I am fully committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals and my Department devotes considerable resources to protecting animal welfare and in dealing with breaches of animal welfare legislation. This is reflected in the large amount of legislation that has been brought forward in recent years in this area. In particular, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 - a major piece of legislation that applies to all animal including greyhounds. This provides for the welfare of all animals and does not just apply to those directly involved in their husbandry but also those involved in the sale or transport of animals or otherwise.
In the case of greyhounds, there is further specific protection of their welfare set out in the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which makes provisions to ensure their well being. This Act also empowers officers of the Bord na gCon to inspect premises where greyhounds are kept to ensure a suitable standard is maintained. While Bord na gCon has no statutory function regarding the regulation of greyhound exports, nevertheless, it has been very clear that it does not support the export of greyhounds to destinations where the standard of care falls below that required in Irish legislation.
I have received assurances from Bord na gCon that it is committed to the expansion of its existing ‘Code of Practice in the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound’ to include advice on best practice when exporting greyhounds. Work on the expanded Code will be finalised when consideration of the Greyhound Industry Bill has been completed by the Oireachtas.
My Department works closely with animal welfare charities on the various aspects of animal welfare. I welcome the initiative of the Dogs Trust in facilitating the International Greyhound Forum, which includes the ISPCA and Bord na gCon. The Forum continues to give consideration to issues relating to the export of greyhounds.
I believe that the animal welfare legislation introduced in recent years represents a positive development and has been welcomed by all those who care for animals.