Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 14.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 10b:
In page 14, subsection (1), between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
"(f) greyhounds should be exempt from the limit of six litters, subject to veterinary approval,”.
—(Senator Paudie Coffey).

Amendments Nos. 10b, 10c and 14a are related and being discussed together, by agreement. As I recall, the Minister had just responded to queries and Senator Coffey had indicated.

Members are resuming the debate on the Bill at a critical stage. Fine Gael has tabled three amendments that were discussed at length on the previous occasion. Amendment No. 10 proposes that "greyhounds should be exempt from the limit of six litters, subject to veterinary approval". Amendment No. 10 proposes that "greyhounds should be exempt from the requirement that a bitch is not to be mated inside 12 months from the previous litter", while amendment No. 14 proposes that "greyhounds registered through the Irish Coursing Club should be exempt from the micro-chipping requirement".

These amendments have been tabled because of the greyhound industry's genuine concern that, if the Bill is passed as drafted, it will prove a real threat to the industry's viability. Given the breeding of champion dogs in Ireland and its high reputation here and abroad, I wish to point out an important statistic, that is, 77% of the dogs racing in the UK are Irish bred. This tells me that the industry means much to our economy.

On the last day we debated the Bill, I pointed out at length what would occur if Fine Gael's amendments were not accepted. Good brood bitches that are in demand will be exported to other jurisdictions. As a consequence, Irish racing and the Irish greyhound industry will no longer be recognised as being successful. This is a genuine concern for the industry and should be a concern for us as public representatives.

It is disappointing that, to date during this debate, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, has been unwilling to consider many of Fine Gael's amendments despite their being reasonable and being tabled in a genuine attempt to protect the greyhound industry. We have no difficulty with introducing strict regulations on puppy farming. That was what the Bill was about. We referred at length to the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 and its role in respect of the Irish Coursing Club's authority over the breeding of greyhounds. We also pointed to the various inspection and licensing regimes for the industry. We have a real fear that, if we have more layers of inspection, bureaucracy and so on without any reference to the 1958 Act, we will close down large sections of the industry.

The Government has invested in many greyhound tracks in the past ten or 15 years. I will give credit where it is due because the Government invested in the greyhound industry and upgraded and modernised many tracks. Waterford city has the Kilcohan Park track, which I remember as once being dilapidated. It is now a state-of-the-art track with restaurant facilities that is regularly visited by many families. It is a significant success and a good piece of infrastructure for a city or community and has been replicated throughout the country. The Irish Greyhound Board is making a considerable investment in Limerick, but in this Bill we are saying it is a viable industry in which we will invest while at the same time posing a threat to the industry's fundamentals. The reason the industry exists is the successful breeding and racing that have taken place for many years without complaint. It has been successful and managed well, but we are introducing a Bill that will threaten everything.

Many people are listening to this debate because they rightly have concerns about the industry's future. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, is not considering Fine Gael's amendments. As I have stated on the public record, if amendments were forthcoming from the Government side, from the Green Party or Fianna Fáil, that would meet the concerns highlighted by this side of the House, I would be willing to withdraw our amendments. However, there seems to be no effort to come over to our way of thinking. This is a pity because the Bill and its amendments have rightly been debated at great length by many of our colleagues from all sides of the House. If the Bill is passed in its current form, it will be too late to cry about running down the industry. Now is the time to effect change. For this reason, Fine Gael has tabled these amendments. Some Government Senators have spoken in support of our amendments, so I urge them to talk to their colleagues and Ministers, including the Minister responsible, and consider our amendments before it is too late.

I could say much more, but we will pursue these amendments. I hope the Minister or his officials, even in the past week, had an opportunity to consult the wider public and the industry and see the common sense in Fine Gael's proposals. The greyhound industry is concerned the Bill will be detrimental to its existence. I hope the Minister of State will take my opinions on board.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, to the House. I have not spoken on Committee Stage although I contributed on Second Stage. I have listened to and been present in the Chamber for all of this debate and I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of Senator Coffey's amendments. I come from an area like his and, I suspect, the Minister of State's. Indeed, the latter is familiar with rural south County Kilkenny. Many people besides farmers and others involved in agriculture are involved in the greyhound industry and have a number of breeding greyhound bitches. It has been a part of their way of life for generations.

Even before I entered the Oireachtas, I saw how seemingly innocuous legislation had serious knock-on effects for people. This Bill is potentially devastating for greyhound breeders and others. On Second Stage, for example, I mentioned hunt kennels. The Bill is the thin edge of the wedge in respect of what are loosely termed as country pursuits. I urge the Minister of State, as a representative of the largest Government party and one that, unlike some of the other parties in government, has roots in rural Ireland, to reflect on what is being proposed. The 1958 legislation governing the greyhound industry already imposes an inspection regime in which greyhounds must be documented and records kept. What is proposed in the Bill is a expensive duplication of the current provisions. I listened to every contribution and the Minister, Deputy Gormley, did not seem to acknowledge this duplication or the fact that the greyhound and hunting sectors are already regulated, subject to inspection and must keep records of the dogs produced.

The Bill was introduced following calls from a number of Senators and Deputies concerning puppy farming. Senator Cummins was the first Member to raise the issue of the inhumane treatment of young dogs in the industry. Everyone welcomes the sector's regulation but the Bill will cover areas that are already well regulated. There is no need to regulate them again because they are already subject to stringent criteria. It also places an unfair burden of cost during a difficult time in every walk of life. I urge the Minister of State. I have read the amendments and cannot see why they cannot be accepted. The greyhound sector, the specific matter dealt with by the amendments, is already the subject of regulation and inspection. It is not as if people are getting off scot free.

As Members of the Oireachtas, we have received many e-mails in recent days from people stating we should include the greyhound breeders and hunt kennels. They are already subject to rigorous inspection. From inception, the aim of this legislation has been to regulate puppy farming. If we want to do anything for animal rights, puppy farming should be banned outright. I ask the Minister to reconsider this legislation, as it could have a devastating effect on a way of life, not merely on people's pockets. Many of my neighbours who are rural people, although not farmers, have a few greyhounds and one of their few pleasures in life is to walk them every morning and evening and perhaps go to Kilcohan Park in Waterford or the greyhound track in Kilkenny city. When we have seen investment by the Government and from elsewhere in upgrading greyhound stadiums, it is bizarre to consider placing extra charges and impositions on greyhound breeders.

I hope the Minister of State who represents the rural-based party in government will look to the people he knows who are involved in the greyhound industry and ensure they are not subject to a ridiculous form of double inspection.

The relationship between the 1958 Act and the Bill has been mentioned. There is duplication between the two. I cannot understand why the Minister did not take this into consideration, but perhaps he did. There is duplication in the regulation, registration and identification processes.

This is a well run industry. Like the two previous speakers, I come from the south east. As a very young girl I saw how well run coursing was and how the integrity of the industry was protected at all times. The Bill needs to be rethought.

Senator Ormonde should vote with us.

I hope the Minister will do this. I ask the Minister of State to take this message to the Minister. We are all singing the same tune. We all support rural pursuits and want to protect rural Ireland. We do not want to see the urbanisation of everything. I support the rural sports with which I grew up and about which I heard in my youth. The 1958 Act must be reconciled with this Bill. I would like to hear the Minister of State's views on the matter.

I join Senators Coffey and John Paul Phelan in asking the Minister, at the eleventh hour, to accept the amendments. At a time of economic crisis the country requires the Government to be pro-enterprise and pro-jobs. The Bill has the potential to destroy the greyhound industry which will have an impact on tourism, employment and our sporting life. It will also affect our balance of trade because greyhound industry exports are worth €35 million per annum. Senator Ormonde referred to rural pursuits but the Bill will have a profound effect on all of Ireland. I commend her for her remarks. However, it is fine to say one thing in the Chamber but the real truth emerges when we go through the Tá and Níl lobbies. I challenge the members of the leading Government party to be true to their roots and de Valera, if that is what they stand for. He would not have supported the Bill.

He was more interested in cricket than in greyhounds.

That is what Fianna Fáil masquerade as.

We are discussing amendments.

The 1958 Act allows for regulation. I worry when I receive e-mails from people who have neither the courtesy nor the courage to sign their names. I am neither a ruralite nor an urbanite. I support the rights of those involved in an industry and a sport which creates jobs and does no harm. On any greyhound track one will see people who are creating employment. Greyhound owners and trainers are decent, honourable and hard-working. They have regulation and self-regulation. They know what is right and what is wrong. A number of people who have spoken to me are for and against the Bill. If the Government is serious about the operation of dog breeding establishments and compliance with regulation, why have negotiations not taken place with the bodies involved in the industry? Why has the Minister shown no willingness to listen? The e-mails we have received from representatives of the greyhound industry have shown them to be open to dialogue and consultation and willing to embrace regulation and a hands-on approach. The Government is missing a golden opportunity. Perhaps Fianna Fáil has decided the Seanad does not matter but that it will move mountains to ensure the Bill is passed when it is debated in the Dáil.

This is not a Second Stage debate.

I am not making a Second Stage speech. I am debating section 15.

We are discussing amendments Nos. 10, 10 and 14

Yes, I am dealing with those amendments. The Minister does not have a clue about requirements and definitions regarding litters and bitches. I would say he has never set foot on a greyhound track or spoken to a trainer or owner. He has no understanding of the industry. There is an obligation on the Minister of State to stop the Bill in its tracks and recommence negotiations and dialogue with all concerned. The Bill is flawed and unfair. It does not deserve to be passed.

I support the comments of my Fine Gael colleagues and those of Senator Ann Ormonde on these amendments. The Bill, unfortunately, goes down the wrong road. Huge pressure was applied to the Government to take action on the question of puppy farms and solve an obvious problem. There is unanimous support for the regulation of puppy farms and the closure of many of them. Legislation to that effect should have been generated, debated and enacted in a very short space of time. Such a speedy turnaround of legislation should be the way of political life. Unfortunately, factors have intervened and what should have been a straightforward Bill has grown out of all proportion. Commitments given to various groups and associations have been breached and we are now debating and possibly dividing on a section which should not be included in the Bill. I concur with Senator Buttimer regarding the economic issues involved but, given the current economic state of the country and leaving aside the political arguments, the public expects us to spend 95% of our time in both Houses discussing the economic plight of the country and putting forward ideas and solutions to address it. The average citizen would be bemused and amazed that we have spent days discussing this legislation which should have simply provided for regulations to control or, if necessary, shut down puppy farms. The Minister's over-the-top approach to the legislation is a little disappointing.

I refer to the amendments and the impact of the Bill on the greyhound industry. I agree with colleagues who have expressed serious concerns about its negative implications. We have all received representations and communications from various parties on the matter but all of us, especially those who represent rural constituencies, are aware of the economic and social impact of this industry. It is the only social outlet for many people. It is a successful indigenous industry into which the Government, through the horse and greyhound fund, invested tens of millions of euro to develop stadia, encourage people into the industry and generate employment and tax revenue. We should try to strengthen and develop the industry further. Senator Buttimer also referred to the export element. A cost benefit analysis of the industry would stand up to the highest scrutiny as a successful rural Irish enterprise.

With a few strokes of his pen, the Minister is seriously threatening the industry. Senator Buttimer asked whether he has ever attended a greyhound race meeting. I do not know but he represents the constituency in which Ireland's premier greyhound track, Shelbourne Park, is located. I am sure he knows the track, how many people work there and how many people attend meetings every week of the year, yet the legislation is a grave and present threat to the industry.

As the Minister of State represents a rural constituency, he has knowledge of the issues we have raised. I ask him to advise the Minister not only to move with caution but to be willing to be big enough to engage reverse gear. When we commenced the debate on the legislation some weeks ago, there was a general fear that a Pandora's box would be opened. What should have been straightforward legislation which would have received the unanimous support of the House unfortunately will create new challenges for rural Ireland and rural pursuits. We debated the issue of hunt kennels, their registration, promises made and commitments broken, to which we will revert.

With regard to greyhound breeding, the regulations governing the Irish Coursing Club are exceptionally strict and proper, accountable and transparent, and they work. In theory, we know what it is supposed to do but we do not know how it will work in practice. The current registration regulations operated by the ICC have worked effectively for many years but the Minister is willing to cast that aside and change the rules of the game.

It would be much preferable if we did not have to divide on the amendments but we must make a statement if the Minister of State and his colleagues are not willing to come forward with new thinking. The decision on this legislation will be made in this House because we are giving it the time it deserves. My fear is that it will be rushed through the Lower House without significant debate and analysis. If progress is to be made and common sense is to be reapplied to the legislation, it will have to happen in this House. I hope the Minister of State will not only impress our concerns and those of his party on the Minister but that he will get him to move and that he will reassure us he will report progress and fresh thinking on Report Stage.

Earlier we discussed the bio-fuel legislation and the need to give a little boost to rural Ireland. We could list a plethora of rural industries that are under pressure or that have disappeared. Fortunately, the greyhound industry continues to perform well and it would be disappointing and regrettable if the legislation, which at its genesis was appropriate in that it was intended to regulate puppy farms, harmed our greyhound industry. Will the Minister of State think carefully about this and impress on his senior colleague that he should think again about the steps he proposes to insert in this section into which he is perhaps being pushed by the more extreme elements of the animal rights lobby, bring common sense to bear and not break something that is fixed? There is no need for the section because the greyhound industry is well regulated, administered and controlled.

I reiterate the comments made by other Senators on both sides of the House. As somebody who has visited greyhound tracks at home and abroad, I can attest to the entertainment provided by racing. We must be careful about any law that could potentially damage the economic viability of the industry. I fully recognise we must ensure animal rights remain the priority in legislation. Having also listened to Members on the Government side, it is clear the Minister has failed to demonstrate why the 1958 Act does not cover animal rights in sufficient detail and he has failed to convince the House it is right to enact this legislation and reject these amendments. We have spent three days debating this issue. We have spent longer on this section than we did on many sections of the NAMA legislation. The Minister of State will have spoken to the Minister before he came to the House. We made our concerns clear to the Minister last week about double regulation of the industry. He has yet to come back to us with sufficient reasons for this and, because of that, we have no option but to vote in favour of the amendment and against the Bill.

The Minister of State is a reasonable man and he will accept how well regulated is the coursing industry.

The Senator should refer to the amendments.

I am speaking to amendment No. 14. Given the record of the ICC, the integrity of Mr. Dick O'Sullivan and what he has said about this matter, we should not impugn the club's integrity. What is being attempted in this regard in the Bill is unnecessary.

Senator Coffey has tabled three simple amendments. I will not labour the argument in support of them other than to say that I believe this legislation has the support of Members on all sides of the House. There is agreement on the Government side of the House to the amendments put forward by Senator Coffey. Therefore, I ask the Minister of State to seriously consider accepting these good amendments.

This legislation is being put in place for a specific purpose but it impinges to a great degree on the greyhound industry. That is the problem that arises and the reason Senator Coffey has tabled amendments Nos. 10, 10 and 14

What is being said regarding this section would not instil confidence in the Bill among those in the greyhound industry. Furthermore, what the Minister proposes in this respect does not augur well for the industry. We have invested heavily in greyhound tracks and in this major industry. I have no doubt that the ban on coursing in England will be lifted and I am led to believe that will happen soon. A former Deputy and Senator, Liam Burke, was one of the last people to win the Waterloo Cup. If that comes to pass and if this legislation is passed in its current format, any bitches that have had six litters will be exported to Northern Ireland and to England. That would be a great loss to this country given the substantial investment by the State and taxpayers in the development of greyhound tracks and new stadiums with state-of-the-art facilities. The Government proposes a system of double inspections, double registrations and double fees, for which there is no need.

Senator Coffey has made the fair point that if the Minister of State indicates he would facilitate what is proposed in these amendments, he could envisage withdrawing them. He has given an undertaking that what is proposed in these amendments is based on veterinary advice and so forth. These are practical amendments and I hope the Minister of State will accept them. What the Minister, Deputy Gormley, proposes in this respect is to the detriment of the industry and will not instil confidence in it. It is regulated already under the 1958 Act. The fees and registrations applicable are regulated under that Act. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, to give an undertaking that the fee, registration and the inspection aspects of the greyhound industry will be reviewed for Report Stage and, if he does so, Senator Coffey may consider withdrawing his amendments. To impose a huge burden of second registrations, second fees and second inspections on the greyhound industry does not instil it with confidence nor does it augur well for it. It shows that we in this Parliament are not displaying any confidence in a State board that has pumped millions of euro into this large industry.

A tremendous relationship exists between greyhound breeders and their veterinary surgeons and this is recognised by everybody in the business. Amendment No. 10 proposes that greyhounds should be exempt from the time limit of six litters subject to veterinary approval, which we consider to be a very acceptable amendment. This is accepted practice. If breeders are acting with the support of their veterinary surgeons, surely that should be sufficient. There is no element of animal welfare concerned in this regard.

With regard to amendment No. 10, as I stated previously on this matter, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, is obviously not aware of the provisions in his own Bill. He is certainly not aware of the situation with the cycle of bitches that are breeding, which we discussed at length last week. The Minister is not aware of the situation.

On the question of microchipping, a duplication, or possibly a triplication, of requirements is being proposed, because there is already provision for microchipping, ear tags and tattoos. Instead of providing for animal welfare, we will be accused of causing cruelty to animals with all the requirements to be complied with under this Bill. What is proposed is ludicrous and it is proposed by a Minister who is unaware of the rural way of life and certainly unaware about the breeding of dogs in this country, be they greyhounds, hunting dogs or any other dog.

I have been told that Fianna Fáil has a bundle of amendments to put forward but that they will be proposed in the other House. If we are debating this Bill in this House, why are those amendments not being brought forward here? We know that many Members of Fianna Fail are opposed to what is proposed in this Bill, but they are shackled by their colleagues in government in regard to the Bill before us and other obligations they have put themselves under in the new programme for Government. That is the reason proposals such as the reasonable ones we have put forward have not been brought forward by Members on the Government side of the House.

Are we going to let a small number of people dictate how policy towards rural life will operate in this country for many years to come? It is disgraceful that this Bill is being pushed through in this manner. The Minister was not even aware that there was a duplication of requirements in terms of this legislation and the 1958 Act when we raised it with him previously. This is the type of legislation we are being asked to pass in this House. The Minister is not aware of what is in the Bill and we are being asked to push it through. It should not be allowed. I hope that Members on the Government side of the House will use their good sense to throw out this Bill or to amend it in a proper manner because they will not be forgiven if they allow it to go through in its current state. The people of rural Ireland will not tolerate this type of dictatorship. That is what is happening in this Bill. I hope the Fianna Fáil Members will put forward their amendments in this House on Report Stage and have the courage of their convictions in that regard.

): The Minister in his earlier contribution to the debate stated that he did not propose to accept the Senators’ amendments to sections 14 and 15. The amendments taken together would have the effect of having two separate regulatory regimes for dog breeding establishments, one for the greyhounds and one for all other dogs. This would create an unfortunate precedent in the legislation by making exemptions for particular breeds of dogs.

A number of Senators are of the view that the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 addresses the welfare of greyhounds to a sufficient extent. That Act is aimed at promoting the industry and does not expressly provide for the welfare of dogs. I do not foresee a potential overlap between the Bill and the reference to breeding in the 1958 Act as it merely states that the Irish Coursing Club has responsibility for breeding and coursing. This Bill promotes the welfare of the dog in the breeding establishments whereas the 1958 Act concerns itself with the regulation of the industry with no mention of greyhound welfare in the Act.

Section 44 of the 1958 Act allows for investigation by authorised officers at the race track, race meetings or where greyhounds are on public sale. However, it is important to note that the authorised officer's powers are limited to these said areas. Section 46(1) sets out power of entry and inspection. Again, the authorised officer's powers are limited to inspection in the vicinity of the race track, authorised coursing grounds, places where greyhounds are on public sale or places where greyhounds are trained for reward. The authorised person does not have the power to enter and inspect the place where the greyhound is bred, kept or, indeed, trained as the provision only applies to an area where the training is for the purposes of reward. It appears that the provision would not apply to the vast number of greyhound owners who train the dogs themselves rather than use the services of a professional trainer.

The duties of operators of dog breeding establishments under section 14 are more comprehensive and reflect the purpose of the proposed legislation. Article 12 of the greyhound trainers regulations, which has been quoted extensively in the debate, deals with the condition of kennels only. Reference is made to the general layout, that the kennels are kept in a clean and good condition and that muzzles and feeding bowls are kept in good condition. There is no provision made in respect of suitable food, drinking water, bedding, etc. in these regulations. While I will give further consideration to varying the 12-month time period between litters in paragraph (f), subject to veterinary advice, it is my intention that section 14(e), the limit of six litters to each bitch, should remain in place as recommended by the working group.

In regard to the issue of identification of dogs under section 15, the greyhound industry has a practice of marking each greyhound with a tattoo. There is a view that this is sufficient and, therefore, greyhounds should be exempt from this provision. It is difficult to support this view as the two forms of identification are completely different. The microchip enhances traceability and enables access to the dog's details at any time in the State or outside it by an authorised officer, a veterinary surgeon, a dog warden or an animal welfare organisation. This can only aid the process of improving the welfare of the dog.

The aim of the Bill is promote, improve and protect the breeding conditions and welfare of the breeding dogs. There are notable distinctions in this Bill from the 1958 Act which are the duties imposed on dog breeding establishments, the extensive powers conferred on the authorised officer to enter and inspect a breeding establishment, the ability to serve an improvement notice and the power of the local authority to serve a closure notice and require the operator to cease breeding or keeping dogs at the establishment. Therefore, the proposed amendments cannot be accepted.

I argued the last day that animal welfare in regard to greyhounds is covered by the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, the Long Title of which states: "to provide for the reconstitution of the Irish Coursing Club and its recognition as the controlling authority for the breeding and coursing of greyhounds". The Minister of State quoted the regulations which state:

(1) The kennels of any person applying for a licence to carry out the duties of a public or private trainer shall be inspected beforehand by a Control Steward or Stipendiary Steward, who shall report on the general lay-out, etc., to the Board.

(2) The kennels of a public or private trainer shall be periodically inspected by a Control Steward or Stipendiary Steward, who shall make a report to the Board. If the Board is satisfied that the kennels are not properly kept, the Board may suspend or revoke the licence of the trainer concerned or take such other disciplinary action as it may deem necessary.

(3) Trainers shall ensure that kennels, muzzles, feeding bowls, etc., are kept in a clean and good condition.

If that is not animal welfare, we must be speaking a different language. Those regulations clearly spell out animal welfare issues. If they are not adequate, as the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government tried to claim in this House last week, and in doing so cast a slur on the organisation of and controlling authority in the greyhound industry, the proper and appropriate place to address that is in the 1958 Act under which the regulations and the inspection controls can be revised. That is the appropriate place to do that rather than introduce another red herring, another Bill, more bureaucracy, more costs and more threats to the viability of an indigenous industry. That is what is going on here. It is about time we were up-front and were given the real reasons this is being introduced.

The last day the Minister claimed he was not introducing this as a Trojan horse to carry out inspection of the greyhound industry. From what I have heard today, I contend that is exactly what he is trying to do. The 1958 Act is the appropriate legislation to address the issue of inspections and standards in the greyhound industry because it clearly outlines that the Irish Coursing Club is the controlling authority for the breeding of greyhounds.

As Senator Burke stated, there will be court cases if there are instances of poor standards and solicitors will argue the case about which is the correct legislation under which to take an action. Legislation should be clear, succinct and without ambiguity. We are introducing ambiguity in this Bill. We are introducing anomalies and duplication and we will cloud over a whole area.

As I said the last day, we are taking from the fundamental basis of this Bill which is to regulate puppy farms. We are detracting from the whole debate on them. My colleagues in Fine Gael and I will continue to voraciously defend the rights of the Irish greyhound industry and its good name and reputation which was slurred in this House by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. We will put this amendment to a vote.

The response of my colleague, Senator Coffey, was comprehensive and strong. The arguments the Minister of State made in defence of the Minister's position and thinking have been undermined comprehensively by Senator Coffey. The 1958 legislation, which has been referred to, can, if deemed insufficient, be amended to deal with any doubts, fears or queries which the Minister of State's office may have in regard to the greyhound industry.

The most significant comment made by Senator Coffey, with which I fully concur, is that a number of sections of the Bill are distracting from what should be at its core and what should unite us all rather than divide us, namely, dealing with the puppy farm issue. The Title of the Bill, the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, should be changed if we cannot make progress on these amendments because it is no longer just the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill. It is quite clearly a thinly veiled attack on the greyhound industry. We have seen this with other sections on hunt clubs, rural pursuits and rural sports.

I appreciate the way Government works and that the Minister of State is simply reading the thoughts of the Minister into the record. I do not believe what the Minster of State read is his own thinking. Clearly, he is not being given any discretion on the matter. It is disappointing that he is not at least in a position to say he will think further about our proposals before Report Stage. Much of the time of the House is taken up with futile divisions, the outcome of which we know in advance. The Minister of State has an opportunity to display a modicum of flexibility and common sense by indicating that he will cause his senior Minister, Deputy Gormley, to reflect on this matter.

At a time when the country has grave economic problems and citizens expect the House to discuss the economy, unemployment and the housing and banking crises, it is disappointing that we are obliged to spend days discussing this legislation as a result of the inflexibility of the Minister. He and a small group of people are attempting to use this legislation to lash out at aspects of rural life, including rural sports, with which they are uncomfortable. If he wants to shut down hunting, let him introduce legislation and debate its merits with us. If he wants to close down the greyhound industry, let him say so and set out his ideas because I am sure they will be roundly rejected by the Oireachtas and members of the public. The Minister is using the legislation as a Trojan horse, a phrase I believe I patented on Second Stage.

The Minister of State should show some initiative and indicate that he will relay to the Minister in advance of Report Stage the views of Senators, including those from the Fianna Fáil Party. It would be ludicrous if, as a result of meanderings in the background, the Bill were fundamentally changed in the Dáil. This debate was initiated in the Seanad which is devoting hours and days to discussing it. The Minister should, therefore, set out his final thinking on the matter in this Chamber.

I ask the Minister of State to be a little more forthcoming, independent and original in responding to the comments made in reply to his initial intervention. The statement he read could have been compressed into two lines, namely, that the Minister does not propose to change his mind and does not respect or accept the bona fides of the Irish Coursing Club or greyhound industry.

Senator Coffey outlined the legislative background to the regulations governing the greyhound industry. That the industry has become so strong and developed into such an international success story providing significant employment must surely indicate it is doing something correctly. The Bill will blow apart its good work. I ask the Minister of State to reflect further on the position he has adopted and provide some hope that progress can be made and decisions reviewed.

The decision to hold a review in 12 months is a kick to touch of Ronan O'Gara proportions. We want something more immediate. Will the Minister of State offer us something better on Report Stage?

The Minister of State indicated that the main reason he could not accept the amendments was that he did not want two different standards of regulation in place. The Bill proposes that the greyhound and hunting sectors be subject to two different inspection, registration and fees regimes. From what I and all those with whom I have spoken can see, the current regime serves its purpose.

We do not have large numbers of complaints about inhumane treatment of greyhounds, certainly not in my part of the world. While an issue arises regarding the humane euthanising of greyhounds at the end of their lives, the Bill does not propose any changes in that regard. Instead, it clouds the issue by providing that an area that is currently governed by one Act will in future be governed by two Acts. The Minister of State's comments in this regard contradicted the current position.

Senator Bradford stated the House should discuss issues other than this at this time of economic crisis. Everything comes back to the economy and the economic issues discussed daily in the House. The greyhound industry is a vital part of the economy in rural areas and urban centres which have greyhound stadiums. It is estimated the industry is worth €560 million annually to the economy.

Having listened to all the contributions made on Second Stage and Committee Stage, I note Green Party Senators have not yet spoken on Committee Stage. I believe a small number of Green Party members promised their support for the renewed programme for Government and introduction of the National Asset Management Agency in return for the enactment of legislation on animal rights in a number of areas. A former Green Party councillor whose name I cannot remember stated on "Five Seven Live" or Matt Cooper's radio programme on the evening before the Green Party conference to discuss the renewed programme for Government that the party would vote for the programme and NAMA on the basis that animal rights legislation would be introduced. This Bill reflects that.

I do not believe the Minister of State believes in his heart and soul the statement he read into the record a few minutes ago. He, like me and many other Senators, comes from a rural area and knows the value of the greyhound industry and the rural way of life. Like Senator Ormonde, I believe he can see the merit of the argument made by Senator Coffey in the amendments and the need to avoid duplicating the current system, as is proposed in the Bill. We seek only that the Minister of State indicate that he is prepared, prior to Report Stage, to consider some of the amendments tabled on Committee Stage.

When he spoke in the House on this group of amendments the Minister did not appear to realise that as a result of his proposals, the provisions of the 1958 Act will be duplicated. That this would be the effect of the legislation did not appear to have entered his head until it was suggested by a number of Opposition Senators. Perhaps some sense of reality will dawn and a thriving rural industry will be kept alive unhindered by this type of Trojan horse legislation, to use Senator Bradford's description of the Bill.

Listening to the Minister of State, I was reminded of a delegate to the county board in Cork, the late Mick "Langton" McCarthy, who, when he did not get his way, used to throw his hands up to heaven and ask: "Where are we going?" I must ask the Minister of State where he and the Government are going with this legislation. It is extraordinary that having had light regulation in the banking sector, we are choosing to impose double regulation on the greyhound industry. What does that tell us?

Perhaps I am misreading the position but the greyhound industry — owners, breeders and trainers — must register stud dogs and mating, provide a declaration of litter and have an identification procedure for pups and the naming of adult greyhounds. As Senators Bradford and Coffey mentioned, the 1958 Act covers the welfare and operating procedures of the greyhound industry. The Minister of State's reply, which I know is not his own, is disconcerting because it questions the control steward. What does that say about the control steward and the industry as a whole? Are we questioning the integrity of those involved in the greyhound industry? The Bill fails to make a distinction between greyhounds and what I would term pet dogs. I recognise the importance of animal welfare and Senator Bradford mentioned the mistreatment of dogs in puppy farms. To put it in simple language, however, the Minister's arguments, not just today but in general, are weak, uninspiring and ill-informed. In addition, they fail to recognise the way in which the 1958 Act governs the management of the greyhound industry in a variety of situations.

Is the Minister of State seriously telling this House that the licensed trainer, owner, breeder and the greyhound industry's governing body are not in compliance with the 1958 Act and are not doing their jobs properly? Is that what he is saying? I appreciate that Fianna Fáil Members are in difficulty over this matter, as is the Government, but the time has come for them to stand up for rural Ireland. I do not represent a rural area, even though my origins are in rural Ireland, but I can see the benefits of the greyhound industry to this country. Senator Burke cited the last Irish dog to win the Waterloo Cup and, in this regard, we should appreciate the employment the industry has created at greyhound tracks throughout the country.

If the former Ministers, Joe Walsh and Deputy John O'Donoghue, were in Cabinet, I wonder if this Bill would be before us now. Members of the Cabinet do not seem to appreciate the important benefits of the industry to this country. This Bill is a bit like the over 70s medical card issue last year, which was not politically proofed. Now that this legislation is in the second half of the 5.25 at Curraheen Park, so to speak, the Minister has discovered it has been caught on the last bend. He will go back to the Dáil and thus upset his Senators who are being forced to suffer the ignominy of voting for this Bill. Meanwhile, their colleagues in the Lower House will vote through a different type of Bill.

I wonder if, in preparing this Bill, the Minister of State read the submission by the Irish Greyhound Board. I do not think he did. He has an obligation to discuss this legislation further with the relevant stakeholders. A working group was established to progress the Bill but, since introducing it, the Minister has listened to nobody. The Opposition has put forward reasoned arguments, as have Fianna Fáil Members, yet we have reached a roadblock. It would be wrong to force Members to vote on the Bill when there is a better, alternative system.

Are we seriously going to put jobs and millions of euro per annum at risk in this industry to appease a few people in the Green Party who do not necessarily understand the operation of the greyhound industry? They see it in a certain guise through a prism which I am afraid to describe. They are seeking an Ireland where everything is as they wish, but that is the wrong place to be. This section of the Bill will have a profound impact, so I hope the Minister of State will have the common sense to withdraw it.

Last week, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, questioned the bona fides and integrity of all involved in the greyhound industry. In my opinion that was an absolute disgrace. Are we going to see the colour of his money by having some amendments from the Government side of the House? Will there be any Government amendments to this Bill? If not, we are wasting our time and should get on with voting on the important amendments before us. If that is the situation, it is regrettable that we will not have any input from the major party in Government. It appears they are being dictated to by their Green Party colleagues in this regard. They are lap-dogs, rather than greyhounds. The Bill is being led by so-called animal rights figures. We have heard that to get support for the NAMA legislation, people were brought on side by offering them legislation such as that which is now before us. The Bill, however, is not worthy to be brought before the House because of the inaccuracies, duplication and cost to those involved.

It is incredible we have not had Government amendments. We have heard the reasoned thoughts of Senator Ormonde about the Bill but I am disappointed we have not had amendments from the senior Government party. I understand the Minister of State is only reading what the senior Minister has given him, so his hands may be tied in that regard. I do not think the Minister of State, no more than myself, believes that animal welfare is at the core of this legislation. Well over six years ago, I was the first Member of this House to raise the question of puppy farms. This legislation should have been confined to that matter, as it was supposed to be, rather than being extended to hunting, the greyhound industry and anything else the Greens might like to include. If the Bill dealt with puppy farms, as it was supposed to, the Bill would have passed through the House in a couple of weeks. However, that is not what it is about. We are dealing with a Green Party agenda here — an anti-rural way of life agenda — and we are going to call its bluff. We are also going to call the bluff of Fianna Fáil on this. Too many Fianna Fáil Members are saying one thing — what they believe — yet they are prepared to run with the type of legislation put before us. That is despicable. It is probably time we called a vote on this.

The working group did include a member of the Irish Greyhound Board.

Did the Minister of State read the group's report?

The Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

The regulations cited apply to the kennels of trainers, not to those of breeding establishments.

Therefore, the Department should introduce more regulations.

The 1958 Act and the subsequent regulations of 1961 apply to the kennels of trainers, not to those of breeding establishments.

Perhaps they could be extended to include breeders under the 1958 Act.

The Minister of State to continue, without interruption, please.

A number of comments have been made to the effect that the Bill is anti-rural. There is no question of it being anti-rural or anti-rural pursuits, rather it is about the welfare of dogs. There is nothing in the legislation that poses any threat to the greyhound industry.

That is utter rubbish. If the Minister of State spoke to people involved with greyhounds or even Fianna Fáil members throughout the country, he would hear it posed a threat to the greyhound industry. We are listening to pure rubbish from him.

I ask Senator Coffey to, please, allow the Minister of State to respond, without interruption.

The greyhound industry ——

The Minister of State is parroting the Green Party. I am surprised by this.

Let us hear the Minister of State, without interruption.

The 1958 Act is in place for the promotion and regulation of the greyhound industry. However, this Bill is about the welfare of dogs. The two pieces of legislation will complement each other. The view being portrayed is that this is in some way an attack on the greyhound industry, but that does not stand up to scrutiny.

Not according to the people involved in the industry. That is totally contrary to what they say.

Please, Senator, allow the Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

The position is that the Bill is about the welfare of dogs. I know what I am talking about because I owned a greyhound. Therefore, I know a lot about the industry. However, I must make it clear that the Bill is not an attack on the greyhound industry, nor is there an overlap with the 1958 Act. This legislation is about the welfare of dogs and the inspection of breeding establishments.

There is provision for dual inspections, dual registration fees and dual identification systems.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 27.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10c:

In page 14, subsection (1), between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:

"(g) Greyhounds should be exempt from the requirement that a bitch is not to be mated inside 12 months from the previous litter.”.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 28.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 15, subsection (4), line 3, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Section 14(4) currently reads that the Minister "may" issue guidelines on the operation of dog breeding establishments and the compliance by operators of dog breeding establishments with this Act. The effect of amendments Nos. 11 and 12 would be that the Minister "shall" issue guidelines on the operation of dog breeding establishments and compliance by operators of dog breeding establishments with this Act upon this Bill being enacted. If guidelines are to be regarded as essential for the motive and purpose of the Bill to be accomplished, it is essential for such guidelines to be in place on the enactment of the Bill so as not to delay any further the good effects of it. People may also be assured of certainty in the implications of the Bill with regard to the regulatory and inspection regime that will apply to dog breeding establishments. I hope the Minister of State will surprise me and give an answer in the affirmative, saying that at the very least the Government will look seriously at bringing forward an amendment to that effect on Report Stage.

I propose to deal with amendments Nos. 11 and 12 together and do not propose to accept either amendment. Section 14(4) allows the Minister to introduce guidelines for the operation of dog breeding establishments. As outlined in my Second Stage contribution, it is my firm intention to put these guidelines on a statutory basis after full consultation with the interested parties following the enactment of this Bill. The consultation process will help to ensure the guidelines have as broad an acceptance as possible. The proposed amendment No. 11 is therefore unnecessary.

Amendment No. 12 seeks to have the guidelines introduced upon the Bill being enacted. Such a provision could be counter-productive as I am anxious to ensure the draft guidelines undergo full consultation prior to being signed into law. It is not unusual for the primary legislation to provide for statutory guidelines and for such guidelines not to be in place on the enactment of legislation. I do not deem it appropriate that the statutory guidelines may not benefit from the broad consultation and the critical analysis required to ensure they will be put in place upon enactment of the Bill.

The Minister of State has reminded me of a story I heard about a man who went to his doctor and informed him that he thought he was Tom Jones, to which the doctor replied "It's not unusual". The Minister of State appears to use the phrase "not unusual" in order to justify the inaction of the Government. It is clear the Bill need not take effect until such time as the guidelines are ready. In such circumstances, it is no more than good administrative and governmental practice — no less than we should expect — that the Bill should come into force when the guidelines are ready. There does not appear, from what the Minister of State indicated, to be any coherent or sensible reason as to why this should not be the case.

In the interests of clarifying the position, I wish to state that the Bill will be enacted but that it will not be commenced until the regulations are in place. They will both, therefore, come into force at the same time.

Is the amendment being pressed?

That is not unusual either.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 12 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 14 stand part of the Bill."

Despite what the Minister of State indicated, this section will have serious implications for the greyhound industry. The Minister of State said it will have little or no impact on the industry and that it is purely an animal welfare measure. I have already outlined to the House that the 1958 Act adequately covers the animal welfare element relating to the control and standards which should apply in respect of greyhounds. If that Act is inadequate, it should be amended and we should not be introducing further provisions by means of the legislation before the House.

I remind the Minister of State and the House that the greyhound industry is worth over €560 million per annum to the economy. Almost 11,000 full and part-time workers are employed in this industry. Some 77% of the dogs raced in the UK are Irish bred. If this section, as it stands, is passed, it will mean that champion brood bitches that have already bred six litters will not be allowed to breed again in this country. As a result, those bitches will be exported to another jurisdiction where they will continue to breed. However, they will no longer be considered Irish brood bitches and greyhound racing in this country will be at a loss.

An aspect of this which has not yet been discussed relates to the amount of money raised for charity — sporting clubs, good causes, hospital facilities — at Irish greyhound tracks. Over €7.5 million was raised for charity at Irish greyhound tracks in 2007. The figure now stands at approximately €7 million per annum. That is an indication of the amount of money generated by the industry. The legislation before the House, in favour of which Senators on the Government benches will vote, will have a major impact on that industry. I remind those Senators and the Minister of State that people throughout the country are paying close attention to this debate. They are listening to what is being said and watching how Members are voting.

I have seen correspondence from Government Deputies and Senators assuring people in the greyhound industry that they will support and address their concerns. There is no evidence of that in the House this evening. Government Senators are voting against extremely reasonable Fine Gael amendments that are designed to protect the greyhound industry. It has been brought to my attention that the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Power, in an address to people from the greyhound industry who were attending an awards ceremony, assured all and sundry that the Bill would not affect the industry. Is it the case that the Minister of State knows that amendments are going to be tabled in the Dáil? Such amendments should be introduced in this House, which has debated the legislation at length. The Bill was initiated in the Seanad and this is the appropriate forum in which to debate amendments to it. It would be a slight on the House if Fianna Fáil has prepared amendments to the legislation but does not propose to introduce them until the Bill is taken in the Dáil.

This section will sound the death knell in respect of the breeding of champion greyhounds in this country. We will be opposing it on that basis.

Let us place this matter in perspective. The greyhound industry is worth €560 million and provides employment to 11,000 people on a full and part-time basis. In addition, the export market relating to the industry is worth €39 million. Next week the annual festival will take place at Cheltenham, the Mecca of the horse racing industry, at which Ireland will showcase the talent of its horses and the sportsmanship and professionalism of its jockeys and trainers as being the best in the world. If the Bill is passed, as Senator Coffey stated, many greyhounds will be exported to other jurisdictions and will no longer be seen as part of the Irish brand.

If the Government, the Minister of State and those opposite are happy with a situation whereby brood bitches from this country will be exported, then they should pass the Bill. However, if we are serious about retaining the 11,000 jobs to which I refer and about supporting the industry, it is my contention that the Bill will do a serious disservice to the people in Cork with whom I am familiar who are involved in the industry. These individuals are professional, are concerned with regard to their support and the industry and they want to ensure that excellent standards apply.

I also heard about the comments made by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Power, in Limerick at the weekend. Will the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, clarify what his colleague meant when he stated the Bill would not affect the industry? Is it being stated that the people in the industry with whom I am familiar, namely, the Lynch family, Noel Holland, the O'Callaghan family of Macroom, the McKenna family and Paul Hennessy, do not observe what the explanatory memorandum refers to as "the duties of operators in relation to the conditions in dog breeding establishments" or that they are not concerned about the industry or their sport? I do not believe that to be the case.

I beg to disagree with the Minister of State in respect of the 1958 Act. I want the officials from the Department to take note of what I am about to say, particularly in view of the fact that they are driving matters in respect of this aspect of the legislation. Those in the industry will be obliged to comply with regulations relating to the registration of stud dogs and mating practices, the declaration of litters, an identification procedure in respect of pups and the naming of adult greyhounds.

I accept the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, has a need to serve his constituency and to cater for some of his friends and supporters. The Green Party has made a virtue of getting rid of political patronage and of refusing to accept corporate donations. This legislation represents that party pandering to people in its niche market, namely, those who cannot distinguish between the different forms of greyhounds, dogs, hounds etc. We are not discussing mongrel breeds. This is about the industry. The duties of the operator are well known to the Irish Greyhound Board and the associations of the owners, trainers and breeders. They are also well known to those who act as control stewards and on behalf of the industry.

Senator Cummins made a very telling point: there is a relationship between the greyhound owner, the trainer and the vet that does not apply in any other part of the dog industry. The explanatory memorandum reads, "Section 14(5) provides for the Minister to invite representations on draft guidelines, consider representations received and publish guidelines in relation to dog breeding establishments". Has the Minister engaged with and met people involved in the greyhound industry? Will the Minister of State tell the House whether he has done so? If he has, what was the outcome? What was the nature of the deliberations? Has he taken on board what was said in any part of them?

Is the Minister of State, as the second man in charge, prepared to approach the Minister on behalf of the Members of this House, some of whom are members of the same party as the Minister of State and spoke admirably in favour of the Fine Gael amendments but went through the lobbies to vote the other way? I hope changes will be made. By his renunciation of the amendments, the Minister of State is casting a slur on people involved in the greyhound industry.

I reject that assertion. That is absolutely untrue.

The Minister of State can reject it all he wants. He is entitled to do so and I have no problem with him.

The Senator is not entitled to make that statement.

Yes, I am. The Minister of State has not listened to any of the arguments made on the amendments tabled. He has failed to take on board anything we have stated. He has stated nothing at all. If Senator Glynn is uncomfortable, he should vote with us and not mutter across the floor.

I have no problem, Senator, none whatsoever.

No interruptions, please.

I understand the Senator is annoyed and I share his frustration.

No interruptions, please.

Senator Buttimer has a narcissistic attraction to the sound of his own voice.

You love to hear yourself talk.

Through the Chair, please. Has Senator Buttimer concluded?

I have not. I could make a very nasty remark but I will not because I am a gentleman. I did not hear the Cathaoirleach take umbrage at what Senator Glynn said about me a minute ago.

I did not hear what he said about the Senator.

Thank God, you did not. Whether we like it, the Bill is an attack on the greyhound industry. There are people involved in it who provide employment, take the Irish name worldwide and make the country proud. If the Bill is allowed to pass as it stands, we will tell a different story, whether the Minister of State and the Members opposite like it.

Section 14(2) reads, "The operator of a dog breeding establishment shall keep such records as may be prescribed at the dog breeding establishment and shall make them available for inspection by an authorised person or the local authority". What is meant by an "authorised person"? Who will this be? Is it a vet, a dog warden or anyone involved, or supposedly so, in animal welfare? Could it be someone involved with the animal liberation crowd? I have spoken about their activities and involvement in this country and the threats they have made to people involved in the industry and breeders. Ordinary decent dog breeders are afraid of them. The Bill will mean having the names and addresses of establishments and everything else on show for them to examine. No wonder those involved in the greyhound and dog industries are concerned about having their names and registration details on public display.

Is the Minister of State aware of what the Minister of State, Deputy Power, meant when he spoke at the function last week? I suggest it is an abuse of the House if the proposals and promises made at that function are not discussed here. We have not even received an indication from the Minister of State that the amendments will be introduced on Report Stage. Was the Minister of State, Deputy Power, merely preaching and saying what people wanted to hear, while we in this House have nothing with which to back it up? That is what is happening. It is an abuse of the House if one Minister of State tells the greyhound industry that changes will be made, while in this House, when there is an opportunity to make those changes, amendments are not tabled and there has been no indication they will be tabled on Report Stage. If that is the case, it is an obvious abuse of and slur on the House.

Will the Minister of State indicate what his feelings are on this matter and state whether the Minister of State, Deputy Power, was correct in his assertion that the Bill, as proposed, would not be passed, as significant amendments would be made? If that is the case, when will the amendments be tabled?

These are questions which should be answered in the House. If we are to be treated with contempt, let the Minister of State say the amendments will not be introduced in this House but may be introduced in the other House. Otherwise untruths have been told to those involved in the greyhound industry. We need to be clear and above board in the House. The Minister of State should tell us, the industry and the breeders of dogs, irrespective of whether they are hunting dogs or pets, exactly what is going on. Otherwise we are being treated with contempt.

Consultation did take place and the working group recommended the level of six litters.

They also recommended that there be no microchip.

Included in that working group——

A deaf ear was turned to that recommendation.

The Minister of Staten to continue, without interruption.

——were representatives of the Veterinary Council of Ireland, the Irish Greyhound Board, the Irish Kennel Club, the Irish Dog Breeders Association, the Department, the Garda Síochána and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It received 27 submissions. I have provided information on the outcome of the deliberations of the working group.

Was there a minority report?

It recommended a figure of six litters. The provisions of the Bill will supplement the 1958 Act——

It has caused confusion.

——and ensure regulation will improve the reputation of the dog breeding industry, including the greyhound breeding sector, from which the industry will benefit in the long run. I reiterate that the Bill is about the welfare of dogs, while the provisions of the 1958 Act concern the promotion and regulation of the dog and greyhound industries.

It states clearly that the ICC is the controlling authority for the breeding of greyhounds.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 17.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Twomey, Liam.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins
Question declared carried.
SECTION 15.

Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are related and alternative to each other and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. I note Senator Cummins has permission to move amendment No. 13.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 15, lines 20 to 21, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:

"(1) The Minister may make Regulations under this Act to ensure the identification of each dog kept at a dog breeding establishment.".

Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 both seek to amend section 15(1), which states "The operator of a dog breeding establishment shall cause a microchip to be implanted in each dog kept at that [premises]." I am grateful to the Senators for highlighting the matter to the House. While I am disposed towards accepting Senator Mullen's amendment, I must give it further consideration in consultation with the Parliamentary Counsel. The amendment would have the effect, as does the present draft subsection, that all dogs would be required to be microchipped while in the establishment. However, it may offer additional clarity. I will revert to this with an amendment, if appropriate, at a later Stage. As I have indicated previously, this Bill is about transparency in the industry, about providing a level of protection to dogs and breeding establishments and about providing assurances to customers regarding dogs' welfare. By ensuring that all dogs in such establishments are microchipped before leaving the establishment, the legislation will greatly encourage the maintenance of proper standards.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 14 not moved.

I move amendment No. 14a:

In page 15, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"(2) Greyhounds registered through the Irish Coursing Club should be exempt from the micro-chipping requirement.".

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 25.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson
Amendment declared lost.
Section 15 agreed to.
SECTION 16.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 15, lines 41 and 42 and in page 16, lines 1 to 5, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:

"(1) The Local Authority may designate such and so many of its officials and/or veterinary practitioners who are employed by the Department of Agriculture as "authorised persons" for the purposes of this Act.".

There is much concern regarding the definition of the "authorised persons" who will be involved in the inspection regime put in place by the Bill. Section 16(1)(a) states that a local authority may appoint veterinary practitioners. We would not have a problem in this regard, as vets have qualifications and backgrounds in this area. It is section 16(1)(b) that has caused the greyhound industry and dog breeders significant concern. There is no clear definition of an authorised person. Rather, the Bill states: “persons connected with animal welfare with whom an arrangement has been entered into under section 15(3) of the Act of 1986”. This definition is too vague and many people are concerned that “persons connected with animal welfare” could mean anyone. What qualifications and backgrounds would these persons have?

Many genuine people are involved in organisations such as the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ISPCA, but I suggest these organisations have been infiltrated by animal liberation extremists. I will not name names but it is a real concern that people who have been involved in sabotage and in threatening people who are involved in country sports are also involved in these organisations.

What evidence does Senator Coffey have for that?

I will give the Senator evidence in a few moments. There is an obvious concern that the provision to employ people connected with animal welfare will allow people without qualification, from any background and whose involvement in illegal practices or threatening behaviour has not been checked, to carry out inspections. It is a matter of public record that people who are involved in animal welfare in Ireland have connections with people who have criminal records with regard to animal liberation in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. I can present evidence of this if I am required to do so.

There is real concern among greyhound breeders about these people, who make no secret of their intentions and have said they would like to see an outright ban on greyhound racing. A number of months ago, the website of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stated that the society's long-term objective is to have greyhound racing banned in Ireland. These are the people to whom the Bill would give authority to inspect people involved in the greyhound industry. If the Bill, as currently drafted, is passed there will be neither objectivity nor fairness in the inspection process.

I do not cast aspersions on everyone connected with animal welfare. Much good work is done in this area. However, a minority is enough to do damage. That is what people are afraid of.

Inspections must be carried out in an objective, fair and professional manner. While Opposition Members have no objection to veterinary practitioners inspecting dog-breeding premises, we are not happy with the very broad and vague definition in the Bill of "persons connected with animal welfare". The Minister must address this matter, which is of grave concern to those in the industry.

The Fine Gael amendment proposes to delete the subsection which includes among those who may be authorised to carry out inspections "persons connected with animal welfare". We propose to clarify that definition by substituting the following, "The Local Authority may designate such and so many of its officials and/or veterinary practitioners who are employed by the Department of Agriculture as "authorised persons" for the purposes of this Act."

The Minister of State comes from a rural constituency. He knows that farm inspections are carried out by people who are under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and who are accountable to their employers, the Department and to the Oireachtas. We would prefer to see the definition of authorised persons fully clarified. They should come from the same categories as those who already inspect farms or are veterinary practitioners. That is a reasonable and practical proposal. People who are known to have problems with the dog-breeding industry and whose views of the industry are known not to be objective cannot be allowed to inspect it. Such people cannot be given the power to close down breeding establishments. That is a real concern and that is why we have tabled this amendment. People whose backgrounds have not been scrutinised cannot be appointed as inspectors.

The greyhound and dog-breeding industries deserve more clarity and definition. We ask the Minister to consider this reasonable amendment. All law should be easily enacted and easily enforced. We do not want to create further divisions in our society and further problems for industries which are indigenous and up-and-running. We want an inspection regime which people can stand over and is authorised by the Department. Anyone who is given authority to inspect must have a proper and clear background. The definition in the Bill does not allow for that. I ask the Minister of State to address this matter.

I strongly support the amendment proposed by Senator Coffey. The people involved in the dog breeding industry have a great love of animals and a commercial interest in the maintenance of the highest standards. They police their establishments very well. When I met them the issue about which they expressed greatest concern was this section of the Bill. That is why I indicated to my colleague that I wanted to speak on this amendment.

Those involved in any inspection process, no matter what aspect of life is being inspected, should be entitled to due process, objectivity and a fair system in which they can have confidence. If people from animal rights groups carry out inspections they may, in a number of cases, endeavour to be fair and get it right. However, people in the industry will not believe they are objective or fair and will feel threatened by them. This will give rise to a sense of alienation.

Senator Coffey described very well the range of people within the animal rights movement. We applaud the many wonderful volunteers in the animal rights movement but this does not make them suitable to become inspectors. The Bill requires a qualified and objective inspectorate which is outside the industry stakeholders. Nursing homes, for example, could not be inspected by members of an interest group in that area. This is a bizarre concept. I do not know how it was ever thought of.

Animal rights activists have a particular position. In some cases they take an adversarial position towards particular breeders. It would be bizarre to set such people up as an inspectorate. This is reminiscent of Stalinist Russia and is not acceptable. A legal case might arise as a result of such a system. We have established due process and natural justice and a system where people have rights, an appeals process and objective standards. That is why we would accept veterinary surgeons as inspectors. They are familiar with legislation, they deal with animals on a regular basis and understand the establishment. We would also accept designated officers within the employ of county councils although in an ideal world all inspections should be carried out by veterinary practitioners employed by the Department.

The idea that one would accept an amateur person without training, however well intentioned, to inspect breeding establishments does not bear thinking about. I hope the good sense of the Minister will prevail. Even if he does not accept the wording of Senator Coffey's amendment I hope he will accept the principle that such an inspection regime would be bizarre and table a Government amendment on Report Stage.

The Minister wants to eliminate puppy farming. No one objects to that. If that had been the sole objective of the Bill it would have been unanimously passed in 20 minutes. That should be what we are about. Surely that is objective No. 1 but objective No. 2, in so far as this relates to the regulation of the commercial dog breeding sector, should be the creation of harmonious regulation, a satisfactorymodus vivendi and a working structure that will go on into the future. Surely it is not to start conflict from day one. Whoever thought this up should be awarded a PhD in idiocy. It does not bear thinking about and given the Minister of State is a solid country man, he will immediately identify that.

Thankfully, Senator Coffey clarified what he meant because he was unfair to animal welfare inspectors.

I referred to the majority of good-minded people.

He differentiated.

Senator O'Malley, without interruption.

It helps sometimes to listen.

The Senator should listen. I referred to the majority of good-minded people.

Senator Coffey should calm down.

Senator O'Malley is the one getting exercised.

If the Senator listened to what I had to say, he would have heard

Senator O'Malley is pointing across the floor. She should relax.

I am absolutely flabbergasted by the Senator's conduct. He will not even let me speak now. He is a bully. He has not allowed me to speak. If he had listened to what I said, he would have heard me say that thankfully, he qualified his point.

What is the Senator getting excited about then?

Senator O'Malley should address her comments through the Chair.

I cannot understand Senator Coffey's behaviour. I have never experienced the like of that, total bullying. He would not let me get a word in.

The Senator should speak to the amendment.

There is a code of conduct for the House and Senator Coffey might check out how he should conduct himself and what is proper behaviour.

I will take no lectures from the Senator.

The Chair will decide on the conduct of Members.

I will try to ignore Senator Coffey. I do not wish to delay the Bill.

The Senator's voice has gone up ten decibels.

Senator O'Malley on the amendment.

It is almost 25 years since the Control of Dogs Act, to which the amendment refers, was passed and there have been no difficulties. The two previous speakers in referring to those involved in animal welfare mentioned Stalinist Russia and said they are unable to carry out their duties. Senator O'Reilly stated he would have no problem dealing with somebody appointed by the local authority but this is provided for in the legislation. He agreed fundamentally with what is in the Bill.

There is no need to vilify animal welfare inspectors. The Senators have done nothing but engender fear among those who are regulating——

I thought the Senator said I clarified the matter.

I am ignoring the Senator so he might as well stay quiet.

The Senator is speaking out of both sides of her mouth.

Senator O'Malley, without interruption.

There is no need to bring fear into animal welfare. This is what we should be worried about, not that anybody has any interest other than the welfare of animals. That is what we should concern ourselves with. The amendment, therefore, is not necessary. We should have faith in those who work for our local authorities and who were appointed on the basis of their suitability.

There is a part of me that wonders how I can follow Senator O'Malley's histrionics, given she overreacted to what Senator Coffey rightly said.

The Senator should address his comments through the Chair and to the amendment.

This section is a gross insult to the greyhound industry and dog breeders, as Senator Coffey said. Senator O'Malley should have taken time to read the explanatory memorandum, which refers to those connected with animal welfare. I agree with her that we should have a serious debate and the Bill should fundamentally be about animal welfare. Everybody accepts the requirement of duty of care in respect of animals but I challenge the hypothesis put forward by the Senator that those who purport to be concerned about animal welfare have only animal welfare as their concern.

I would love to hear Green Party Members on this.

I would like the Senator to comment on their unwritten statement of intent to get rid of the greyhound industry. Senator Coffey tabled a reasonable amendment, which calls for the designation of an official or veterinary practitioner by the local authority to become the authorised person. Given the Government, of which the Minister of State is a member, has imposed a prohibition-embargo on recruitment to the public service, where will these personnel be drawn from? Who will be the designated officer? Will local authorities have to transfer officials from the roads, environment and planning sections to staff the newly created posts? What does that say about the control steward or the veterinarian?

The Government uses the great phrase "will liaise" a great deal. The excellent debate pack presented by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service refers to the issue of enforcement and its cost. If, for example, Cork City Council or Cork County Council say they do not have the money and cannot engage in enforcement and they refuse to carry out this function, what happens then? The cost of enforcement, according to the debate pack, "will vary according to the circumstances of the local authority functional area". Will that be the case? Legislation is meant to be balanced and fair and the same for all.

The Senator should refer to the amendment.

This is related to the amendment.

The Senator is wandering.

I am not the only one wandering or meandering. A few people got stuck and they were bounced at the bend. They have not recovered at all.

The Senator has nowhere to go tonight. He is only acting the cod.

I will not take lectures from Fianna Fáil Members.

Senator Buttimer should speak to the amendment.

Senator Feeney is barking up the wrong tree now.

She is only coming in behind the pack just to see how she can defend certain issues. I will not be lectured by Members opposite who purport to be better than the rest of us.

Senator Buttimer should refer to the amendment.

The Senator's colleague was. She lost the plot a little.

I refer to the level of compliance, the method of enforcement and who will be the authorised person because the definition of an "authorised person" is not clear. I appreciate where Senator O'Malley is coming from. Many people involved in animal welfare have the right intention and are well motivated. I may fundamentally disagree with them and abhor what they attempt to do in some cases. We need to clarify the point at issue. I cite the example of the former manager of the Cork greyhound track, who is now retired. Is he eligible to be an authorised person or is a member of one of the groups concerned with animal welfare who communicates anonymously with us by e-mail or letter eligible to be an authorised person? Have the veterinary officers in each local authority area any role to play in this? Will they be the authorised persons in this respect?

Senator Coffey asked what duty the ISPCA will have. Many interpretations could be taken from the wording of the section. It is considerably vague and it needs to be clarified. I did not catch all of what the Minister of State said on this section but I gather he referred to the fact that the Minister was willing to engage. That is strange given that up to now there has been no willingness on his part to do so.

The Minister of State misinterpreted my question when I asked about the level of consultation. I asked and ask again in the context of this section——

Will the Senator to speak to the amendment?

I am speaking to the amendment. I apologise for using the wrong terminology. Subsequent to the publication of the Bill and to the working group's recommendations in the interim report, did the Minister or officials or agents of his engage with people involved in the greyhound industry? Was there clear engagement subsequent to the publication of the Bill?

If we allow this section, as currently worded, to be passed, we will change the goalposts for every other Bill that will have a detrimental and knock-on effect on other industries.

Senator Reilly referred to nursing homes and this is a valid point. I have no vested interest in the greyhound industry. The point that has been missed on the other side of the House is that in this section we are talking about economics, tourism, sport and approximately 11,000 jobs.

The Senator should speak to the amendment.

I am speaking to it.

The Senator is not speaking to it.

I am. What I am saying relates to the amendment. The potential here——

I may have to read the amendment for the Senator.

The potential for what might happen if this amendment is not accepted is that any Tom, Dick or Harry could become an authorised officer. That point has been lost on the Government Members. They may throw their eyes to heaven, voice their exasperation and think they are better than us but they are not.

The Senator is paranoid now.

If I was paranoid, I would not be alive.

We are, thank God. That is the bottom line.

I ask Senator Buttimer to conclude.

Paranoia, by the way——

Is that the name of a greyhound?

Paranoia, by the way, has allowed the people about whom Senator O'Malley spoke to protest, e-mail and make representations. That also constitutes paranoia.

I ask the Senator to speak to the amendment.

The Minister in his reply, and I will conclude on this point——

Allow Senator Buttimer to continue without interruption.

There are times in the House where people are downright rude and irreverent and they should be chastised and rebuked for it. I have taken enough lip from Senator O'Malley and I will not take any more.

I did not open my mouth.

I heard the Senator's remark.

Senator Buttimer, please, speak to the amendment.

The Senator has the wrong target.

If I am wrong, I apologise.

I ask the Senator to speak to the amendment.

There seems to one rule for one group and another rule for another group.

There is only one rule for everybody here. I ask the Senator to speak to the amendment, he has not spoken yet spoken to it.

I have. The Members opposite should listen. Perhaps I will start again.

I respectfully suggest that the Senator applies for the PhD to which Senator O'Reilly referred.

Allow Senator Buttimer to continue and I ask him to speak to the amendment.

The PhD that Senator O'Reilly spoke about has been very much in evidence in the level of the Bill we have before us and in the participation of the people on the far side.

We are dealing with amendment No. 15.

Gabh mo leithscéal, but I am defending myself and my party. I will not take smart remarks from anybody, especially from people who have put forward a Bill but who have no interest in creating or retaining jobs.

Will the Senator speak to the amendment? That point has nothing to do with the amendment.

Will the Minister of State clearly define who is the authorised person in this context, who is eligible to be that person and give an example of the people he has in mind in this respect? Is the Government serious about the retention of 11,000 jobs in this industry? If it is, it will accept this and the other amendments put forward by Members on this side of the House as a serious attempt to improve the Bill.

When I served on Galway City Council we had a difficult time in this area because we had only one dog warden to deal with the issues related to dogs. We tried to get around this by involving well qualified local veterinary practitioners who had spent many years in college, but, unfortunately, we were not able to do that.

Under this amendment tabled by Fine Gael, it is extraordinary that well qualified country veterinary practitioners could not be employed in regard to this Bill——

(Interruptions).

Senator Ó Brolcháin without interruption.

That is not correct. It is only veterinary partitioners who are working for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Private veterinary practitioners, as laid out by the Bill, are well qualified people with many years experience as veterinarians. They have worked with dogs all their lives and are well respected by the greyhound industry and every other industry. It would not be possible for local authorities to employ those people.

It is also extraordinary that Fine Gael, which currently controls most of the local authorities is considering that it would be unacceptable to have the double safeguard of a local authority appointing a country veterinary practitioner and that country veterinary practitioner being suitable to the local authority. That is not possible under this amendment unless that person is employed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. This amendment is nonsense. That is what is needed. This Bill will allow people who have a great deal of experience in the area of dog control to work in that area. It will allow local authorities to appoint such people. There is a safeguard in the Bill.

The Senator talked about mad animal rights liberation people or whoever who——

The Senator's party would know all about them.

——come over here from England. Does the Senator honestly expect Fine Gael controlled local authorities to employ such people? Would they not do a background search on the people they employ in regard to dog control? Of course they will. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Local authorities will not make fools of themselves. Somebody described the people involved in animal liberation as terrorists and we have heard the phrase, "Stalinist Russia", this is scare-mongering in the extreme.

This is a simple Bill which allows local authorities to make that consideration.

There is no definition of an authorised person in this section.

It is a quasi-judicial function and it should not be done with people with a vested interest.

Senator Ó Brolcháin without interruption.

It allows officials of local authorities to make that designation.

The Minister of State has not addressed the point. There is no definition of an authorised person.

This amendment from Fine Gael has obviously not been thought through.

Vested interests should not be involved.

Senator Ó Brolcháin to continue without interruption.

It states that "the Local Authority may designate such and so many of its officials". Perhaps the Cork local authorities, about which Members spoke, have such well qualified officials but are we talking about taking somebody from water services and putting them into dog control? This is nonsense. Many local authorities do not have suitably qualified officials. If they have such officials, the difficulty is they are already working flat out. That is the reality in every local authority.

Fine Gael is suggesting that local authority officials, who are working flat out, and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food veterinarians, who are also working flat out and not able to cope, should be used for this purpose. The section suggests something very sensible, namely, that anybody who is suitably qualified as a veterinarian or anybody known to the local authority who is suitably qualified and has been involved in animal welfare for years may potentially be designated as a person suitable for inspections. This amendment is farcical and the section should stand as it is.

I listened with interest to the debate and read with interest the Minister's proposals and a lighter thought struck me. Our former colleague — I do not believe we can name people — who left the employment of this House and her political party some weeks ago because she felt her party leader was not providing for her proper employment prospects, would be a possible contender to be deemed an authorised officer under this section.

If we had dealt with section 17 in advance of section 16 and if we had deliberated on the powers of the authorised officer, which are very substantial and far-reaching, we would have tread very carefully when we debated who could take up those positions as authorised persons. As we said on Second Stage, the designated authorised persons will have significant responsibilities, significant discretion and significant decision-making entitlements. That is why it is important we are happy with the people who will hold the title "authorised person".

I agree with a previous speaker in regard to the thinking behind the Fine Gael amendment. Since we began discussing the legislation some weeks ago, the main concern expressed by this side of the House and by speakers on the other side of it is that while there is something very laudable about the backdrop to the legislation and while we all support the necessity to regulate and, if necessary, shut down puppy farms, there is a fear that somehow written into the Bill are sections which could impact negatively on some of our traditional country pursuits and county sports, in particular. We must, therefore, try to be a little bit cautious in how the legislation is written.

There is a possibility of a coach and four being used in regard to the appointment of authorised officers. Not only can the local authorities appoint authorised officers but as we see with section 15(2), they can allow other organisations to appoint them. Authorised officers will not only be appointed by the local authority. The local authority can enter into an agreement with other organisations which can appoint authorised officers.

On the basis that we are talking about a position which has great responsibility and great powers, it is crucial that Members of this House and all those affected by the legislation, in particular those who must work within the rules and regulations laid down, are content and comfortable with those appointed as authorised officers. The Fine Gael amendment prescribes that veterinary practitioners only be allowed to carry out these duties.

It also states officials of the local authorities.

As with any amendments tabled, the wording may not be 100% perfect. If the Minister of State is willing to accept the spirit of our amendment, minor drafting details can be resolved.

Everyone must recognise that the way the section is written could, in theory, provide for any person to be appointed as an authorised officer. A previous speaker asked whether it was likely that local authorities would allow any person to be appointed. The answer is that we do not know but the legislation allows for that possibility. We need to tighten up on that possible cause of dispute.

As this debate has progressed, it is disappointing that we have moved further away from the starting point which was everyone's unanimous view that puppy farming should be tightly and properly regulated and that some of the scare stories we have heard should be no more. However, some of the excessive phraseology in the legislation is leading to a little difficulty in that regard.

I ask the Minister of State to consider carefully our suggestion. In response to early queries, he said there would be a review in 12 months. For this legislation to operate in a way that satisfies all and causes no further doubt as to its impact in its early stages, it is important authorised officers satisfy any doubts by virtue of their qualification and veterinary expertise.

Section 15(2), which allows a local authority to enter into an arrangement to appoint so many members of staff to be authorised persons, needs to be redrafted. I ask the Minister of State to take on board our amendment which, despite all the drama of the past half an hour, is a sensible check which will allay fears.

I accept the majority of Members want to put in place legislation which is worthwhile, workable and has no hidden agenda. Any loose sections which could be abused and misused must be amended. I ask the Minister of State to take on board what is our very reasonable amendment which will make life easier for all of us in trying to support this legislation.

I call Senator Kieran Phelan. I apologise and call Senator John Paul Phelan.

Senator Kieran Phelan is a well-known dog breeder. I thought he was going to contribute.

I have two dogs at home and I am happy enough.

I support Senator Coffey's amendment. As the amendment makes perfect sense, I do not understand Senator Ó Brolcháin's comments. It proposes that local authorities should be able to appoint as authorised inspectors officials such as litter wardens who double up as dog wardens and are known as community wardens or by similar names in certain local authorities. Such persons and veterinary inspectors employed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are a wholly appropriate group of people to be employed in the inspection of dog breeding premises.

It is almost unbelievable that if passed the Bill will allow people with a direct and specific interest in this area to carry out inspections of dog breeding premises. Inspections should be carried out by someone who is independent and removed from the argument surrounding the issue. Community alert and neighbourhood watch committees do not and should not investigate crime. The proposed measure is similar.

It does not involve a crime.

I did not say it involved a crime. I stated that what is proposed would be similar to having community alert or neighbourhood watch groups involved in the investigation of crime. Senator Ó Brolcháin should read section 17 on the powers of authorised persons.

We are discussing amendment No. 15.

I am aware of that. I refer to the powers of the authorised person, which are substantial. Such persons will have the power to enter dog breeding establishments and examine with regard to any matter under the Act the operator of the establishment and anyone employed therein. These are strong powers to grant to people who may be directly involved in the process. For this reason, the amendment should be accepted.

I know many people who are involved in animal rights groups and do not have any objection to them. They are thoroughly decent and sound people. I have, however, listened to people such as this character, Bernie Wright, who represents an animal liberation organisation and whose stated objective is to end dairy farming and trout fishing. Such individuals will be eligible to be appointed as authorised persons if the Bill is passed without amendment.

Senator Phelan should stick to the issue of dogs.

Under this legislation, persons such as this will be eligible to enter a dog breeding premises as an authorised person appointed by the local authority.

The Senator should not refer to persons outside the House by name.

Local authorities controlled by the Fine Gael Party would not employ such persons.

Please allow Senator Phelan to continue without interruption.

Does the Senator not trust the local authorities run by his party?

I do trust them. However, despite the probability that my party will be in control of local authoritiesad infinitum, it is possible that another party will take control of them eventually and someone like Bernie Wright may be appointed an inspector. Senator Ó Brolcháin should read section 16. Subsection (1) states the local authority may appoint any such person, including——

The Senator is straying from the amendment.

This is directly related to the amendment. Under subsection (1) a local authority may appoint as authorised persons veterinary practitioners and any persons connected with animal welfare with whom an arrangement has been entered into under section 15(3) of the Act of 1986. Subsection (2) goes further and reads: "A body with which a local authority has entered into an arrangement under section 15(3) of the Act of 1986 may, after consultation with that local authority, appoint such and so many of its members of staff, as it considers appropriate". Under this provision, if a local authority decides to subcontract the entire process of inspecting dog breeding facilities, the subcontractor may, following consultation with the local authority — whatever that means — appoint whoever it wants to be an inspector. In those circumstances, anyone can be appointed an inspector.

The Fine Gael Party amendment is simple and straightforward and seeks to limit persons who may be involved in the inspection of dog breeding facilities to individuals employed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or local authorities. It would make common sense to accept it.

I do not propose the Senator's proposed amendment which would have the effect of excluding those connected with animal welfare from being appointed as authorised persons. It is important to remember that this provision continues the good practice provided in section 15 of the 1986 Control of Dogs Act whereby a local authority may enter into an arrangement with persons connected with animal welfare. This provision has been helpful to local authorities and has been implemented responsibly. For this reason, the continuation of the provisions of section 16 should not give rise to concern.

I restate the provisions in the 1986 Control of Dogs Act. Under section 15(3) of the Act, "a local authority may enter into arrangements with any other local authority, or with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or, with the consent of the Minister, with a person connected with animal welfare, for the exercise of all or any of its functions". This provision has enabled the proper functioning of the Control of Dogs Act and allowed local authorities to enlist the assistance of expert advice and assistance in their duties. I am not aware of any instances in this jurisdiction where the activities of any person used by local authorities have been successfully challenged or of any cases of abuse or misuse of the position. I am somewhat concerned, therefore, as to the reason there is such opposition to the extension of a practice that has been in place since 1986.

Senators have raised the fears expressed to them that extreme animal rights activists would inveigle themselves into being appointed as authorised officers and this would enable them to invade dog breeding establishments. This scenario is somewhat fanciful. Local authorities are well aware of the responsibilities attendant on the appointment of an authorised officer under the Bill and are likely to be careful in respect of those persons they appoint.

It should be a matter of reassurance to Senators that the provisions in the Bill have been in place in a similar form since 1986. The dog statistics compiled annually in the Department indicate that over the years, approximately half of local authorities have subcontracted significant elements of the dog control functions to animal welfare organisations, generally the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That so many local authorities have built up a long-term relationship should reassure Senators that they will only act responsibly in appointing authorised officers and that such authorised officers will act responsibly in the performance of their duties.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. The amendment is a genuine attempt to provide a clear definition of the term "authorised person". To clarify the matter for Senator Ó Brolcháin, a local authority official can be a veterinary official of that authority, accountable to that authority and fully responsible. A departmental veterinary official is already accountable to the Minister and Department for which he or she works.

The wording of the Bill is too vague. It states that an authorised person can be a person connected with animal welfare under section 15 of the 1986 Act. However, as other Senators noted, following consultation with the local authority, a member of a voluntary charitable organisation may be appointed as an authorised person. I reiterate that the majority of such organisations do great work which I admire but there is a significant risk that they will be infiltrated by any Tom, Dick or Harry given that any person may be appointed an inspector under the terms of the Bill. Such a scenario would pose a major threat to the well-established dog breeding industry.

I do not have a problem with proper scrutiny of puppy breeding establishments and the introduction of appropriate standards. The rogues who have given the industry a bad name should be rooted out. While the Fine Gael Party supports these objectives, the Bill, as drafted, proposes to give enormous powers to people about whose background and qualifications it does not provide clarity. The amendment provides a clear definition of an authorised person in requiring that he or she be a local authority official or a veterinary officer of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The latter already visit farms as part of their daily work. Rather than placing an additional burden on the Exchequer by appointing additional officials, as proposed in the Bill, to enter farms and places where dogs are bred, the amendment would ensure this function is captured under the inspections carried out by departmental veterinary officials. It is a reasonable amendment which attempts to introduce clarity, objectivity and fairness, all of which are important in due process and law. I am addressing real concerns about the industry. I have stated there are people involved in animal welfare organisations who have a dubious track record with regard to animal liberation and pose a threat to individuals legitimately involved in country sports, including hunting and greyhound racing. Those involved in these rural pursuits are not breaking any law; they are only doing what previous generations did. They are concerned that the Bill will affect the viability of these pursuits, in the process threatening their existence. I can appreciate their concerns, which is why we have tabled amendments to protect an indigenous industry that dates back many generations.

Does the Minister of State wish to respond?

A couple of points were raised, to which I have not yet responded, including the matter of consultation. In response to a notice placed in the national press, the working group received 27 submissions from a variety of animal welfare and veterinary bodies, local authorities and private individuals. A total of 652 submissions were received by my Department following the release of the report of the working group, most of which were in favour of regulation to some degree.

On the point concerning costs and whether local authorities will be in a position to meet the financial demands, Senators will be aware that the legislation provides for a charge on dog breeding establishments, which runs from €400 for an establishment with more than 12 bitches and up to €3,000 for those with 200 bitches. There will be an income stream to local authorities which have such breeding establishments in their catchment areas.

The Minister of State has mentioned an income stream for local authorities. On Second Stage, former Senator Déirdre de Búrca said that, even with the proposed charges, local authorities would have a shortfall in excess of €1.6 million. I do not know how these two items can be married because, while the Minister of State is saying there will be an income stream, there will still be a shortfall. There are double standards; the right hand does not seem to know what the left hand is doing. The former Green Party Senator told us that there would be a deficit of €1.6 million, but the Minister of State says there will be an income stream, as if extra moneys will come in to the local authorities and there will not be a shortfall. We are at sixes and sevens.

In the context of the Minister of State's reply to my question about the cost of enforcement, I wish to quote an example. In the response to a parliamentary question Deputy Varadkar was told that the revenue accruing from the sale of dog licences in 2007 was €2.9 million, while the cost of delivering the local authority dog control service was €5.4 million. Therefore, as Senator Cummins said, there will be a shortfall. What will happen when that occurs? A local authority will arrive at a point where it will not be able——

That point concerns the section more than the amendment. I will let the Senator contribute on the section later.

I was replying to the Minister of State. However, I respect the Chair's ruling and will wait until we reach the section, if he so wishes.

I have one observation to make on the amendment. Given that there is a punitive dimension to the Bill with significant fines for non-adherence to its provisions, surely inspectors will have a quasi-judicial function. Since they will have to be objectively independent, a court case is possible in this regard. It does not add up. I hope the Minister of State will respond to this point.

On the funding of authorised inspectors and the cost implications of the Bill——

The Senator is moving away from the amendment.

The amendment concerns how authorised persons will be resourced, either by the local authority or the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Fine Gael amendment clearly refers to staff already employed in either of these agencies. Departmental inspectors are already visiting farms; therefore, it is a matter of restructuring the system to allow for inspections of puppy farms. I am suspicious and concerned that the greyhound industry and other sectors are being used to fund this inspection regime, when, in fact, they are already being inspected and pay licence and registration fees. I am concerned that the reason the greyhound industry is included in this legislation is it is seen as a mechanism to fund the inspection regime under the Bill. I certainly hope that is not the case, but perhaps the Minister of State can clarify the matter.

The annual charge applies to a dog breeding establishment. That is what it involves.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 14.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Question proposed: "That section 16 stand part of the Bill."

Senator Ó Brolcháin mentioned the appointment of staff as authorised persons by local authority members. I do not think members of local authorities have appointed any staff to local authorities since the time of rate collectors, or at least since the time of sheep dipping committees when sheep dipping inspectors were appointed.

Section 16(2) mentions "[a] body with which a local authority has entered into an arrangement under section 15(3) of the Act of 1986". How does the Minister see this working? Will the people appointed be full-time members of local authorities, or will they be appointed on an agency basis? The Minister said when he was here that this would be self-financing in view of the extra fees that would be charged, including two fees charged to the Irish Greyhound Board along with two inspections. Does the Minister see these authorised persons being appointed on a part-time basis, or will they be full-time employees? Who will they be reporting to? Will they report to the chief veterinary officer of the local authority? This is an important point.

The Minister mentioned some agencies from which people could be appointed, such as the ISPCA. Could the Irish Greyhound Board or the coursing clubs, for example, propose people for appointment as inspectors? Senators Coffey, O'Reilly and others mentioned an important point with regard to the independence of the inspectors. All local authorities currently use their own staff, such as veterinary officers, to inspect abattoirs and so on. These people are truly independent and they should be the ones who conduct inspections. I cannot go along with the appointment of inspectors from vested interests by the local authority, whether on a full-time or part-time basis. The regulations accompanying this section should state that the full-time staff of the local authority from the veterinary section will be the authorised persons to carry out such inspections on farms.

This is important in view of what could happen further down the road. The greyhound industry in particular represents off-farm income for many farmers. There is an issue with regard to the spread of animal diseases among pigs, poultry and other farm enterprises. Diseases such as brucellosis could be carried from farm to farm. It is important the chief veterinary officer of the local authority is really in charge and that the people employed as inspectors are full-time employees of the local authority. No representatives of vested interests, whether from the ISPCA or the greyhound or coursing industries, should be carrying out inspections. The veterinary officers in my local authority area, whose work I have observed over a long period, have always been truly independent. That is the way it should be.

The point made by Senator Burke about the spread of diseases is of importance. Proper practice should be observed in this regard.

I will not labour the point, but I would like a response from the Minister about the possibility of a challenge to the legislation. I genuinely fear a challenge on the basis that people with a vested interest cannot act as objective inspectors. I fear that the appointment of a person from an animal rights group could be open to challenge, given that there are significant fines involved.

I endorse the comments of the previous two speakers. I would prefer the inspectors to be staff of the local authority, who know the area. They are professionals. We have all worked with local authorities and we know their veterinary departments. These are the professionals who should be vetting anything to do with animal welfare. No outsiders should be brought in. It should be left to the local authority; they have control and they know the area.

I ask those who have spoken on this Stage and earlier Stages of the debate to replace the word "dogs" with "children" and then make the same arguments. They would then be arguing that organisations such as the Irish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children or Barnardo's should not be concerned about children's welfare in sports, for example, unless organisations such as the Athletic Association of Ireland and Swim Ireland are also involved, because they are sporting bodies that also deal with children. It is nonsense.

They are not inspecting the businesses.

They are not in opposition to the businesses they are inspecting.

Senator Boyle without interruption.

The tired, trite arguments we are hearing this evening are utter nonsense.

They have some opposition to the businesses they are inspecting.

Sporting organisations are sporting organisations.

It is a different matter altogether.

Welfare organisations are welfare organisations.

We are discussing section 16 of the Bill.

This section and the previous section——

Is the Senator saying local authorities are not independent?

——merely confirm what is already in legislation under the Control of Dogs Act 1986. The Dublin Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals is already designated by Dublin local authorities. The ISPCA is designated by several local authorities. The Cork Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals is already designated by Cork City Council. This is standard practice.

All the Opposition Members are doing is scaremongering. They are trying to pretend that what has already worked in the past cannot work in the future. They should cop on to themselves.

(Interruptions).

The Senator should cop on to himself.

It is not proper practice.

Is the Senator outlining what proper practice is?

No; it should be an objective process which does not include interest groups.

Proper practice already exists under the 1986 Act.

No interruptions.

On a point of information——

The Senator has already spoken. He has contributed on section 16.

On a point of information, surely any inspector should not be a representative of a vested interest——

Standard practice exists.

——and should be objective.

Standard practice exists under the 1986 Act. It has existed for 24 years. Local authorities have delegated the function to people from animal welfare organisations — not animal rights organisations, not people with forms in their hands.

We are talking about registration and everything.

They are people who have the welfare of animals at heart——

No interruptions.

——people whom the local authority believe have the capacity, the experience and the ability to do this work.

The ISPCA wants to close down the greyhound industry.

No, Senator.

It wants to close down the industry.

Comments should not be made across the floor but through the Chair.

They want to close down the industry.

If any of the Senators have a difficulty with how this is already being practised at local authority level, maybe they should have their party members table motions to that effect in the councils controlled by their party.

(Interruptions).

The councils give such organisations these very responsibilities. Stop the hypocrisy and time wasting——

The Green Party certainly is not on any of the councils.

——and get on with the legislation.

The Green Party is not in the councils and it will not be.

It is a pity the Senator is not more concerned about the people of Cork.

The Minister to reply.

The sting of a dying wasp.

(Interruptions).

The Government is not minding the welfare.

The Minister of State should be given an opportunity to reply.

The first person mentioned in section 16 is a veterinary practitioner and there is a follow-on from that. That has been the experience to date in local authorities.

To respond to the question that there may be a challenge, I said earlier that I am not aware of any instance in this jurisdiction where the activities of any person used by local authorities has been successfully challenged or where there has been any case of abuse or misuse of the position. That is after almost a quarter of a century during which the legislation has been place. It has been effectively implemented by the local authority system.

Senator Burke raised the matter of staff. Different local authorities would have different levels of activity in dog breeding in their jurisdictions and catchment areas. Some have very limited dog breeding establishments and some may have a large number. It will be a matter for local authorities to establish the level of activity in the area and the appropriate response. It may be a part-time position in some areas and it may involve an existing officer dealing with dog welfare. A vet or an authorised officer may also be appointed on a part-time or full-time basis. It will be a matter for the local authority to establish the need to respond to the level of activity in the catchment.

We have given this much discussion.

I appreciate that. We are told the costs will be neutral to the Exchequer but will the Minister of State clarify that to the House? I quoted an example earlier relating to dog licences, where €2.9 million was raised in 2007 with a cost of operation at €5.4 million. Will the Minister of State outline to the House the cost of this and who will incur that cost?

I will revert to my earlier fundamental point despite protests from the Members opposite. What happens where a local authority may not be able to provide the service as outlined? I am concerned on a number of levels about the cost. I do not mean to pre-empt the Minister of State's reply but he has the potential to ask the greyhound owners, trainers and breeders to foot the bill for this. Is that the intention? What will the cost be and will there be an annual licence fee increase? What difficulties does the Minister of State see in the administration of the scheme and could there be a case where there will be a loss of revenue to the local authority?

I would like to see the cost structure being properly outlined and explained. There must be proportionality in the process. I appreciate that the fees cannot all be outlined in the Bill but will they be reasonable relative to the costs for the industry? The Minister of State should respond to the issue as there are significant implications for the industry.

Lest the Members opposite forget after Senator Boyle's monologue——

The Senator should not comment on Members across the floor.

I was not commenting on him at all. I said it was a monologue.

It was a soliloquy.

It was more than that.

It was an outburst.

It is a pity he was not more concerned about people losing their jobs.

It was slightly longer than a tweet.

We are dealing with section 16 of the Bill.

I am on section 16 and I will not digress. The Members opposite might cop on to themselves. I would like to put the question to the Members opposite——

The Senator cannot do so.

Are you concerned about 11,000 jobs being lost?

They will not be lost.

The Senator cannot address Members directly.

Are you happy to see those jobs lost?

Senator Buttimer should not address the Members directly. He should speak to section 16 and the Minister of State will reply.

I understand that and thank the Cathaoirleach. Is there any concern in the Government that we will lose 11,000 jobs?

That is a Fine Gael myth.

There should be no interruption.

There are enough myths around the place without Senator Feeney adding to them.

They are myths. The Senator is scaremongering.

We are speaking to the section of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill and we should stick with it.

I appreciate that. Perhaps the Minister of State in his reply will address the fundamental issues that have been asked and I hope we will not get a typical response from the Department that fails to outline the reality. There is potential to endanger jobs and lose employment. The balance of trade, with €35 million in exports, could be affected along with the benefits that the industry brings to the nation.

I thank the Minister of State for clarification on the section. He stated that it is up to each local authority, when they have gauged the number of people who have registered, to decide on the appointments with the veterinary surgeon. It can go down the other route of employing a body like the ISPCA and entering into a contract. That body may be better organised on the ground and the local authority could contract it to work on its behalf. That is my reading of what is in the Bill and what the Minister of State has said. There are two routes the local authority can travel; it can do it on its own or employ a body like the ISPCA.

Once it goes down the route of employing a body and entering into a contract, will the body report annually to the local authority? Will the body charge a fee to the local authority? How does the cost work out where the local authority farms out the work to a body like the ISPCA?

Will the local authority retain control even if it delegates responsibility? Will the body used report to the vet of the local authority or to the senior personnel? That is a very important issue.

There were a couple of points. There is an opportunity for the local authority to second or contract the services of a body. That is the position in many local authorities currently under the Control of Dogs Act and some of these were outlined by Senator Boyle. That is an existing practice.

With regard to involvement of the local authority, it is worth mentioning that there has been no challenge in this jurisdiction under the legislation I mentioned, which has been in use for almost a quarter of a century. There has been no case of abuse or misuse of a position. There is a good track record from people who have been employed by the local authority under the Control of Dogs Act. This legislation concerns the welfare of dogs, although many other issues have been brought into the debate.

I outlined the fees earlier and they are contained in legislation. It would require a change in legislation to alter the fees. Where 12 bitches are kept, the fees are up to €400. For more than 200 bitches, the figure is €3,000.

We expect that the new system in respect of dog breeding establishments will be cost neutral to the Exchequer. The provisions relating to increasing dog licence fees will only reduce the losses local authorities incur at present in the context of providing dog control services. The new charges for licence fees will raise an estimated €4.3 million. This compares with a figure of €2.8 million in 2008. The cost of the service in that year was €5.7 million. Local authorities are currently meeting their responsibilities under the legislation relating to the control of dogs from within existing resources.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 17.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 16, subsection (1), between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

"(a) remove without warrant any animal from premises which he or she has reasonable grounds for believing are being used for the operation of a dog breeding establishment, if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that such removal is necessary for the protection of the welfare of such animal,”.

I do not propose to accept this amendment. Section 19 provides for a closure notice to be served on an establishment if there is a serious or immediate threat to public health or animal welfare. Section 19(2)(b) enables a local authority to require an operator to rehouse all dogs. In addition, it provides that such removal be at the operator’s expense. Non-compliance shall be an offence. The proposed amendment makes no reference to who will pay for the removal and, therefore, it would likely fall to the local authority to absorb the costs. I am also wary of pre-empting the provisions of the animal welfare Bill which is being prepared by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 17, subsection (2), line 29, to delete "as he or she considers appropriate." and substitute the following:

"or such other persons as may be necessary for the purpose of assisting the authorised person in the exercise of his or her functions under this section and the authorised person, member or any such other person may take with them into the premises such equipment as they consider to be necessary.".

This amendment would alter section 17(2) in order that it would read:

When performing a function under this Act, an authorised person may, subject to any warrant under subsection (4), be accompanied by such . . . members of the Garda Síochána or such other persons as may be necessary for the purpose of assisting the authorised person in the exercise of his or her functions under this section and the authorised person, member or any such other person may take with them into the premises such equipment as they consider to be necessary.

There are two aspects to the amendment. The first is the idea that once an authorised person is entering a premises, he or she might be accompanied by certain other individuals who might be necessary for assisting him or her in the job he or she is obliged to do. The second aspect is that the authorised person and those accompanying him or her should be allowed to bring onto such premises any equipment that is deemed to be necessary.

I listened with great interest to colleagues' impassioned contributions on the subject of authorised persons and bodies with which local authorities might enter into arrangements which might, in turn, nominate authorised persons. It is clear that there is a long-established practice of involving third parties or agencies with a track record in the field of animal welfare. What is important is that we should not involve those with a negative agenda of a generalised and prejudicial kind in respect of the establishments or owners thereof which they are supposed to be inspecting or visiting. Once a local authority has responsibility for nominating authorised persons of a particular status and as long as there must be an authorised person on the premises, the necessary protections are in place. If an issue were ever to arise in that regard, the Minister and the Houses would have the capacity to deal with any mischief that might arise.

Once an authorised person is going onto a premises, he or she must be in a position to do his or her job. To fulfil his or her duties, an authorised person might be obliged to bring cutting equipment, for example, onto a premises. If the legislation is to have any meaning or efficacy, then provision should be made in respect of the possible scenario to which I refer. An authorised person might also be obliged to bring with him or her individuals who would be technically deemed not to be authorised. In that context, would veterinarians not employed by the Department or a local authority, those employed by the emergency services or whomever be considered, in technical terms, as being unauthorised?

This is a reasonable amendment, particularly in light of the fact that anything which occurs on a premises would take place under the watch and in the presence of an authorised person. On that basis, I hope the Minister of State will accept it.

The proposed amendment is unnecessary as section 17(2) does not limit the number of other authorised persons that can accompany an authorised officer in performing his or her functions. Furthermore, the legal advice is that it is not necessary that it be stipulated in the section that such persons may take equipment with them. I do not, therefore, propose to accept the amendment.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

Will the Senators claiming a division please rise?

Senators Rónán Mullen and Joe O'Toole rose.

As fewer than five Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 70, the names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of Proceedings of the Seanad.

Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 17 agreed to.
SECTION 18.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 19, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:

"(7) A person who fails to comply with an improvement notice or a direction of the District Court under this section shall be guilty of an offence.".

I am hopeful of a much better turnout in support of this amendment. It seems, as a matter of public policy, that a responsible political party, particularly one which has the luxury of supporting such amendments from the Opposition, must support an amendment that would simply have the effect of promoting respect for a decision of the District Court and an order for improvement.

Section 18 establishes the procedure for improvement notices but fails to establish any offence for failing to comply with such a notice. The implied threat may be that failure to comply will result in a closure notice but that may be seen as draconian in the specific circumstances. Therefore, such a closure notice might be revoked on appeal. Therefore, it seems that, for this legislation to have proper effect and be properly applicable, it would be more effective if there was an equivalent of what we find in section 19(2)(e) which states a closure notice may contain the statement, “If the operator of the dog breeding establishment concerned contravenes the closure notice, he or she shall be guilty of an offence”. Section 19(7) provides that a “person who contravenes a closure notice or a direction of the District Court under this section shall be guilty of an offence”.

Sauce for the greyhound is surely sauce for the pup. I would have thought that, if it was appropriate to include such a provision in section 19, it was also appropriate to include it in section 18. Why is it that a person who fails to comply with an improvement notice or a direction of the District Court will not be guilty of an offence but that a person who fails to comply with a closure notice or a direction of the District Court in that regard will be? In view of the need for consistency, apart from anything else, the amendment cannot be rejected. Surely those who have difficulties with aspects of the Bill and what it requires by way of a regulatory inspection regime cannot have a difficulty with the rule of law, a decision of the District Court or a requirement that people comply with whatever orders are made. I propose the amendment on that basis and I will ask for a vote on it.

I am trying to generate support for Senator Mullen. His request seems reasonable and would ensure consistency throughout the Bill. I am interested to hear the response of the Minister because I do not see how he can argue against what Senator Mullen is seeking, namely, compliance with the law. I leave it to the Minister.

I am afraid the tail will not wag the dog on this side of the House. We cannot support the amendment.

It is up to Senator O'Malley.

A match made in heaven.

The effect of the proposed amendment, while well intentioned, might be too draconian. The Bill has been carefully drafted to provide for an escalation of measures. It is not envisaged at this point that non-compliance with an improvement notice would constitute an offence. Rather, it would be a matter for the local authority to move towards enforcement of the notice by making an application to the District Court to have the establishment removed from the register under section 18(d). It is thought that the threat of removal from the register would have the desired effect on the operator.

It is my intention that local authorities would build a relationship with dog breeding establishments operating in their functional areas to ensure implementation of appropriate welfare standards. We must allow breeding establishments the space to implement the measures outlined in the improvement notice. Section 18(2)(c) provides for a stated period in which the improvement notice must be implemented. The notice can be appealed to the District Court within seven days of serving the notice. If the notice is ignored, the local authority can progress to a closure notice under section 19. A person who contravenes a closure notice will be guilty of an offence. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I am disappointed with the Minister's response and although I like some of the people involved I am likewise disappointed with the response of the main Opposition party. It seems to be bad public policy to deliberately turn down an amendment that would have the effect of providing that a failure to comply with an order of the District Court would be an offence. As the Minister said on section 18 and the improvement notice, it is not just a matter of what an authorised officer may decide, it is a matter that may end up before the District Court in the event of the improvement notice being appealed to the District Court and the District Court might make an order in favour of what the authorised officer decided.

I have great difficulty with the decision to not provide that it would be an offence to fail to comply with the order. What seems to be happening reminds me of the famous phrase from scripture that the meek shall inherit the earth, but the Government's approach in this case is "the meek shall inherit the earth if that is alright with you fellows". The Government does not seem to have the courage of its convictions on the Bill if it does not require that in the event of non-compliance with an improvement notice a person would be guilty of an offence and that a District Court order should be required. On that basis I regret that the Minister will not accept the amendment.

An improvement notice is issued by a local authority. A balance has been struck. A dog breeding establishment can appeal the decision to the District Court. Then there is the threat of removal from the register. It is intended that each local authority would build up a relationship with dog breeding associations. In most cases they are responsible bodies. The ultimate sanction of the court order is available. The amendment is too draconian and what is in the Bill is more balanced.

Does the Minister believe that a person who fails to comply with an order of the District Court should not face any sanction by way of being guilty of an offence? Does he consider it acceptable that a person would fail to comply with an order of the District Court?

It is not an order of the District Court, it is an order of the local authority.

It may become an order of the District Court if the matter is appealed to the District Court. Does the Minister not think that if the District Court upholds the improvement notice the person should face sanction from the law if he or she fails to comply?

The improvement notice is a notice from the local authority, it is not a notice from the District Court. At that stage no decision of the District Court has been taken.

An issue has arisen that the Minister——

Senator Mullen, is amendment No. 18 being pressed?

I seek further clarification on this point. It is clear from the legislation that two scenarios could arise; I propose that failure to comply with an improvement notice would be an offence. The legislation provides that the person may appeal the improvement notice to the District Court. The implication is that the District Court, as is clearly laid out in the legislation, may affirm or revoke the notice. The legislation as drafted does not provide in this section that where the District Court makes a decision on the improvement notice that has been the subject of an appeal that it would be an offence at that point to fail to comply with an order.

I will happily withdraw the amendment if the Minister gives me a commitment that he will either bring forward or accept an adjusted amendment, which would at least require that it would be an offence if a person fails to comply with an order of the District Court on an improvement notice. I accept there is a distinction between a failure to comply with an improvement notice order from a local authority or from an authorised officer. If you will pardon me mixing my animal metaphors, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, it is a horse of a different colour to suggest that it would not be an offence for a person to fail to comply with an order of the District Court.

I appreciate the point being made by the Senator but I do not wish to see failure to comply with an improvement notice turned into an offence. It is not an offence. The information I have outlined has been provided by the Parliamentary Counsel but I will ask them to have a second look at it.

Is amendment No. 18 being pressed?

Not on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 18 agreed to.
Sections 19 to 24, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

When is it proposed to take the next Stage?

On Tuesday, 30 March 2010.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ar 10.30 a.m. maidin amárach.