Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (940)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

940. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to strengthen the laws on animal welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5194/20]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 provides a modern framework for applying standards in the area of animal health and welfare and replaced a number of enactments dating back over a century. The Act was passed, after a lengthy and constructive debate in both Houses of the Oireachtas and came into operation on 6 March 2014.

Offences under the Act may be prosecuted in the District Court by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, local authorities and members of An Garda Síochána. Matters tried on indictment are the remit of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the normal manner. Accordingly, the statistics set down below relate to cases prosecuted at the suit of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Prosecutions under the Act have been pursued following investigations by authorised officers of the Department, An Garda Síochána and authorised officers of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Dublin 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, a file prepared and the matter pursued through the Courts.

Since the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 came into operation in March 2014, over 100 cases have been prosecuted through the Courts. Fines in excess of €60,000 have been imposed. Seven persons have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment; these sentences were suspended in four cases. The Probation Act was applied in eight instances.

Sixteen persons have been disqualified from keeping animals under section 58 of the Act.

A number of cases remain before the Courts and further files have been sent to the Chief State Solicitor with a view to be instituting proceedings; other files are currently being examined in my Department with a view to pursuing a prosecution if the evidence so warrant.

In summary, the current modern legislative framework provided by the Act is considered fit for purpose. Similarly, enforcement of the existing legislation has been working satisfactorily, and is kept under review with a view to ongoing improvements as needed.