Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Questions (74)

Maureen O'Sullivan


74. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which he can address the issues raised in a programme (details supplied) regarding the treatment of greyhounds here; and his views on whether the time has come to take robust action on exports of greyhounds and to examine a complete ban on live hare coursing. [28122/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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.  

In particular, my Department is engaging in a review of the licensing conditions in knackeries, with regard to practices seen on RTÉ. All allegations will be examined to determine the appropriate actions.  

Bord na gCon, in addition to its focus on the core business of greyhound racing, places a strong emphasis on regulation of the industry and the welfare of greyhounds. It is evident that the successful growth and sustainability of the industry is heavily dependent on public confidence in the integrity of racing.

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.

Bord na gCon only encourages and promotes the export of greyhounds to countries that have established a positive animal welfare code and practices. My Department understands that Bord na gCon is currently updating its Code of Practice in the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound to include provisions on best practice when exporting greyhounds, including advice to the exporter on the need to research the proposed export destination in relation to its animal welfare standards and legislation.

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.  

My Department is not in a position to know whether dogs, including greyhounds, that are moved from Ireland to another EU Member State are subsequently exported to a further country. The export of dogs from other member states is a matter for the authorities in those member states.

In relation to coursing, under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon. Hares can only be collected for coursing by clubs affiliated to the ICC in accordance with the terms of two licences granted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

A Monitoring Committee on Coursing is in place, comprising officials from my Department, the ICC and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to monitor developments in coursing.  I believe that it is critically important that those involved in coursing operate in accordance with the regulatory framework and that the welfare of both hares and greyhounds is kept in mind at all times. The allegations of an illegal coursing meeting set out in the recent RTE Investigates Programme are currently examined by Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.