Activities on the public road, including sulky racing are governed by the Road Traffic Acts and are enforced by the Garda Síochána. These Acts impose an obligation pursuant to these acts on persons engaged in this activity to drive their vehicles with due care for other road users and not to indulge in dangerous driving of the vehicles. Officials of my Department in conjunction with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport are examining the legal avenues available to regulate this activity more effectively. In addition to the transport legislation, there is scope for local authorities under the Control of Horses Act, 1996 to introduce bye-laws regulating activities involving horses in their respective functional areas.
While not all sulky racing involves a threat to animal welfare, under the recently commenced Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, a person involved in any activity relating to animals is obliged to take all necessary measures to protect the welfare of the animal under his or her control. Section 12 of the Act provides protection for animals used in pursuits such as sulky racing by making it illegal to do anything causing unnecessary suffering or endangering the health or welfare of the animal. It also makes it an offence to be reckless regarding the health and welfare of an animal and under this Act, penalties for animal welfare violations have been increased and there is provision to disqualify a person convicted of an offence from owning, or having interest in, animals in the future.