I propose to take Questions Nos. 557 to 559, inclusive, together.
The Control of Horses Act 1996 provides powers to Local Authorities to deal with stray and abandoned horses and my Department provides funding to support them in their work in this area. Local authorities are asked to make every effort to ensure they are achieving the best value through the public procurement process. My Department's contribution to local authorities has been reducing over the past years from €2.3 million in 2014, €725,000 in 2016 and an amount of €533,839 was paid in 2017, due to the fact that demand and supply of equines has come into line and there have been much greater export opportunities to the continent of Europe in recent years.
This reduced contribution is reflective of a number of other factors including initiatives being progressed in the animal welfare area, including active enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 and the EU Equine Identification Regulations. The increased emphasis on re-homing of horses is being assisted greatly through my Department's funding to animal welfare organisations. My Department also provides funding to local authorities to support the development of urban/traveller horse projects in their respective areas. These projects focus on education and create awareness on compliance with animal welfare regulations thereby reducing numbers of straying horses. Other measures promoted by my Department to reduce numbers of abandoned horses include assistance provided to welfare organisations to introduce initiatives that facilitate the micro chipping, passporting and castration of stallions at a reduced cost to owners.
It is the responsibility of all horse owners to look after horses in their care or ownership and to dispose of them appropriately. The option for slaughtering for human consumption is available to horses that are compliant with equine identification and meets all ante & post mortem requirements.
In relation to treating of unidentified/undocumented horses by veterinary practitioners, a guidance note for veterinary practitioners has been on the Department's website for some considerable period of time. Veterinary practitioners should contact the Regional Veterinary Office if they require any further clarification.