a dog is used to being muzzled. The Minister made his argument and said he would prefer if we did not press this amendment. As one who has handled four dogs many times, all I can say is that I would prefer to see my dogs on a leash and muzzled. Senator Hussey mentioned young people handling dogs. Any young boy of 14 or 15 will handle a dog, or maybe two or three, but he will not handle four. Some regulation regarding age limits should be imposed in the Bill. I support Senator Hussey's thinking on that section.
The 1965 Act provided a minimum age limit of 16 years for persons exercising greyhounds in public places. It would be interesting to look at some of the debates at that time. The provision was opposed. The opposition was prompted by Bord na gCon and others and the Government deleted the provision at that time. An age limit was not considered practical because of the variability of teenagers' capacities. There could be a very able bodied 13 or 14 year old, and there might be a 16 year old who would not be capable of handling four dogs. Walking a dog by young people is widely practised. This is something I would not like to push, but if Senators feel strongly about it, I would be prepared to discuss it with them between now and Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are similar and No. 8 is related. Amendments Nos. 6, 7, and 8 will be discussed together.
These amendments are made to meet the point made by Senator Hussey on Second Stage that the period of seven days for keeping a dog after seizure, and before disposing of or destroying the dog should suffice. "Disposing" here means giving the dog away, or finding another owner or destroying the dog. This was probably necessary in the days when communication was not as good as it is today. The period of five days has been in operation in other areas, including the North of Ireland, since 1983 and is working satisfactorily.
Amendment No. 8 is being added as a precautionary measure to permit a change in the number of days should the five days provision prove to be unsatisfactory.
I thank the Minister for accepting my recommendation on the time a dog may be detained. On Second Stage I said this was a legacy from the 1906 Act, and it is far easier to contact people now than it was in 1906. We are also avoiding the cost of feeding and maintaining a dog for seven days. That is very acceptable and again I thank the Minister for accepting my recommendation.
I was speaking to the local dog warden in my county and he told me his big problem is seizing or catching the dogs. He cannot shoot the dog; he must catch it. Very often the dog will have no collar and because he is a "wanted" dog, everyone disowns him. We are hopeful that this scheme will work. In my own county, which is the smallest county in Ireland, we have one dog warden. Up to now we had a Garda barracks in every parish and they were responsible for dog licences and the control of dogs. This shows the enormous task that faces a dog warden these days when he is trying to cover the whole county.
How can we help dog wardens to seize and catch these dogs? It may be for the local authorities to decide what means are at the disposal of the dog wardens. The dog warden in my county informed me that so far he had done nothing more than collect the dogs from certain points throughout the county and take them away, but he cannot do very much to catch dogs. Responsible people are taking the dogs to the collection point but he is not getting to the root of the problem, and that is the aim of this Bill. Apart from licensing dogs, the dog warden cannot get to the root of the problem. In the Minister's discussions with other groups, what type of suggestions came forward as to how the dog warden can handle this problem?
This is a long section but there is one paragraph that perhaps the Minister would comment on. The local authority "may, before disposing of a dog under this section, sterilise, or arrange to have sterilised, the dog." What is the thinking behind that section? There is another aspect to this which the Minister might consider on Report Stage. At the moment the parvo virus is rampant. Some concern might be shown in the Bill by providing vaccination against parvo virus everywhere dogs are kept. It is something the Minister might comment on. If he does not introduce it in the Bill, and since parvo virus is rampant at present, a statement from the Minister is needed.
There are two points I want to mention. Senator Fallon mentioned that the wardens were finding it very difficult to catch dogs. We cannot legislate so that all dogs are caught because even with the best will in the world some of them will never be caught. This brings me to the training of dog wardens. It is vital that dog wardens are trained properly in the handling of dogs, catching dogs and taking them under control in a humane way.
This brings us to the important point made by Senator Fallon about the humane destruction of dogs. The Animal Health Council have been very concerned about this. I mentioned on Second Stage that when dogs had to be destroyed having been kept in a detention centre for the number of days specified, their humane destruction should take place under the jurisdiction of a veterinary surgeon or under his control. "Under his control" means under his direction or supervision. We envisage that under another Act all local authorities will soon have to employ a veterinary surgeon. If it is not necessary to have a veterinary surgeon on the spot when dogs are being destroyed, it is imperative that dog wardens are trained by a veterinary surgeon so that the job will be done correctly and humanely and that no unacceptable type of destruction of these dogs would take place, as happened in the past. The NSPCA might be used to train personnel and if any surgical intervention takes place, such as the spraying of bitches this would have to be done by a veterinary surgeon. I do not know of anybody else who is competent to do it.
In response to the Animal Health Council, the Minister said it was not felt that the term "humane destruction" needed to be defined as the intention was quite clear. The Minister said he was leaving this to the discretion of the court who would order the dog to be destroyed and that he was confident the judge would order that the dog should be destroyed humanely and would lay down certain guidelines. We will have to ensure that this is done in a uniform way throughout the country. There will have to be a proper code of conduct for the wardens and a regulated course of training. Also, the humane destruction of dogs will have to be taught to the wardens professionally. The only way one can humanely destroy a dog is by injection of a lethal drug which, given intravenously, means instant death and given intra-peritoneal in only minutes. Naturally they are extremely dangerous drugs. I hope we will not decide that to destroy a dog by gassing it is a humane way to end the animal's life.
We will have to get all the assurances necessary in this section from the Minister, because if he is not writing into the Bill what "humane destruction" is, we should at least be able to point to the discussion we have had on the section as setting down the norm for local authorities throughout the country to do this job properly. Otherwise we could be guilty of cruelty to animals. That would also apply to the catching of dogs because normally dogs will come to a call even from a stranger, but there are some hungry dogs, rabid dogs and so on that might not necessarily do that. I hope the warden would have the power to get assistance from other people working in the local authority if he feels dogs are a danger and need to be apprehended. This scheme will not be operable with only one warden in each county. I know that is the minimum, but I hope local authorities will have four, five or six wardens so that a proper service can be provided. Otherwise we will not be doing justice to the problem of unwanted dogs.
I support what Senator Ferris said about the necessity for training dog wardens, although the employment of dog wardens is also dealt with under section 15, but particularly about arranging for the dogs' destruction in a humane manner under subsection (7). There is no definition of "destruction" or "humane" in the definition section. What is humane to one person may not be humane to another. The Animal Health Council in suggesting that dogs should be humanely destroyed by a veterinary surgeon or someone acting under the direction or supervision of a veterinary surgeon, are taking the right line. It is all very well to say that directing the destruction of the dog should be left to the court. This would presumably be a District Court and while District Justices are persons of great virtue, not all of them are experts in dog care, and not all of them would necessarily know the right way to destroy a dog in a humane manner, and they might not want the responsibility of having to decide what was the proper way of destroying a dog. If veterinary surgeons are to be employed by local authorities, it would not be necessary for him to be there on every occasion, that would be asking too much, but the local veterinary surgeon should train or direct the dog warden on how to do this properly and generally supervise the destruction of dogs in that local authority area. If it is not properly defined it could give rise to cruelty.
What Senator Ferris said was right, but I wonder if his local authority are working under the same financial constraints as ours, because last Monday at a special meeting to discuss our financial crisis, I would not have liked to venture to talk about four dog wardens needed to do this job properly. If we were to agree to all the suggestions made by animal health councils and other interested bodies, I could not see this scheme being operated by the local authority at the moment. In my local authority we are at our wits end to try to keep the scheme in operation with one dog warden, not to talk about employing veterinary surgeons and others to carry out this work. If we include in this Bill everything that has been suggested, it will cost a fortune, and we cannot go that far, no matter how much we might like to. We hope there will be a good public response by dog owners to the new Bill.
Four dog wardens in any county would not do the job Senator Ferris speaks about, even 24 would not do it. We have talked about so many things today that we would solve some of our unemployment problems if we were to follow them up. We are talking a lot of nonsense, really. The whole purpose of the Bill, from day one as I understood it, was to try to get rid of the scourge of stray dogs. Now we are chasing every hare and rabbit in sight. I worked myself into a sweat for two years in my own local authority trying to get one dog warden appointed. I will take many risks, but I certainly will not risk three more no matter what kind of a job he is doing.
Senator Ferris is probably right in talking about the humane aspect of the Bill, but it might cost between £10 and £20 per visit by a veterinary surgeon travelling to a dog pound to destroy maybe one dog. I do not think we can go along that road. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am looking at the financial side of it and thinking of what I would be confronted with as a member of my local authority when I go back at a time when, because of our financial position, we cannot employ some people on the road at the moment, no matter how much we might be inclined to do that, not to mention setting up a scheme to solve unemployment with jobs for dog wardens.
I would not agree with what Senator Lennon has been saying. I am sure when Senator Ferris and Senator McGuinness recommended that dogs should be destroyed under the supervision of or by a veterinary surgeon, they did not envisage local authorities employing veterinary surgeons for this purpose alone. Local authorities employ veterinary surgeons already for various reasons; they have to supervise slaughterhouses and so on. Regardless of what it might cost, it is very important that dogs that are to be destroyed are destroyed in a humane way. The vets, or people acting on their behalf, are the only people who can do that.
If we are to worry about the cost of implementing this legislation then we may as well forget about it. This scheme is supposed to be self-financing. Let us look at the situation throughout the country. It is said that there are 700,000 dogs in the country, and only 80,000 of them were licensed in 1985. If we did our job efficiently and well under this legislation, we would be able to employ dog wardens and veterinary surgeons and anybody necessary to make the scheme efficient and ensure that dogs that must be destroyed are destroyed in a humane way.
There is another point I would like to raise on this section. Again, this deals with stray dogs and particularly dogs that are known to be dangerous. Any dog that is know to have attacked livestock or people and is caught and brought into the pound should not be released if he is known to be dangerous and should either be held there of destroyed.
Before the Minister replies let me just take up a couple of points. First of all, I do not think Senator Lennon was listening to what we were saying on this section. The Animal Health Council made a submission to the Minister, as is their right as one of the agencies involved in the preparation of the legislation, that this section should provide that the humane destruction of dogs should be done in a particular way. There was never a suggestion from them, or from me, or from Senator McGuinness that a veterinary surgeon would have to attend every time a county council warden wanted to destroy a dog. We are asking the Minister to ensure that dog wardens are properly trained through the agency of the NSPCA, because they are already doing it; they have veterinary expertise available to them and I am quite sure that with that agency, and with some local authorities who presently employ veterinarians, this proper instruction and training could be given to dog wardens.
There is other legislation pending, such as the new slaughterhouse Bill, which will make it mandatory on local authorities to employ a veterinary surgeon. That means that immediately every county council will have a veterinary surgeon available for various functions, including this one. The minimum number of wardens required by law is one, but I suggest that if county councils can do so there should be more, and it can be done in conjunction with the existing agency who are doing this job very effectively in my county as well as in Senator Lennon's county. We all have financial constraints on us but it has not stopped us in the past from doing this and doing it correctly.
In this legislation, there should be no areas of doubt left as to how we, as humans, feel about how animals should be treated when it comes to taking their lives. If, because of neglect and lack of control by their owners, they have followed their natural instinct and savaged sheep, that is no reason for treating them in any way other than a humane way when it comes to destroying them.
I hope the wardens will be trained to know exactly how to do the job and, as the Animal Health Council said, the techniques and the manner of the application of the techniques will be under veterinary supervision. That does not mean one has to have a veterinarian all the time. But at least a veterinarian will explain to somebody how an animal should be given an intravenous or intraperitoneal injection of a deadly substance, which is the way I hope the dogs will be destroyed.
The Minister replied by saying he felt the section is strong enough, and the definition of humane destruction is strong enough, and that courts would make a decision when they made an order saying the animals could be destroyed and a judge would take this into account. Senator McGuinness has now explained that some judges may be competent to do that and some may not. We want to ensure that the legislation will be as tight as we can make it in providing for a humane method of destruction of animals by wardens.
I hope the scheme will be self-financing. Naturally in the initial stages it may not be. Some councils have already done a lot in this area without any legislation. I suggest that if it is self-financing a lot of work will be done in this area. It is appropriate that we should talk about the humane destruction of animals. Otherwise we could hear it said that this legislation is anti-dog when it is not intended to be. It is intended to be anything but anti-dog. It is intended to handle a particular problem and to do it in a proper way by legislation, and that includes the training of the wardens in a proper way.
I appeal to people to be practical and realistic about this matter because if we start chasing up all the little detailed avenues that have been raised it could be quite complex and it could take from the effectiveness of a very fine piece of legislation.
For example, I totally agree with Senator McGuinness, Senator Hussey, Senator Ferris and others who talked about the need for humane destruction of the animals at a given point and under proper supervision, and so on. But surely this is something that will not happen on an ongoing basis. In a practical set up one will have a number of animals for destroying at any particular time, whether it be ten, 20 or whatever. We will not have the extermination of a dog each day which would cost so much money each week, each fortnight or whenever. That is the kind of thing we must address ourselves to. For that reason Senator Lennon may have slightly exaggerated the question of expense. He is right in so far as the number of persons required to do all the detail in the sort of way some might envisage would take a lot of money, but again it has been said that this whole scheme will generate finance, and ultimately something like £2.5 million from licences and so on. With a greater policing of the system by the dog wardens than was the case with the Garda Síochána, I am satisfied that a substantial sum of money will accrue to the local authorities for this operation. We must be practical and realistic about this and not go chasing hares. On the question of the extermination of dogs or their destruction, it will be done on a very organised basis where there are quite a number of dogs to be disposed of at any given time and because of this the cost will be significantly lessened.
I will not take up too much of the Minister's time. I should like, however, to re-emphasise, with Senators Ferris and Hussey, that none of us envisaged a veterinary surgeon would be specially employed to run around from place to place just destroying dogs. This could be done in a very practical manner where a number of dogs could be destroyed at the same time. It is a question of the method of humane destruction being laid down by the veterinary surgeon who may very well be employed for other purposes by the local authority. A check should be kept on the way in which this is carried out by somebody who has the professional qualifications to do it. We are not asking that immense expense be incurred: we are asking that this matter be dealt with in a practical and humane manner.
In my county we have a veterinary surgeon who spends quite a lot of his time in this way, in case anybody thinks we are not doing our job correctly. Some people have said that this scheme will be self-financing. Why do these people think that people will pay their licences now any more than they did before? Despite the fact that there is a garda in nearly every parish in Ireland, people have not paid their licences. I hope they will respond now under this new scheme but I am not fully convinced that they will.
I am not sure how we arrived at the figures of 250,000 or 500,000 dogs. It always amuses me when I hear about the number of dogs that should be licensed at the moment. However, I can assure the Minister that if it is 250,000 when we come back at some time in the future those dogs will not be licensed. If people did not license their dogs despite the presence of gardaí at their doors for the past number of years, I doubt if a warden going around the country, be they small or large, will have the necessary effect of scaring them into licensing their dogs. I hope people will respond and I will encourage them to do so, especially when county councils are operating the scheme, but I am not as optimistic as others.
In recent years the Garda did not address their efforts to the matter of licensing of dogs. There were so many other urgent matters to which they had to give priority that the licensing of dogs was a very low priority. This would explain to a large degree why the number of dogs licensed last year was something in the region of 18,000 as against the estimate of a dog population of between 500,000 and 700,000. It would not necessarily solve the problem, but it would at least answer in part Senator Lennon's concern about why so many dogs remain unlicensed.
I am almost redundant: each speaker seems to be clarifying the speech of the previous speaker but perhaps that is a good way to have it. To get back to the thrust of the measure, humane means exactly what it says. All destruction will be carried out by trained people who will, in turn, be trained by the ISPCA. In the case of Senator Lennon's very praiseworthy efforts in County Louth, that dog warden is working under impossible conditions. He is almost operating against the law at the moment. He does not have the law on his side. He may not enter farmers' yards or fields and do all the things the new wardens will be able to do. Under a proper dog warden system the collection of dogs is an easy enough matter. The Senator is near enough to some of his colleagues at the other side of the Border and with the law on his side the picking up of dogs will be easy enough now.
Destruction of dogs will be carried out in a humane manner. Councillors who are not happy with the way things are being done can address the matter at their local county council meeting. None of us want a sort of a Bastille around the place where dogs will be cruelly put down. That is not the intention of the Bill.
Training of wardens will be an ongoing process. On Second Stage Senator Hussey raised the matter of wardens not being allowed to operate until they are fully trained. In fact, the training will be ongoing and part of it will be on-scene training. There is no need to legislate for it. The wardens will be competent people and these animals will be put down humanely.
It is correct to say the scheme will eventually be self-financing. While it is true to say that licences were not bought even while there was a garda in every parish, we must remember he had a lot of other things to do also. Fines were very petty and people convicted of not having a dog licence were usually given far too much latitude to get a licence. If one got away with it until June one would assume one would be all right until December. However, the new legislation provides that a licence taken out in June is valid until the following June, and a licence taken out in November is valid until the following November. The cost of the licence is quite insignificant, £5, whereas the fine is substantial, £100. The dog warden, unlike the Garda, will have nothing else to do except collect these licences for the local authority. In other words, he will be collecting his own salary, among other things.
Is the dog warden going to collect the licences?
He can be authorised by the local authority to collect. It will not be written into the Bill but if Senators decide that is the way they wish to do it that is the way it will be done. His job will be to ascertain that every dog is licensed. In County Louth, for example, the county council may decide that the licensing will be done in the ordinary way through the local post office or the local county council offices or they may instruct their wardens to go out and collect.
Dogs that are known to be dangerous will be destroyed. Dogs that are seen to be acceptable for use by other people will be spayed or castrated by a veterinary surgeon.
I should like to thank the Minister for his assurances about the aspect of training and humane destruction. I take it from what he says that the Minister for the Environment will be making an order empowering local authorities to employ these people and that, in the making of that order, regulations will be set down which will ensure that proper training will be given involving the ISPCA and the veterinarians, and whatever else is required by the Minister for the Environment to make sure it is done correctly. I am satisfied with that.
Yes. All of that will be taken care of at local level.
This does not arise from the Bill and I want to make that very clear. I refer to the fact that parvo virus is rampant in parts of this country. I am wondering if the Minister would consider making a statement of some kind encouraging people to have their animals vaccinated against parvo virus.
We have, for instance in the case of rabies at the moment, notices at all our points of entry. We might look at the possibility of puting up notices with regard to this disease in places like marts and having advice for people on what precautions to take.
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are related and may be discussed together.
These amendments arise from representations made by the Advisory Council on Animal Health who felt that the time limit proposed before a person would have to take some action over holding a dog might not operate to the dog's benefit and might frustrate the search efforts by an owner. For instance, the sheep owner might be tempted not to feed a dog during the 72 hours he would be entitled to hold it before delivering it to a dog warden. Section 4 of the Dogs Act, 1906, which section 13 (1) replaces, contains a provision to act forthwith. This amendment will restore the status quo in that respect. The provision in section 3 of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1960, to which section 13 (2) refers, contained no limit within which to act. It is considered desirable that a person who seizes a dog should be required to act “forthwith”. The term “forthwith” is considered to be flexible enough to cater for situations where it would not be possible to deliver up a dog immediately such as, for instance, late at night. I think that is reasonable.
It is appropriate to thank the Minister publicly and his advisers for conceding this amendment. I know the section consolidates the 1906 Act, the 1960 Act and the 1965 Act. There is a degree of urgency in the word "forthwith", as opposed to seven days in section 13, and 72 hours in subsection (2). The word "forthwith" is also to be welcomed. It gives a degree of urgency and a degree of flexibility but it ensures that people do not starve a dog they have taken for some reason or other for the seven days. We were worried about that and it could happen as the section was worded originally. I want to thank the Minister for having conceded these amendments. They will improve the legislation.
This is purely a technical amendment.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 10, subsection (1), line 44, after "appointment" to insert "on completion of a bona fide training course".
We have already discussed this. I felt that this amendment was necessary. Section 15 says every local authority shall employ one or more persons to be dog wardens for the purposes of the Act. I recommend that they will be employed only on the completion of a bona fide training course. This is very important because you cannot pluck a person — male or female — from any other profession and say: "You are being appointed as a dog warden", without giving that person training. It would be unfair to the persons so employed in the first instance because they would not know how to handle dogs in many cases.
There are people who have a natural instinct for that kind of work; they are able to handle animals in a very humane and professional way, but there are others who just would not be able to handle the job and it is those people I have in mind. Before they are appointed by the local authority they should be given a training course. I understand that the ISPCA provide this kind of course. We should avail of them. Local authorities should avail of that course being organised by the ISPCA when appointing dog wardens. It would ensure that the people so appointed would be more capable of carrying out their duties, would be better able to handle the dogs they are employed to look after and give a better service to the local authority employing them.
This is a reasonable amendment. The Minister might think it unnecessary to legislate so tightly on the section but it is in line with what the Minister is doing. We can have that interpretation of the words "bona fide training course". As the Minister has said, it will be an ongoing training process continuing in the field. I have to be satisfied — and I am a member of a local authority — that in some way we will ensure that there will be a minimum standard of training required. I want to hear what the Minister has to say about the necessity for it. He has given an assurance that the Minister for the Environment will be giving a directive or making a ministerial order bringing this section into being. He can set down any terms he wishes as the employer; indirectly the Minister will be the employer. He can set down the recommended age and competence of the person concerned. If we make this amendment it will strengthen the section and meet the wishes we have been expressing on earlier sections, particcularly regarding humane destruction. That is all part of the process of the training of a dog warden in my opinion. The amendment is not an unreasonable one.
This amendment as proposed by Senator Hussey would provide that a dog warden would not be issued with a certificate of appointment unless he completed the bona fide training course. The certificate of appointment will constitute evidence of the warden's authority to carry out his functions under the Bill and the effect of the amendment would be that a warden could not be appointed unless he was trained. That seems to be the difficulty about legislating for it. I support the motive behind the amendment but it is felt that it is not necessary, as we see it, having had discussions with the ISPCA and with the various groups of people concerned.
Training of wardens as already provided for in the Bill can take place without a statutory provision. It is the intention that in all cases wardens will be propertly trained. Training of staff for any job in a local authority is an administrative matter and does not require to be legislated for. A local engineer, for instance, has to be up to his job. In the event of an emergency appointment being necessary, we could run into difficulty because we are implementing this suddenly on a national basis. We are hoping to get it passed in time for the lambing season. Under the amendment the emergency appointee could not operare effectively without his certificate of appointment which could not be given to him until he completed his bona fide training course. That certainly to my mind would, in the short term, frustrate the implementation of the Bill. As the local authorities will be implementing it on the ground, as it were, they should be totally satisfied that only such people as would be competent would be let out on the field. That is what we would be hoping. The point being made by the ISPCA is that the training is actually ongoing. It is a long process and the ISPCA would be happy to allow trainees out on to the field under their supervision. At a certain stage they would give a certificate. In the meantime they could be doing a lot of good work.
Possibly the inclusion of this amendment in the legislation might frustrate the implementation of the Act at this stage. In the long term it might be better. If the local authorities advertise the appointment of dog wardens in each local authority they will have a very large number of applicants. The vast majority of those people will have experience in dealing with animals but none of them, as far as I can see, will have the training necessary to carry out effectively and efficiently the duties imposed by this legislation. For that reason there should be some kind of a crash course that ISPCA could give to people who are being so employed. If the local authority decide to advertise the appointment of those wardens they will interview a certain number of applicants and should make it quite clear to them that before they are appointed they will have to do some kind of a crash course. If that were done it would be sufficient because at least they would have the basic knowledge of how to handle dogs, how to collect them and how to deal with them when they get them into the compounds. If they even had that kind of basic training it would be sufficient.
I think you will find, in effect, that the ISPCA have assured us that that will happen. Nobody will be allowed onto the field without that basic training. All we are saying is that we do not feel we need to legislate for this. Local administrators can put in their own caveats at local level if they feel something pertains to a particular area — if it involves a town that might have restrictions or that sort of thing — that very specific training will have to be given to that person. All that will take place. There is no question that somebody who is not trained will be let loose on the public. Certainly that is the way it will operate. At any future date there would be nothing wrong with the Minister for the Environment, at the request of residents or county councils, making any alteration they may wish. The scheme will then be law and will be implemented. It will set it out that a person has to do two years, 12 months or six months specific training before he is allowed to act as a dog warden.
There is no conflict here. We have a dog warden in Mayo working very effectively. He was selected by the local authority. We must remember that the warden will have to take a decision on the continuation of the life of a particular dog. A person from the ISPCA may not be able to take this decision. It may mean the termination of the dog's life. We have had major success with our scheme and we have provided money for it. You must have a person suited to the job to be carried out. If he is appointed by the local authority they will have to look for a happy medium in the type of character they select to do this job. The Bill will be there. When we have control of marauding dogs and dogs that have no homes the job will be much easier. At present there is no control and dogs are running loose. The authorities are beginning to assert themselves and at least we will have a breakthrough in this area.
I expected the Minister to reply as he did. That is why I spoke before he spoke in support of Senator Hussey. Senator O'Toole is right. There is no disagreement on what we want to do in this section. In areas of staff recruitment and terms of employment the country managers are very slow to give power to the members of local authorities. Under the County Management Acts he is responsible totally for the terms of employment of anybody within his jurisdiction. I want to be sure that, when the Minister for the Environment is making a ministerial order, he will write in that some kind of minimum training will be required. This will act as a guideline for the manager and will ensure an even administration of this legislation. That will achieve what Senator Hussey suggests. It is what we all want now. We can do it by ministerial order.
You do not even need a ministerial order to carry it out. International standards for dog wardens are laid down and are operational right across the EC and probably outside it. I had hoped on Committee Stage to have a synopsis of the rules and regulations governing dog wardens in the EC, but I will endeavour to get it and circularise it to Members. It is quite comprehensive and detailed and should satisfy everyone.
If I have the Minister's word and guarantee that nobody will be let loose without having some basic training I am satisfied.
This is purely a technical amendment to clarify that local authorities will not be obliged to provide more than one shelter. It will be open to them, of course, to provide as many shelters as they require.
The number of shelters required will depend on the number of dogs being detained at any particular time. Has the Minister any particular type of shelter in mind, or does he envisage local authorities spending a large amount of money on the provision of those shelters? Are they fairly standard type buildings? The Minister is giving a certain allocation to local authorities. As far as I am concerned it is very small, but will that allocation also cover the provision of shelters for each local authority?
Some of those in existence are very basic. For instance, one I visited was a disused cottage scheme. They are very basic, very simple and quite inexpensive. There is no need for any thing very elaborate. In the very large areas where big numbers are involved obviously you will need to extend and expand but initially the expenditure will not be exorbitant.
They would not want to be located in a built-up area.
All of that will be a problem for the local authorities involved to make sure that they, in turn, will not cause a nuisance to somebody else.
We have overcome the problem of shelters. We have an itinerant problem and a tiphead problem at present, both of them contentious. We have a dog control unit placed on the original site of the tiphead. We reclaimed the tiphead area at a cost of something like £50,000. The Department of the Environment allowed us a capital amount towards that and also paid part of the capital expenditure involved. We transferred ownership in trust to the ISPCA. They are working in conjunction with us and we give them an annual grant. We will probably operate that scheme or something like it and we will continue to employ others to work in conjunction with them. The shelter cost about £50,000; it is custom built, but not very elaborate.
Again, it is a technical amendment to ensure that the section which permits the derogation of most functions will not be in conflict with section 3 where the local authority is empowered to make arrangements with other persons for the specific function of issuing licences.
Section 15 (4) states:
A local authority may assist any person providing homes or shelters for stray or unwanted dogs by helping that person in money or kind or by the provision of services or facilities (including the services of staff).
If some private individual wants to provide a service, home or centre for stray or unwanted dogs and wants to employ staff to catch stray dogs does it mean the local authority are empowered to provide the service or to provide money for him?
Yes. For instance, the ISPCA may very well decide to do that.
The ISPCA would be different to a person; it says "any person".
For instance, the person with suitable facilities may very well decide to provide this type of shelter and then they would be employed by the local authority. They would look after the dogs and carry out the function of the local authority.
And would they be supervised by the local authority?
There is a contrast in a sense between subsection (2) and subsection (3). Section 15 (2) refers to "...any person for the provision and maintenance of such shelters ... and section 15 (3) refers to "a person connected with animal welfare for the exercise of all or any of its functions,". Obviously the ISPCA will be regarded as such a person. Does the Minister envisage any particular kind of person connected with animal welfare and does he envisage the local authority contracting out their functions, as it were, to this type of person? Is it a person or a body or does it have to be an individual?
Well, there is really no conflict. It is just the way these things are written out by the legal people.
Section 15 (2) states:
Every local authority shall establish and maintain shelters for dogs seized, accepted or detained under any of the provisions of this Act and may, with the consent of the Minister, enter into arrangements with any persons for the provision and maintenance of such shelters and for the exercise by such persons of the functions of the local authority under this Act.
Section 15 (3) spells out the sort of people who may enter arrangements with the ISPCA or people connected with animal welfare. All it means is that the local authority can, if they so wish, give over to suitable people the whole business of providing dog shelters and their maintenance under the supervision of the local authority.
In Louth we rented dog kennels from somebody who had them; they were suitable and were away from housing. The people involved with the dog kennels were experienced in dealing with dogs. The same situation exists in every county. In every county there are owners of dog kennels who would be very often interested in extending their business to cater for this.
This section specifies the powers of the dog wardens. We have already heard some reservations being expressed about those powers during our discussions on other sections. I am not going to go into these in detail because I believe the powers given to the dog warden there are necessary if he is to carry out the duties imposed on him by this legislation. He requires those powers to enter lands or buildings in order to catch dogs that have been attacking persons or worrying livestock. Under this section a dog warden has the power to go in to inspect kennels or to inspect dogs that are being maltreated as often happens — we have seen terrible cases of dogs being allowed to starve to death. Will the dog warden have power to go in and inspect those kennels or buildings in order to see if they are being kept in a proper way? Will he have the power to take action against the owners of those dogs who are ill-treating the animals in such a way that they allow them to die of starvation or any other reason?
The answer is a categorical "yes." He may enter any of these premises. If he finds cruelty or any sort of bad treatment of dogs he reports the matter then to the Garda. It is their remit to pursue the cruelty aspect.
I will have a Report Stage amendment on this section. The functional areas of local authorities generally extend to the high water mark only and, consequently, a local authority wishing to make by-laws for a beach adjoining its area would be unable to do so. Consequently, subsection (6), (7) and (8) of section 17 provide the procedure to solve this problem. I am, however, having another look at the procedure proposed to see whether a simpler formula could be adopted which would obviate the necessity of a ministerial order and I will examine this between now and Report Stage. If any Members have any suggestions they will be welcome.
This is a technical amendment.
May I ask a question in relation to the disqualification from keeping a dog? If a person finds he is disqualified for any reason by the District Court from holding a licence to keep a dog, how long does the disqualification last? Does it have to be reviewed from time to time?
As a matter of fact, I asked that question also. The words in the section and this was specifically inserted — are" ... from keeping a dog for such a period as the Court thinks fit". It would depend on the enormity of the offence. It could be for three or six months. If the court thinks the person is an unfit person it may decide not to allow him to keep a dog.
I assume I am correct in thinking that, as stated earlier in the Bill, when talking about "disposal", we are talking about selling or giving the dog to somebody else and when talking about "destruction" we mean actually killing the dog, and that for that reason the words "humane disposal or destruction" were deleted and the words "disposal or humane destruction" were substituted.
This is also a technical amendment.
Again, this is a technical amendment.
This is dealing with something I have been interested in throughout the debate on the Bill. Where a farmer has his stock attacked by a dog and where there is a great deal of damage done to them, I am satisfied that he has power under the section to claim damages. This is necessary because very often we find in the lambing season that farmers suffer terrible losses from dogs attacking their flock. Very often they have no recourse to compensation. It would be wrong if that were excluded from the Bill. The Minister might set my mind at ease on this, that farmers will have power to seek damages for any loss caused to their flock as a result of attacks by stray dogs.
That is correct. Section 21 (i) states:
The owner of a dog shall be liable in damages for damage caused in an attack on any person by the dog and for injury done by it to any livestock; and it shall not be necessary for the person seeking such damages to show a previous mischievous propensity in the dog, or the owner's knowledge of such previous propensity, or to show that such injury or damage was attributable to neglect on the part of the owner.
Subsection (2) states:
Where livestock are injured by a dog on land on to which they had strayed, and either the dog belonged to the occupier of the land or its presence on the land was authorised by the occupier, a person shall not be liable under this section in respect of injury done...
I should like to deal with one point in relation to the foregoing. Anybody who has established that his animals have been destroyed by a dog, under the provisions of this Bill is in a position to proceed to take the owner of the dog to court and to claim the correct amount of damage caused by the dog in the first place.
I welcome the section. It includes a more absolute form of liability. It is particularly important to have included that it is not necessary for the person seeking the damage to show previous mischievous propensity in the dog or the owner's knowledge of such previous propensity. These are the things that can be extremely difficult to deal with if it came to a court action; it would be hard to prove that the owner knew that the dog had a mischievous propensity or that the dog had the mischievous propensity. It is to be welcomed that the section is so wide and should impose this sort of liability.
The sections speak of the owner of a dog. Under section 1 "owner" is defined to some extent and it includes the occupier of premises where the dog is permitted to live or remain and so on. What is the position of the licence holder of the dog? Is he regarded as being the owner in any way or is he in any way liable? In the previous section the Minister stated that a child under 16 years of age might be the owner of the dog, but the licence holder would be the parent. You could sue an under 16-year old owner of a dog but it would not be much good because the likelihood of there being a mark for damages is fairly small. Can the Minister sort out for me the difference between the owner and the licence holder under the section?
In law, you proceed against the owner of the dog. In the case of the person under 16 years, it is the parents who hold the licence. You proceed in all cases in law against the owner of the dog. In most cases, it is the same person who holds the licence and owns the dog.