Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Questions (71)

Bríd Smith

Question:

71. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will commission an independent investigation into the greyhound industry on foot of evidence of practices of widespread abuse and cruelty in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28215/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial State body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  

My Department takes any allegations of breaches of animal welfare rules very seriously and will thoroughly investigate and take the necessary enforcement actions to deal with such offences.  My Department has a strong and consistent record regarding the enforcement of animal welfare rules, including the review of 100 years of animal welfare legislation, leading to the enactment of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013. A total of 73 successful prosecutions have been taken under the Act since it was brought in, with a further 30 prosecution files currently being processed for welfare abuses.

In addition, this year my Department has provided the largest ever allocation of funding to animal welfare organisations of €2,751,000.  A total of 108 organisations are benefitting under these arrangements. An Animal Welfare Lo-call Helpline is in place along with a dedicated email address which facilitates the reporting by members of the public of any suspicion of animal cruelty taking place.  All calls received are treated in confidence and are followed up by authorised officers of this Department.

It is worth noting that the Greyhound Sector has undergone a series of reforms in recent times and the Greyhound Racing Act 2019 was signed by the President on the 28th May 2019. The drafting of this legislation strengthens the legal basis for the industry, with a view to fortifying the integrity of the greyhound racing sector and improving provision for greyhound traceability. To this end, I welcome the fact that Bord na gCon will continue to invest significant resources into regulation and greyhound welfare and have announced further actions to improve welfare provision and enforcement.

In addition, in recent days, Bord na gCon has also announced a series of measures that will be implemented:

- The introduction of a greyhound injury support scheme to provide financial assistance to aid injured greyhounds to continue with a healthy life.

- Extending and increasing support for foster care of greyhounds to identify new foster homes within Ireland for greyhounds.

- Revision, in conjunction with the International Greyhound Welfare Forum, of the Code of Practice on the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound to address retirement and transportation of greyhounds.

- Financially incentivise the rehoming of greyhounds in Ireland through the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (which assisted in the rehoming of 1,021 greyhounds last year).

- Intensify the inspection regime of greyhound establishments (491 inspections were undertaken in 2018).

- Preparation of a statutory instrument to make it a legal requirement that euthanasia of a greyhound must be carried out by a veterinary practitioner. (This is already the standard expected under the IGB Code of Practice for the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound).

- Provision of the Code of Practice to all registered greyhound owners

- Progress the traceability provisions of the Greyhound Act 2019

- Establish a confidential Freephone line to enable reports of welfare breaches to be reported to the IGB for investigation by relevant agencies.

Minister Doyle will be meeting with the Board of Bord na gCon this week to discuss these and any other measures that may be required to bring about comprehensive changes in the sector. For these reasons, an action plan for the industry will be carefully considered and announced by my Department in due course.