I propose to take Questions Nos. 945 and 946 together.
The sections of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 to which the Deputy refers cover a range of issues and, in some instances, provide the prosecuting authority with alternatives relating to the same events which may be used having regard to factors such as the evidence in each individual case.
There are a number of prosecuting authorities provided for in the Act. Offences may be prosecuted in the District Court by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, local authorities and members of an Garda Siochana. Matters tried on indictment are the remit of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the normal manner.
The Act is enforced by members of an Garda Síochana, officers of Customs and Excise and by officers specifically authorised for the task. These authorised officers include veterinary and other staff based at regional veterinary offices of my Department, and inspectors of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These officers investigate matters relating to animal cruelty and neglect and, where the evidence supports such action, it is my policy that a file is prepared and the matter pursued through the Courts.
While information is not maintained that would enable the ready retrieval of the information sought by the Deputy, the following is the position. Since the inception of the Act, 68 individuals have been prosecuted. Two persons died before trial while 66 were convicted; 2 of the persons convicted in the District Court have appeals pending before the Circuit Court. The Probation Act was applied in 5 instances.
Offences investigated and prosecuted include -
- contravention of section 11 which refers to failure to safeguard health and welfare of an animal.
- contravention of section 12 which refers to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal or being reckless or negligent regarding the health or welfare of an animal;
- contravention of section 13 which refers to failure to provide adequate food and water;
- contravention of section 14 which refers to abandonment of an animal.
There have been no prosecutions initiated by my Department for offences under sections 8, 10, 15 to 17, 19 to 24, 42, 43, 46, 58 or 72.
The emphasis of the enforcement effort of my Department has been on ensuring compliance with what may be called the core values of animal health and welfare, namely protecting animals from cruelty and neglect as well as ensuring that they are adequately nourished.
Sections 27 and 29 of the Act are not operative.
In relation to offences prosecuted by my Department, fines in excess of €50,000 have been imposed, one person was sentenced to a term of imprisonment which has been appealed and a further three individuals have received suspended sentences. Disqualification orders under section 58 of the Act have been imposed on eight persons.
A further eleven files have been sent to the Chief State Solicitor with a view to instituting proceedings while summonses have issued in sixteen cases which remain before the Courts.