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. In addition to its focus on the core business of greyhound racing, Bord na gCon places an 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. To this end, I welcome the fact that Bord na gCon will continue to invest significant resources into regulation and greyhound welfare.
Under the Act, Bord na gCon may make regulations to require the registration of greyhound owners, the registration of racing greyhounds and the notification by owners, breeders and trainers of greyhounds of many more life events than those currently captured on existing studbook and micro-chipping databases. The regulations will support establishment of a new comprehensive tracing database for racing greyhounds.
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.
I can assure the Deputy that the practices highlighted in the RTE Prime Time programme will be fully addressed. It is in the interests of the greyhound sector to operate at the highest ethical and welfare standards and that is what the citizens of this country expect.