Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 113, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and has been placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration," the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, the Cathaoirleach has arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the list of amendments it is proposed to group. A Senator may contribute once on each group of amendments. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I call the Minister to speak to the first group of amendments.

I wish to thank all Senators for their varied, interesting and positive contributions to the debate on this legislation. I am confident the Bill, as amended, will safeguard the welfare of dogs and dog-breeding establishments, will ensure a thriving greyhound industry over time and will create employment by enhancing the standards and reputation of dog breeding in Ireland.

Every Member is aware that I have proactively engaged with the stakeholders and Members to address any concerns the proposed legislation might contain for various interest groups. Over 650 submissions were received after the publication of the report of the working group, established in 2005 by the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Dick Roche, a point overlooked by many in the course of the debate. Its terms of reference were to examine the current position regarding the management of kennels and to make recommendations for such improvements. Greyhounds were, therefore, always considered to come within the remit of these terms.

To underline this fact, the Irish Greyhound Board was represented on the working group and has been consulted extensively since then. Senior officials have met the Irish Greyhound Board and the Irish Coursing Club on several occasions recently. They have also met with the Dogs Trust and the Irish Kennel Club. The Irish Coursing Club, in particular, has played a constructive role in the development of greyhound welfare and has engaged positively and openly during the course of the debate.

As a result of these engagements and as promised when I was last in the Seanad, I introduced amendments on Committee Stage in the Dáil which addressed concerns relating to inspection, finance, the powers of authorised persons, breeding limitation, microchipping and the effects of implementation. I am satisfied these amendments will successfully allay the concerns of the stakeholders involved.

The definition of a "dog-breeding establishment" is specified by the working group appointed by the then Minister, Deputy Dick Roche, as being based on the number of female dogs on the premises with breeding potential. The working group included veterinary representation from Veterinary Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Louth County Council and the ISPCA. I believe the definition developed by the group is clear and unambiguous and, as such, will aid enforcement.

The group noted the difficulty experienced in the UK with definitions based on breed which have become unenforceable. I acknowledge the estrous cycle ranges from six months to 18 months, depending on the breed of dog. The working group definition had to ensure all bitches capable of breeding were included. Accordingly, it set four months old and capable of breeding as a definition of a bitch. I modified this by amendment to six months old and capable of breeding. However, this is not a marker for when to start breeding.

The Bill allows three litters in any three years, thereby providing a dog breeder with the flexibility to assess the bitch's potential prior to commencing breeding. Concern has been expressed regarding the impact the Bill might have on the casual breeder with a few pups. Establishments with less than six bitches of six months old and capable of breeding will not be affected by the Bill. In the event a bitch produces a litter of female pups, the breeder has six months to consider what to do with the pups before they become reckonable for the purposes of the Bill. Sterilised or spayed bitches are not capable of breeding and, as such, are not reckonable for the purposes of defining a dog-breeding establishment.

I have extended the fee ban so that an establishment with up to 18 bitches over six months old and capable of breeding will only pay €400 in registration. This is not a high fee when one considers the level of production that can be achieved from 18 bitches and the market value of a good pup.

Inspection by a local authority veterinary officer will be a prerequisite for the issuing of an improvement notice. A dog warden will not be authorised to issue an improvement notice. This will reassure those who question the objectives of dog wardens. Dog wardens, in turn, will be reassured by the provision that they should be accompanied by a member of An Garda Síochána as necessary.

I am convinced the full set of amendments has strengthened acceptance of the Bill and addresses the concerns of stakeholders, including the Irish Coursing Club, the Hunting Association of Ireland and the Dogs Trust, while ensuring the local authority veterinary and dog control staff have workable legislation to safeguard the welfare of dogs.

I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government back to the House. Many of these amendments from the Dáil were debated at length in this House. If the Minister and some Members from the Government side had taken on or resubmitted some of the Seanad Opposition amendments, they would have saved themselves and the Government a great deal of the trouble and grief over the past several weeks. While the Minister might have escaped accepting amendments in the Seanad he was eventually hunted down and forced by a pack of Fianna Fáil backbenchers to table amendments to the Bill as initiated in the Seanad.

I presume I will have an opportunity later to speak to some of the amendments.

Yes the Senator may speak to the groups of amendments.

While the Minister may have eased some of the concerns of the Irish Greyhound Board and Hunting Association of Ireland, Fine Gael continues to have reservations about this legislation. We are being asked to put a lot of trust in what the Minister is saying, which I find hard to do. I made a genuine effort to amend this Bill during its initial Stages in the Seanad. However, my suggestions fell on deaf ears until the Minister's hand was forced.

I will outline Fine Gael's reservations in respect of this legislation as the Minister makes his report to the Seanad of the Dáil amendments to the Bill. Fine Gael supports animal welfare legislation to ensure the proper administration, inspection and regulation of puppy farms. As stated during the early stages of debate on this Bill, we have no difficulty whatsoever in this regard. Many Fine Gael Deputies and Senators were the first to raise these issues in both Houses a number of years ago. The issue was raised in the Seanad by Senator Cummins and in the Dáil by Deputy Doyle. We welcome measures to improve animal welfare in terms of puppy farms. However, we believe the legislation as initiated in the Seanad goes far beyond that and into areas it need not have gone at all. While the amendments made to the Bill have addressed some of the issues raised we continue to have reservations about it.

I welcome the Minister. I am sure we will deal expeditiously with these matters. I compliment the Minister on the constructive manner in which he dealt with the entire process, which cannot have been easy. It was in fact remarkable that an appointed head of a semi-State body, Bord na gCon, was on occasion so vociferous against the Minister. That was most regrettable and unusual and in my opinion raises certain questions. The Minister was correct to listen to advice from within the industry. If would be foolish of anybody to criticise him for taking advice on board given Ministers are regularly criticised for being unresponsive and for not taking advice on board. The Bill has in the Minister's opinion been improved following discussion with the relevant people. I was amused to hear people object to their establishments being subject to an inspection on the basis that their premises are so wonderful and beyond reproach. If they are, they should be delighted to receive an official certificate confirming this. What could they possibly have against that?

I will put the matter of the helpfulness of the coursing clubs in the fridge. As I have said previously, I share the views of St. Thomas More, a quotation from whom I once provided to my colleague the late Deputy Tony Gregory which states: "thou shoudst rather be moved with pity to see a silly innocent hare murdered of a dog: the weak of the stronger, the fearful of the fierce, the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful...the citizens of Utopia think not that the merciful clemency of God has delight in blood and slaughter." The evidence of the Old Testament suggests that St. Thomas More may have, at least in Volume 1 of his collected works, slightly over-estimated the moral sensitivities of God. I believe the Minister has done a good job.

I realise that many honourable people have paid the price in terms of the passage of this legislation and the legislation on stag hunting. I regret that Senator O'Donovan lost the whip for the position he took. He was outflanked by events. Had these or similar amendments been around he might not have lost the whip. Senator O'Donovan is a decent person whom I hope is quickly re-admitted. I hope we will deal quickly with the report of the amendments. I support the Government on this occasion.

I welcome the Minister. I welcome also the amendments to the Bill as made by the Dáil. Heretofore there was a lack of regulation in this area. A lack of regulation in any sector limits the sector's ability to mature and develop new markets. As stated by Senator Norris, the next step, with certificate in hand, is the creation of an identity for dog breeding in Ireland which is equivalent to the identity we enjoy in respect of horse breeding. This legislation is not alone welcome in terms of animal welfare but in terms of job creation as it provides real prospects for Ireland and its dog breeders to penetrate the larger markets of Britain and Europe. This legislation will prove robust enough to withstand international inspection. Potential customers will as a result of this legislation know Ireland is a compliant nation when it comes to breeding establishments and that its name in that marketplace can be trusted. I believe there is tremendous prospects in the years ahead as a result.

I regret this issue was conflated with the stag hunting issue. It is worth pointing out that this legislation was initiated following recommendations of a working group set up in 2004 and which reported in 2005 to the then Minister, Deputy Roche. I commend the current Minister, Deputy Gormley, for carrying on with what is the correct trajectory in this regard and on seeing it through to the end despite some ill-conceived and ill-considered criticism which has since been proven to be wide of the mark. It is hoped that people who had their doubts will acknowledge that voices were heard and that people in the industry can now take ownership of the new regulations and begin to make them work for themselves and the animals in their care.

I welcome the Minister. I acknowledge his response to the genuine concerns raised during the past couple of months in regard to this Bill. I acknowledge also the Minister's undertaking to re-examine the 1958 Act. This is very much welcomed by the sector. It is hoped we will deal quickly with the report before us. I hope the consensus on this issue in the Lower House will be carried through to this House. I welcome the inclusion of a time span in respect of the operation on the ground of this legislation.

I welcome the Minister. As the first person to raise the puppy farm issue in this House more than six years ago, I welcome legislation that may eradicate the problems we saw on our television screens and on many occasions witnessed.

As I stated on the last occasion when Report Stage of the Bill came before this House, I regret the Minister was not in a position to bring these amendments before the House. Had he done so he would have saved himself and many Members what followed. The Minister was not aware of the Greyhound Act 1958 when first mentioned on this side of the House. I am glad he has undertaken to look at it as it deals with animal welfare and that he will ensure the greyhound industry will continue to be regulated under that Act. I look forward to speaking on some of the groups of amendments.

I welcome the Minister. I also welcome the amendments to the Bill. I compliment the Minister on finalisation of a Bill which is important to anyone who regards himself or herself as an animal lover. That the Minister was able to accept amendments in the Lower House is to be respected. The Bill is all the better for the amendments. As Senator Cummins stated, it is unfortunate we were not able to tease out some of the amendments on the floor of the Seanad. In one particular case it has led to the loss of the Whip from a valued colleague, Senator Denis O'Donovan, which I am sure will be temporary, whose proposals were subsequently accepted and vindicated in the Dáil. Despite that, however, I am not one who subscribes to the conspiracy theory and I do not agree with Senators who state the two parties in Government are bullying each other. The partnership appears to be working well and in a mature way. That is due in no small part to the Minister's calm, moderate and effective presentation of policy at all times and the way he enunciates Government policy. People in my party appreciate very much the important role he is playing in this coalition Government.

Does the Minister wish to speak again on group 1 or shall we move on?

We should move on.

I call the Minister to speak to the subject matter of group 2.

Is that on amendment No. 1?

No. It is group 2, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 2, 15 and 22.

These amendments refer to the definition of a dog breeding establishment. The Bill as initiated defined it as a premises at which bitches are kept, not less than six of which are four months old and capable of being used for breeding purposes.

(Interruptions).

I asked the Acting Chairman for direction on that and——

Apologies. I will give the Minister the clear direction as it has been given to me. We are on group 2, definition of a dog breeding establishment, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 2, 15 and 22.

Some of the Senators are saying that amendment No. 1 in group 1 was not dealt with. I am in the Acting Chairman's hands and I will take the lead from her.

That is the amendment we have just discussed. We have moved on to group 2.

The stipulation of four months was to ensure that any bitch which fell pregnant no matter how young would be reckonable when defining a breeding establishment. The Dáil accepted the amendment to change the four months to six months in response to calls here in the Seanad; Members may recall we had a discussion on that. It is important to state this does not invalidate the rationale for specifying an age threshold which was to ensure that any dog with breeding potential was included. It should not be considered as setting down a marker for when to start breeding. It would not be wise, as some have proposed, to have a threshold at 12 months or even two years. The Senators will recall an amendment on that was put down in this House which the Labour Party voted for, as I recall, and then subsequently voted for the legislation in the Dáil.

I believe everyone would acknowledge that most breeds of bitch could breed in the first 12 months of life and greyhounds in their second year. A 12 month or two year threshold would discount litters born before that time elapsed, possibly leading to an increase in the overall number of litters per bitch to the detriment of her welfare. It would be difficult to justify such provision in a Bill concerned with animal welfare.

This side of the House did put down an amendment to increase that period from four months to two years. We expressed amazement that any expert on dog breeding would suggest that a bitch could breed at four months but the Minister refused to accept or even discuss that amendment. We even offered to withdraw it in favour of a lesser period at that time. We suggested six months, a year or whatever the Minister would be willing to consider but, unfortunately, he was unwilling to consider any of those proposals.

We put down the amendment because a bitch cannot breed at four months. I would like to know the breed of bitch that can breed at six months because I believe they are few and far between. I will give an example. Many people in the greyhound industry rear greyhounds up to a year. They do not breed greyhounds. The breeding establishment would pass on the young pups at an early age to a rearer of greyhounds who would take them on and rear them up to a year old, to sapling age, when they would then be put into training. However, many of those people do not breed dogs yet they will still fall under the definition of dog breeding establishments. That is mainly the reason we suggested the period should be increased to a year at least to ensure those people would not be included in this legislation. We could let them come under the 1958 Greyhound Act regulations which, as I said here many times previously, is the legislation that is the controlling authority for greyhounds. It is only in the past week or two that the Minister has belatedly agreed to come to that position even though it was pointed out to him here on numerous occasions in recent months.

I, too, feel sorry for Senator O'Donovan who was speaking a great deal of sense from the opposite side of the House. He understood the reasonable argument we were trying to make on this side of the House. Unfortunately, as some Senators have said, he is the victim as he was out-flanked by the pack of Fianna Fáil backbenchers who hunted down the Minister in the Dáil. That unfortunate Senator is the victim and I hope people in his own party will see that he should be readmitted. It is none of my business but the man made a reasonable argument. He stood his ground on principle, and I appreciate and respect that.

Those on this side of the House argue that definition of a dog breeding establishment should state that a bitch should be a year old and not six months old because as far as breeding is concerned, it is a more reasonable and proper term for bitches to start breeding and it would also exclude the people I have just mentioned who are in the business of rearing dogs and not breeding them. We have pointed that out. It has fallen on deaf ears. I see an attempt was made, and perhaps it is some form of compromise to some of the backbenchers I mentioned, to raise it to six months but as far as we are concerned it does not go far enough.

Does the Minister wish to reply?

I call the Minister to speak on group 3, the subject matter of amendment No. 3.

The reference to public trainer's licence is used to facilitate the exemption from registration fees to which the public greyhound trainer will be entitled. This will eliminate the costs associated with registration for trainers which was a cause of concern for the Irish Coursing Club whose members I wish to thank for their positive input to this Bill. The Senators will see that I, in turn, have made every effort by way of amendments to meet their legitimate concerns.

The regulations of 1961 state: "public trainer" means a person holding a licence from the [greyhound] Board authorising him to train and manage greyhounds for reward". The public trainer differs from a private trainer in that a private trainer is authorised to have no more than four greyhounds and, therefore, would not fall within the scope of this Bill.

I acknowledge that the Minister has listened to the stakeholders in regard to this amendment and that he sees the sense in exempting public trainers' licences from having to make that payment. We welcome that. We believe that if that engagement had happened at a much earlier stage the Minister would have saved himself a great deal of grief in this House, in the lower House and in the public domain but we welcome this and acknowledge that the Minister has listened to us on this occasion in terms of this amendment.

Does the Minister wish to speak?

I call the Minister to address group 4, the subject matter of amendment No. 4.

This amendment refers to the regulations of 1961 which define a stipendiary steward as a "steward appointed by the Board to fulfil the duties of an authorised officer under the [1958] Act". I proposed that a stipendiary steward or veterinary practitioner may accompany a local authority veterinary inspector for the inspection of premises containing registered greyhounds under the amendment to section 18, which deals with authorised persons.

The purpose of this amendment is to make the inspection and improvement order process transparent to the Irish Coursing Club and Irish Greyhound Board and hence to reduce their concerns in that regard. It will become apparent that well-run dog breeding establishments with or without greyhounds will have nothing to fear from inspections of this sort.

I ask the Minister to speak to group 5, the subject matter of amendment No. 5.

Senators will appreciate the significant number of concessions I offered by way of amendment. I have consistently pointed out that this legislation is not intended to be harmful to dog breeding in Ireland. It is my firm belief that this Act will be seen in the long run as beneficial to the industry by enhancing its reputation at home and abroad.

However, to further allay any concerns, I proposed in the Dáil introducing a review clause to the legislation to examine its impact at a point 12 months after commencement of the legislation. I hope this clause will find favour in the House.

This is another significant amendment made to the Bill since it left the Seanad. There is a reason for it being made and I presume it is the number of compromises the Minister has reached with his Government colleagues and the industry since discussions were belatedly carried out. Unfortunately, as members of the main Opposition party, we were not privy to many of the behind the scenes discussions and agreements made. I certainly have not been briefed by a departmental official or anyone from the industry on these discussions. As an Opposition spokesperson, I thought I might have been. In the interests of reaching a consensus, it might have been a good opportunity for the Minister or his officials to engage with the Opposition on the compromises and agreements reached. Unfortunately, even though we were among the first to raise many of these concerns, that offer has not been forthcoming. Will there be a review by the Minister and his officials only, or will they engage in a consultation process with stakeholders to obtain their opinion? Will they have an opportunity to give their opinions and make submissions on their experience of the Bill in the first 12 months? I am sure the Minister will agree that this is a pertinent point. He is not the only person who will have an opinion on the effect the Bill has had. It is very important that all stakeholders have an opportunity in the review to give their opinions and make submissions. Will the Minister clarify this point?

I was also approached on this subject by some stakeholders who welcomed the provision for a review. It is very good that the Minister will allow an opportunity to assess how the legislation is working in practice. However, it will be necessary to consult stakeholders, not the Department alone. That is what a review is all about. I hope the Minister will succumb to our way of thinking on the issue.

The idea behind the review is that we engage positively with stakeholders who include those who are involved with the breeding establishments, the Irish Greyhound Board and, most importantly, the welfare organisations. It is the firm view of the welfare organisations that tattooing for traceability purposes is not the best or the cheapest way. I will be very anxious to establish after implementation for one year whether there is a case to be made for microchipping. I accept there are people who are far more expert in these matters and defer to them, but they have clearly said to me that microchips are used in Australia for tracing greyhounds, as well as in the United Kingdom, that this does not impair performance or cause cancer, as has been claimed, and that it is cheaper.

Would that be in place of tattooing?

Yes. Tattooing is done for a reason, as discussed in the Dáil. We want to establish a database, to which we will refer when dealing with other amendments, in order that a tattoo could be used to trace a dog. Senators may have seen media reports on "Six One News" about a stray greyhound, the origins of which could not be traced because the tattoo had faded. This would not occur with proper microchips. We need to be very clear on this issue. The Irish Greyhound Board and others will come to this view. They will see after one year that this is the best way to proceed. I understand a system of tattooing is in place and that it seems to be far more convenient for them. However, the review to be undertaken after one year, in which there will be total engagement with stakeholders, will reveal that the points made by expert groups are valid.

I am glad the question of tattooing, identification and microchipping has been introduced at this point because I was reserving my power for a later amendment. I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this issue because I fully support the Minister on the microchipping of dogs. He mentioned the case of a greyhound bitch. I saw her at the newly developing headquarters of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at Mount Venus and it was utterly shocking. This was an elderly greyhound bitch with ten pups and she was in very poor condition. There was marking by tattoo which had been completely obscured deliberately such that it was impossible to read the identification mark. If there was microchipping, it would be a very different matter.

I fully concur with the advice given by the lobby groups and the professionals that microchipping is significant. The risks of cancer are negligible; they have never been demonstrated adequately and I do not believe there are such risks. On the question of the value of a dog and harming it, if it were true, it is highly unlikely that the owners of stallions at stud, very valuable racehorses, for some of which there is a covering fee of €150,000 per performance, would permit microchipping. Any objection to this is a tissue of nonsense. I, therefore, strongly support the Minister. If any votes are called on a series of amendments dealing with this issue, I will return to the House to strongly support the Minister. I will vote in favour of the Bill in the event that a division is called. I cannot imagine that happening after a series of positive amendments and the welcome given to them from all sides of the House, sometimes in tones that were clearly partisan and designed to have a political impact.

The subject matter of the sixth group of amendments is the extension of the lead-in period.

To give sufficient time to dog breeders and local authorities to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the legislation, the Dáil accepted this amendment to allow for a six month period from commencement of the legislation for dog breeding establishments to be registered. Dog breeding establishments can continue to operate during this six month period prior to registration.

I acknowledge the efforts made by the Minister to extend the period. However, I remind him that Fine Gael proposed an amendment as a reasonable approach and to ensure a full stakeholder buy-in to the legislation. On earlier Stages we suggested it should be extended from three months to one year. However, at the time the Minister did not entertain this opinion or idea. Now we see he has come around to this way of thinking after much grief, torment and public debate on the issue. It is important that we indicate that these matters were raised in good time for him and his officials to amend the Bill to allow for the use of common sense. I recall his answer at the time was that people should be well aware of the provisions of the Bill because the working group had been in place since 2005. I considered that was very unfair to all stakeholders. The small guys down the country would not have been aware of the workings of the working group, not all of whom were represented on it. There was one representative from the greyhound industry. I do not think the breeders' association was represented. People would not have been aware of the lead-in period.

Despite all of the public debate on this matter in recent weeks, I still contend that some people have establishments that will need to be redeveloped and, possibly, rebuilt. For that reason, we submitted that the lead-in period should be extended to one year to allow such persons to get their house in order via the obtaining of planning permission. If a person breeding greyhounds or pups submits an application to the local authority, as we all know, it could take up to two to three months in the normal course of events for the application to be processed and a decision made. If a neighbour or someone else objects to that application, it will go to An Bord Pleanála and take quite a long time more. At least people should be given that opportunity to see through the planning process and that is why my party felt a year would be more appropriate. The six months is a compromise on the Minister's behalf. He might clarify that for us, but it does not go far enough. My party felt a year would be more appropriate to allow people get their building establishments in order if they needed to.

It was highlighted that standards will be required and I still have not see the regulations concerned. The Minister might clarify whether they have been published. I do not think they have. Those regulations, on the housing conditions and the physical environment that will be required for these establishments, will be important. The Minister could opt for a two-star establishment or he might even like a five-star establishment for these puppies, but maybe a two-star one is acceptable. Until we see these standards we will not know. It will have a bearing on planning applications and a year would be more appropriate. Six months is an improvement but it does not go far enough.

There seems to be a consistency to Senator Coffey's argument that everyone in the sector is applying best practice in all cases.

I never said that.

That seems to be his assumption.

That is an assumption on Senator Dearey's part.

This is the mindset.

The fact is the legislation needs to address those who are not operating under a best practice regime. It is important that those people are not allowed continue for another 12 months with what they are doing. Six months, I would have thought, is more than adequate to allow for registration. It is being done locally. Information should be easily available locally and action should be well possible within six months.

Does Senator Dearey know the standards that are required?

Senator Dearey without interruption.

That is not the point I am making.

It is the point. Senator Dearey does not know the standards and neither do I.

Senator Dearey, without interruption, please.

Senator Dearey is making statements.

Senator Coffey had his opportunity.

The point on breeding is the same one. Senator Coffey asked that the Minister name him a breed that is capable of breeding after four months. I am sure many can breed within 12 months and it is important we lay down an early marker at six months. The legislation is aimed at those who are not compliant with good practice and forces them into a decent practice. It should not givecarte blanche to those operators who operate at a substandard level. Senator Coffey’s basic premise is incorrect. The legislation needs to deal with those who are not operating at a good level, not make the assumption that everyone is whiter than white in the sector because they certainly are not.

Totally incorrect. Senator Dearey is misrepresenting me completely.

I support my colleague, Senator Coffey. His sentiments are being expressed by Senator Dearey in a most unfavourable manner. It is not what Senator Coffey meant at all. They are not being expressed properly.

My party made this suggestion regarding six months or 12 months in the House and we were laughed out of court. We were opposed by most Members on the Government side, except some sensible Senators, such as Senators O'Donovan and Ormonde, who saw what we were looking for, namely a lead-in period. It was not being entertained at all by the Minister and, indeed, some other colleagues in the other House. I am glad we have gone some way in addressing this problem. I welcome the fact that there is a six-month lead-in period. I would like it to be 12 months but I welcome the fact it is six months and that it has been acknowledged that what we on this side of the House were saying months ago was the correct position to adopt. I am glad the Minister has come around to that way of thinking as well.

Points have been made. We are all talking about good standards in the operation of this Bill. However, there was a suggestion that to put one's house in order, one might have to apply for planning permission. Has the Minister taken into account that if the planning permission is refused, An Bord Pleanála might come into play? I am curious about that. I acknowledge he has gone some way down the road by providing six months. Ideally it should be 12 months but six months is fine if everything goes well. What would happen where planning permission was refused and the application was delayed beyond six months?

The Senators will appreciate that this is an amendment to deal with the concerns raised by individual Senators and Deputies. No doubt the six-month period from commencement of the Act will allow people. In all sincerity, I cannot believe that they do not know of the existence of this legislation. They would have to be living in a bubble not to know about it.

They certainly know about it. I have gone out of my way to ensure we deal with any of the outstanding issues. On Senator Ormonde's issue, if some people's establishments are so below par, of course they will get the opportunity to comply. She must remember it is not the stick that is being used here, more the carrot. I made that point when I was in the Seanad previously. The individual will engage with the local authority which will ensure adequate time is given to him or her to upgrade his or her premises. That is what this is about. Ultimately, it is about getting the best welfare standards for dogs and in a way that does not penalise individual dog breeders.

A Senator can only speak once.

The Minister did not answer my question regarding the publishing of guidelines or standards. What will be required?

Senator Coffey spoke of five stars, two stars and so on. We will come up with a set of standards which we believe, having engaged with the stakeholders, will be adequate. He is asking me to talk about a set of standards which we have not yet devised, which is a little premature.

This will be law by tonight, tomorrow or whenever.

The standards could have been annexed to the Bill as a Schedule.

Senator Coffey can be quite assured that the standards will be in the best interests of the dogs in terms of welfare standards, but also, I hope, will meet favour with the individual stakeholders.

Group 7, registration fee exemption for greyhound trainers, is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 7, 8, 20 and 21.

These amendments extend fee exemption to public trainers of greyhounds as defined in the regulations of 1961. This responds to Irish Coursing Club's concerns regarding the cost of registration. I am sensitive to these concerns and am happy to provide for such an exemption. It is my understanding, based on assurances given at meetings with the Irish Greyhound Board and the Irish Coursing Club, that trainers focus exclusively on training and do not breed greyhounds. I am, therefore, happy to exclude them from the registration fee, but not from the registration process.

I welcome this amendment. Numerous Senators in this House pointed out the problem regarding dual registration costs for those involved in the greyhound industry.

An important point that applies to trainers, this amendment and all dog establishments is that this Bill will become law within the next couple of days and then it will be incumbent on all the local authorities to enforce it. I am interested to know how those who run dog breeding establishments and how the local authority officials who will be required to enforce this law can know what is required of them if we do not know now the standards and physical and technical environment that will be required of those. Have they a manual, template or guidebook to which they can refer to ensure adequate standards? It is important if we are introducing laws that the Minister would have the technical detail to back them up.

The reason I mentioned two-star versus five-star establishments is I am trying to display in simple terms the different levels that may be required. As I do not know and I am sure the Senators on the Government side do not know, how can those running these establishments or the local authority officials know what is required of them under this law? I am asking a simple question. I am just wondering. I raised on Committee Stage the issue that surely the standards or physical environment required should have been annexed as a Schedule to the Bill or that a regulation should follow. How soon will such a regulation follow? These are important points, of which those involved in the various dog breeding establishments must be aware. It is all very well to suggest we are introducing laws to improve animal welfare, but we must give those involved the benchmarks they are expected to reach. I have not seen them to date. This is a reasonable question.

The Senator has stated this will become law this evening but it will not.

I have stated it will become law within the coming days. The Minister will judge this.

It will not even become law in the coming days. As I have stated clearly, the commencement order will not be issued until the new year. This is to give the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food an opportunity to amend the 1958 Act, as recommended by many in the Seanad.

That is a recent development.

The matter was debated last week and featured in the newspapers. It was a core issue.

That does not address the point I am making.

No. The Minister is using it as a fudge.

The Senator should allow the Minister an opportunity to reply to the questions raised.

He is not answering them.

I am giving the Senator the facts. When he calls on me to give, as if by magic, a number——

I called for it three months ago and we still have not seen it.

I advise the Senator that this is totally against the conventions of the House. The Minister is replying to the issues raised by him on this group of amendments. He should afford the Minister the courtesy of listening to his reply.

The Minister is misrepresenting me.

That is merely the Senator's opinion.

I will defend it.

The Senator cannot do it in the manner in which he is attempting to do so. I strongly advise him that this is not the manner in which he should carry on business in the House.

It is on the record.

Group 8 contains technical and drafting corrections, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 29.

These amendments correct an error in the reference to subsection (9) which should replace subsection (8), quoted in the Bill, as initiated. The relevant subsection states a local authority may, after considering representations, attach such conditions as it considers appropriate to the registration of a dog breeding premises.

I use this opportunity to defend my record and put the record straight. Several times on Committee and Report Stages I raised the matter of the standards required to be met by dog breeding establishments. The Minister has suggested the order will not commence until January next year, but this is a recent development. When the Bill was initiated in this House, the amendment dealing with the commencement order was not included. However, all of the requirements of the legislation related to a dog breeding establishment were contained, without a reference to a standard level or benchmark. That is my point. The Minister is not listening to me. He should be aware of the consequences of this from the debates in the Lower House and the public domain. I am making a reasonable request. Why is there no regulation or benchmark of standards required to be met by dog breeding establishments provided for in the Bill? I am not trying to be divisive. I am entitled to ask these questions in the interests of having proper legislation and providing information for all stakeholders. I suggest the Minister is fudging the matter by suggesting a recent amendment addresses the point I am trying to make because it does not.

Group 9 deals with the widening of fee bands and consequential amendments — amendments Nos. 11 to 14, inclusive, and 16 to 19, inclusive.

These amendments deal with widening the registration fee bands having regard to concerns expressed by the Hunting Association of Ireland, HAI; the Irish Coursing Club and the Irish Greyhound Board. I have agreed to a registration fee exemption for HAI registered members and greyhound trainers. I have also agreed to widen the fee bands such that a dog breeding establishment with six to 18 bitches, each greater than six months old and capable of breeding, will pay a fee of €400. I reiterate that someone with less than six breeding bitches will not be subject to the legislation.

Fees and bands vary to reflect the size and scale of the operation, as recommended by the working group. To this end, the new appropriate fee bands will be as follows. In the case of a dog breeding establishment, at which six to 18 eligible bitches are kept, a fee of €400 applies; for an establishment with between 19 and 30 bitches, the fee will be €800; for an establishment with between 31 and 100 bitches, the fee will be €1,600; for an establishment with between 101 and 200 bitches, the fee will be €3,000; and a further €1,600 for each 100 bitches thereafter. The fee will be payable to the local authority and the moneys raised are intended to cover the costs of regulation and inspection. It is intended that any balance remaining will go towards the cost of dog control in general.

I am concerned about the time. I indicated I had been waiting outside for a considerable period. It is now approaching 1.30 p.m. and I have further engagements. I had expected that we would conclude soon, but I find myself in a situation where I do not know how I should proceed. I will probably have to leave at 1.30 p.m.

Will the Minister check if a Minister of State is available?

I did. I am not sure what we should do.

According to the advice I have been given, my understanding is that the House ordered that the Bill be taken up to 2 p.m.

Okay, I will text someone.

I call on the Acting Leader to propose a suspension of the sitting for five minutes to facilitate everyone involved.

Sitting suspended at 1.25 p.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.

Group 10 relates to the number of litters, the subject matter of amendment No. 23.

With regard to amendment No. 23, the Irish Coursing Club and the Irish Greyhound Board have suggested the legislation is excessively restrictive in regard to dog breeding estrous cycles. To address this issue, I proposed changing the provision for breeding frequency from one litter every 12 months to three litters in any three-year period. This will provide flexibility to address situations where a bitch might not fall pregnant within a 12-month period or might fall pregnant twice in a 12-month period.

I again welcome the compromise on this matter. Concern about this was raised by industry representatives and many Senators. Senator Norris referred to the issue of Bord na gCon officials who became involved in the public debate. I hope there are no consequences for those officials. They are leading an industry which was concerned about the implications of the legislation. The amendments the Minister has brought forward as a result of consultations with industry representatives and officials prove he is making compromises regarding the legislation. I hope there will not be consequences for these officials who were defending the industry for which they are responsible.

They decided to operate in that way. If individuals in statutory agencies under my remit behaved in that way and came out in public to criticise policy, eyebrows would be raised. I understand the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food spoke to the chairperson, which is right and proper. There is a right way to conduct business. In this case, people overstepped the mark and that is why it was right and proper for the Minister to take the course of action he did.

I compliment the people involved in the greyhound industry and the chief executive officer and others involved because they represented what was going on and the concerns of the industry. They are quite capable and they should be able to give an interpretation of what their members are saying and of the danger the legislation poses to the industry without the amendments tabled by the Minister.

Group 11 relates to identification of dogs, the subject matter of amendment No. 24.

To address the existing market requirements and to enable a smooth transition to microchipping, I proposed in amendment No. 24 to extend the deadline for microchipping pups from eight to 12 weeks under section 15(2). This provision will apply for 12 months following commencement of the Act and that should allow sufficient time for all concerned to become acquainted with the requirements. Thereafter, under section 15(1), dogs will be microchipped at eight weeks old and before they leave the premises, which is important. Breeding establishments will at that stage have prepared themselves to meet the microchipping requirements and should not have any difficulty in moving to eight weeks. Section 15(3) will allow hunt clubs not to microchip but section 15(4) provides that clubs which do not microchip will be obliged to keep a register of dogs at the premises and make such records available to the local authority.

Group 12 relates to notification of sale or transfer of dogs, the subject matter of amendment No. 25.

Amendment No. 25 outlines the requirements for notifying the local authority of the particulars of the sale of dogs in order that the register can be maintained. Currently, a number of companies operate databases of microchipped dogs. A dog warden with a handheld device can scan the neck of the dog. If the dog is microchipped, the warden will be able to identify the owner. This provision will assist in the identification process by ensuring breeders have to notify the local authority and the database provider of the details of sale or transfer of dogs.

I very much welcome the amendment. It is a good move to keep a register in order that the movement of dogs would be accurately known, which is important.

Group 13 relates to authorised persons, the subject matter of amendment No. 26.

Amendment No. 26 provides that a stipendiary steward or a veterinarian nominated by the ICC or the IGB can accompany a person authorised by a local authority on an inspection of a dog breeding establishment used for the training or breeding of greyhounds and registered with the IGB-ICC. This amendment aims to provide reassurance to greyhound owners who may have concerns regarding an unaccompanied visit by a person authorised by a local authority. I hope the amendment will help provide sufficient reassurance to the ICC-IGB regarding inspections. Joint inspections will also lead to better mutual understanding and enhanced liaison between local authority staff and the IGB-ICC nominees.

I welcome the amendment, which will reassure those involved in the industry that there will be a more reasonable and objective approach to inspections by authorised persons. I am glad the Minister was willing to listen belatedly and make the amendment.

Group 14 relates to the issue of improvement licence, the subject matter of amendment No. 27.

The effect of amendment No. 27 is to provide that an improvement notice can only be issued on foot of an inspection by an authorised officer rather than a dog warden. This is intended to assure dog breeders that such notices will not be issued by anyone other than a local authority veterinary inspector.

Group 15 relates to the lifetime of a dog licence, the subject matter of amendment No. 28.

Amendment No. 28 is a technical amendment to improve the original wording, enabling a local authority to issue a licence for the lifetime of a dog. The licence will cost €140, which equates to seven annual licence fees at the new rate of €20. Most family dogs can be expected to live up to 14 years and, therefore, the lifetime of a dog licence would represent a saving of 50% compared with purchasing annual licences.

Group 16 relates to licence fee exemption for registered dog breeding establishments and consequential amendments, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 30 to 36, inclusive.

It is proposed to take amendments Nos. 30 to 36, inclusive, together. Currently, owners of numerous dogs have the option to pay a general licence fee which covers all the dogs they own. More than 400 such licences were issued last year. Amendment No. 30 is designed to ensure anyone who pays a registration fee or annual charge for a registered dog breeding establishment will not have to pay the proposed €400 fee for a general dog licence. Technical amendments Nos. 31 to 36 are consequential on amendment No. 30 being accepted.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 33; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • 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.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • White, Alex.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Twomey, Liam.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins.
Question declared carried.
Question put: "That the Bill do now pass."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 34; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • 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.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Alex.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Twomey, Liam.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins.
Question declared carried.
Sitting suspended at 2 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.