Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Bill, 1960—from the Seanad.

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:


In line 11, "pigs, poultry" inserted before "or".

Perhaps the Minister would elaborate a little on this. In the original Bill he defined livestock as cattle, sheep and horses. I think it is perfectly reasonable to provide, in the event of a dog showing a tendency to chase any of these categories of livestock, that the provisions of the Bill should apply. I am not familiar with the problem of dogs chasing pigs. It is a problem with which, in my experience on a small farm, I have never had much trouble but I have seen dogs from time to time chase poultry. It is not, as far as I know, a common problem and I wonder is the Minister well advised to invoke all the provisions of this Bill in the case of a dog momentarily chasing poultry?

We all know that, once a dog becomes a sheep chaser, he becomes a public menace. Unless rigorous measures are taken to control the dog he will go out at night, seek out sheep and do very serious damage, both from the point of view of the cruelty inflicted on the sheep and livestock and from the point of view of the economic loss as a result of chasing sheep. Therefore, it is right and proper that we should take the statutory precautions envisaged in this Bill for the prevention of a recurrence of these events but is it seriously suggested that all the sanctions envisaged in this Bill should be available to anybody, because the other two amendments now extend the powers to invoke these sections not only to the owners of livestock and occupiers of land but to anybody who sees the thing happen? Does the Minister really think that if a dog momentarily chases a hen any passer-by should be entitled to seize the dog and deliver it to a member of the Garda Síochána at the nearest Garda Station whereupon the provisions of Sections 3 and 9 of the Dogs Act, 1906, shall apply?

I am anxious that this Bill should function effectively and to function effectively it should have the good will of all reasonable citizens. I know that to the dog lovers the provisions of the Bill, as it was originally drafted, caused some concern but I am here to defend the terms of the Bill, as originally drafted, on the grounds that a really serious problem existed which it was desired to control. I find it hard to justify a proposal that somebody's dog may be collected from him, carted off to the pound and made subject to all the provisions of Section 3 of the Dogs Act, 1906, if while out walking it momentarily chases a hen. I am not at all sure that we are not enacting a Statute which provides that if some reasonable citizen is out walking his dog and the dog chases a hen, any passer-by can pick up the dog, take it away from the owner and bring it to the Garda station, and if the owner intervenes and seeks to prevent his doing so he makes himself liable to penalties under this Bill. Does the Minister really think that is consistent with the real purpose of the Bill as introduced?

I must say I have my own doubts and misgivings about the need for or the wisdom of some of these three amendments but at the same time they were fairly actively discussed in the Seanad and I saw something in favour of all three of them, even if I have those doubts in my mind at the same time. Now in the case of the first amendment to Section 1, the inclusion of pigs and poultry, I admit I have never had a complaint myself and I have never heard of dogs attacking pigs. I have known of dogs sometimes in a half-friendly way attacking poultry. We are all aware that these more or less domestic stock are usually not too far from the yard and that in the main they are housed at night, so that the urgency of including them did not make a strong case to my thinking. As I say, I was pressed to accept the amendment and I felt there were circumstances, especially in the case of poultry, in which a dog could do damage, apart altogether from the damage that is sometimes done by one's own dog to one's own poultry, and I did not have any great fears in agreeing to the inclusion of pigs and poultry.

In regard to the amendment to Section 3, which in a fairly substantial way extends the scope of the powers in that section in the sense that any person who finds a dog doing harm can seize the dog, as I said in the Seanad, and say here, I do not regard that section as a very practical instrument anyhow. The chance of a person guarding stock or the owner of stock being able to seize a dog while he is engaged, or after he had taken part, in some of these depredations is remote. I did mention in the Seanad that my only fear about this was that an innocent dog could be seized in a kind of jocose way although the animal might not have been causing trouble at all. It provided a certain opportunity to play a trick on one's neighbour by taking a dog, which might be a perfectly harmless animal, bringing it to the Garda station and saying that at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning it was seen attempting some depredations on a neighbour's stock. At the same time the idea of restricting the right to seize to the owner of the land or the stock seems to be hard to defend. There must be many occasions on which people coming home, neighbours and people in all walks of life, might find a dog attacking sheep. Who would know who owned the sheep? They would have the good intention of relieving the sheep——

I do not want to interrupt the Minister but I was talking only about amendment No. 1, relating to poultry.

I thought the Deputy was referring to all the amendments.

No, only to the amendment referring to poultry.

I was going over the three amendments because I thought the Deputy was referring to them.

No, I did not intend to refer to the three amendments. Is each of these amendments being considered in Committee?

I was referring only to the first amendment which extended the scope to poultry.

I felt that the Deputy was taking the three amendments. Anyhow, I shall finish with the others and the Deputy can make his observations on them. I felt that it was not unreasonable, when I was pressed by members of the Seanad who had experience at least as good as my own, to accept the amendment which provides for widening the scope of the section and giving to any individual who found a dog doing depredation to stock of any kind, freedom if he could do so to seize that animal and to do with him as the section provides.

I am not prepared to dissent from the proposition that there is no serious objection to extending the scope of the Bill to include the casual passer-by if you are dealing exclusively with the worrying of cattle, sheep or horses by a dog. I agree with the Minister that the probability of a passer-by ever coming upon a dog engaged in the worrying of sheep, horses or cattle and being able to lay hands on it is remote but I do not think that reasonable people would object to a public-spirited passer-by picking up a dog which was engaged in activities of that kind. Every one of us knows that one of the great evils of the worrying of livestock by dogs at night is that it is done in silence. Ordinarily, the owner, the shepherd or whoever is looking after the livestock, gets no notice unless he is actually keeping vigil, and he might go out in the morning and find this slaughter done.

A dog may run into a farmyard and what dog has ever gone into a farmyard that did not chase the hens? We all know that 90 per cent. of the people are reasonable, and will not seize a dog and take it off to the nearest Garda barracks because it chased a hen. As the Minister himself said, there is usually a loud clear indication that they are being chased. I have never heard of a dog making its way into a poultry house. Certainly a fox, a rat or a badger will, but I have never heard of a dog doing so. If a dog goes into a yard and chases poultry even if no one is about the yard, the owner will hear it and quickly come out and chase the dog away and rarely is there time for serious damage to be done.

I should like to see this Bill generally accepted as a reasonable law, but I think we are inserting something into it here which could enable mischievous people to bring the whole scheme of the Bill into disrepute. The farmers ought to have the protection envisaged in the Bill for their sheep, cattle and horses, but I am afraid, if we extend it to cover poultry, the Bill would give good grounds for a number of reasonable people to say it is carrying things to fantastic extremes and giving mischievous people who want to make trouble amongst neighbours, statutory grounds to do so.

I put it to the Minister that living in rural Ireland as we do, we know there are mischievous people in existence. Suppose someone is walking his dog and it chases a hen, this mischievous person can say: "Under the new Act, I will pick up the dog and take it to the nearest Garda barracks and if you interfere, you are breaking the law." That is calculated (1) to give rise to trouble and (2) to cause a lot of people who are prepared to defend this remedial legislation to say that it is carrying things altogether too far and doing far more than the legitimate rights of farmers call for.

I suggest to the Minister that he should be prepared to take poultry at least out of the amendment. I do not think any problem such as I envisage arises in respect of pigs. I believe that is just codology. I have never seen a dog chase a pig in my life. If the Minister drops "poultry", then I think we are back on sound ground because we should not give every person in the State the right to arrest any dog that chases a hen anywhere.

I did confess to being disappointed when I saw the Bill that came from the draftsman, and I expressed my disappointment to my own officials and to the members of the House that it did not seem to be the sort of instrument I thought it would have been. In that frame of mind, when I heard the discussion that took place on these amendments in the Seanad, as I said, I was not in any way enthusiastic about some of them, but they did appear to widen the scope of the Bill as it stood and bring it nearer to satisfying me in the sense that if I were to err at all on the side of giving freedom, it was my intention to err in favour of the owner of the stock.

With regard to the point being made by Deputy Dillon as to what might happen in regard to poultry, if he looks at Section 2 of the Bill, he will see that if he or any other person is out walking his dog, and if the dog should behave in the fashion he describes, there would be no question of the seizure of the dog, because it is, to a limited extent, under control, and if it could be shown that reasonable care was being exercised by the owner, that would be the end of that.

Would the Minister look at Section 4? So far as I know, under Section 4, anyone could shoot the dog.

That does not apply. Section 2 is the section which will cover the case the Deputy has cited. As I say, I opposed these three amendments in the Seanad, not in the sense of having my mind made up that I was going to resist them, but in order to hear from the members of that House who were interested in this matter, the best case they could make. They succeeded in tilting my mind in favour of this amendment. As we are coming to the other amendments also, I think it is better that we should err, if we are to err at all, in making the measure as effective an instrument as possible without going too far.

May I direct the Minister's attention to Section 4? In the event of amendment No. 1 being carried Section 4 will then effectively read:—

In an action for damages for the shooting of a dog, it shall be a good defence if the defendant proves:—

(a)that the dog was shot when worrying hens on agricultural land,

(b)that the hens were lawfully on the land,

(c)that the defendant was:—

(i)the occupier of the land, a member of his family or a person employed by him, or

(ii)the owner of the livestock, a member of his family or a person employed by him,

(d)that the defendant notified the shooting within forty-eight hours to a member of the Garda Síochána at the nearest Garda Síochána station.

I am not making the case that the body of reasonable people in rural Ireland would shoot a neighbour's dog because he chases hens, but we all know rural Ireland, and we all know that there is sometimes ill-will between people. If there is a little spite or misunderstanding between two persons, if one person is walking his dog and the dog chases a few hens in his neighbour's yard, his neighbour may go out and shoot the dog, go to the nearest Garda Síochána station and notify it there within forty-eight hours. Is there anyone in this House who feels that is a reasonable sanction for a reasonable man to invoke against a dog which, after all, may be very precious to the owner?

The Minister may think I am making an undue fuss about this. I do not think I am. I have lived a long time in rural Ireland and I know how family feuds are started. We have all heard of family feuds which were started in rural Ireland by the trespass of one hen. That can happen, too. The shooting of your dog is a most fertile source from which the most bitter personal animosities can arise. I am prepared to say that where a neighbour's dog is allowed to rove by night and injure sheep, cattle or horses, most reasonable people will feel it is not an excessive sanction to invoke against such dog that he should be shot, if there is no other means of restraining him, but I think most reasonable people in rural Ireland will say it is just not right that any man should have the right to shoot a neighbour's dog because he chased hens.

I think it makes this legislation ridiculous to include such a provision in it. I want this legislation to be accepted. I want to be able to defend it to all sections of the community as necessary and proper legislation. I cannot defend it as proper legislation and I do not think it is right to provide that a neighbour has a right to shoot his neighbour's dog if it chases a hen. I do not believe any Deputy believes that is right.

Some of us here may entertain a deep affection for dogs and some of us may be relatively indifferent to them, but there is no use closing our eyes to the fact that there are a great many of our neighbours who feel most deeply and passionately on the subject of their dogs and their cats. That may seem excessive and unreasonable to many of us but such people have a right to their feelings. I do not think the Minister ever meant to legislate to provide that somebody's dog, which is very precious to him, can be lawfully shot in his presence because it chases a hen. That is what this Bill will provide.

I think the Minister inadvertently suffered this amendment to be pressed upon him by Senator Cole. I suggest that he ought to delete "poultry." There is no desperate urgency about this Bill. If it passes within a reasonable time, it will achieve its purpose. This Bill applies at all times in so far as it applies to sheep and livestock. The Spring months are the most dangerous in regard to the chasing of sheep. A delay of a week or a fortnight will not make any difference. The Minister ought to delete the word "poultry" because I think he is making the Bill unacceptable to a very large body of reasonable people by the inclusion of the provision in regard to fowl, whereas it ought to be a Bill which will command the consent and approval of all reasonable people with any understanding of the agricultural industry.

Whatever I might do about eliminating pigs, I cannot see the point in dropping the word "poultry". I do not agree with the Deputy at all that dogs have not been known to do extensive harm to poultry. I have no prejudice at all against dogs. I like them. I do not think it is any harm at all to provide in this Bill that people should be careful about them if they like their dogs and their animals. There is no point in allowing them to take them out on the loose if they are suspicious that they are likely to do injury.

The case the Deputy has cited is met by Section 2 and not by Section 4. If the dog is taken out by its owner and if in the course of the journey the dog should do damage to the stock of his neighbour, there are certain things provided for which can happen to the dog, but if an effort should be made to seize or otherwise while the dog is in the charge of the owner, it is provided in subsection (2):

It shall be a good defence in a prosecution for an offence under this section if the defendant proves that reasonable care was taken to prevent the worrying of the livestock.

Would the Minister look at Section 4?

Section 4 is not the section applicable in this case.

Of course, it is applicable.

The subsection which I have read out—subsection (2)—is the one which covers the case cited by the Deputy where a dog is in the owner's charge and, while in his charge, does damage.

Would the Minister look at Section 4? Does that not give a good defence for the shooting of a dog?

It deals with a dog on the loose. I have none of the fears to which the Deputy referred in this case. I believe it is time the law was tightened so as to ensure that those who have dogs and think a good deal about them, whether they are taking them out for a walk or otherwise, will take care. If they do not take care, it is they who will have to take the risk and not the people who have to live by and from farm animals.

I am perfectly certain that the Bill, as it stands, provides that if a man shoots a dog for chasing a hen and the owner of the dog takes an action for damages against him, it is a good defence if the defendant proves that the dog was shot when chasing a hen on agricultural land; that the hen was lawfully on the land; that the defendant was the occupier of the land, a member of his family or a person employed by him.

I do not think that anybody in Dáil Éireann would agree that it ought to be a good defence to say that the dog chased a hen. I do not think we ought so to legislate. I do not believe the Minister thinks we ought so to legislate. I do not believe the Minister ever meant to accept this amendment. If it was trivial, I would not care. I am not interested in pigs. I do not believe it will ever arise in the case of pigs. I have lived long enough in the country to know that it can apply in the case of hens.

The thing I apprehend is that you can start a family feud in rural Ireland by a case of this kind which would go on for a generation. What I am afraid of is that this legislation, which ought to command the support of everybody, will not command it if it contains a provision of that kind. It ought to be dropped and the sanctions and provisions of the Bill confined to dogs which worry sheep, cattle or horses. That is sensible. The proposal that you can shoot a neighbour's dog if it chases a hen is insensible and unjust.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:—

In subsection (2), page 3, paragraph (a) deleted.

I have already explained that this amendment is designed to extend the right to seize to any person who finds a dog doing depredation.

As the Minister said, the likelihood of a person catching a dog in the middle of such operations is so remote that it does not matter a fiddle-de-dee whether or not this amendment is inserted.

It is a fairly tough proposition for the person who has the job of seizing him.

If he can run as fast as the dog, I suppose he is entitled to the statutory right to do so.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 3:

In subsection (2), page 3, line 7, "such occupier or owner" deleted and "the finder" substituted.

On Second Reading, I mentioned that I did not like the idea that where the owner of the livestock knew the owner of the dog that had done the damage, he should be obliged to warn such owner before taking drastic action against the animal. I saw several objections to that. One was that he would never admit that he knew the dog, even if he did, because if he felt he was endangering himself, he could say: "I did not know the dog was my neighbour's dog. I just saw him attacking sheep and I killed him." I consider that that should be deleted.

This amendment was moved in the Seanad. It did not go as far as the removal of the subsection but it met my point of view.

The removal of this subsection constitutes a pretty substantial widening of the Bill. If the Bill were restricted to sheep, horses and cattle, I would not be prepared to dissent from the arguments now adduced by the Minister. The provision was in relation to the plea that when the dog was shot it was not known to the defendant. As the Minister says, in many cases the defendant would say: "Maybe I ought to have known the dog but I did not." It would be hard to prove that he did not but it would be possible to prove that he did. It would be some protection for the owner's dog. It may be that the owner of the dog had been warned by or on behalf of the defendant—and that is taken from the common law. The common law, as laid down by judicial decision, is that if a dog attacks you, the fact that the owner had been warned that the dog has done that before transfers the onus of proof on to the owner of the dog. That principle is carried over to this Bill. I think probably the Bill was better with paragraph (d) in it but if the Minister presses for the elimination of paragraph (d) for cattle, sheep and horses I would not argue against it.

Are we discussing amendment No. 3 or amendment No. 4?

I think we are discussing amendment No. 4. Did we not agree to amendment No. 3?

We are discussing amendment No. 3 to Section 3.

I thought we were discussing amendment No. 4.

Is amendment No. 3 agreed to?

The Deputy is referring to paragraph (d) of Section 4.

That is what the Minister proposes to delete.

Yes; that is all right.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 4:

Paragraph (d) deleted.

I am putting it to the Minister that, if the Bill applied exclusively to cattle, sheep and pigs, I would not demur at the deletion of the paragraph, although I think it is going to the very limit to which we ought to go. If the person who shot a dog wanted to defend himself against an action for damages he could plead that the owner of the dog, when the dog was shot, was not known to the defendant. The Minister has pointed out the difficulty of proving that the defendant knew who owned the dog. In many cases in rural Ireland, one could prove to the satisfaction of the court that if a neighbour was passing every day with his dog at his heel, the man living next door to him knew the appearance of his dog and knew whose dog it was. Secondly, he could plead that the owner of the dog had been warned before that his dog worried sheep, cattle and horses. I say that if this Bill applied to sheep, cattle or horses, I would not be prepared to dissent from the proposal to delete paragraph (d) but this now means that if a man is walking down the road with a dog which he may have spent years training and it chases a hen inside his neighbour's ditch, either in the field or in the yard, that neighbour can take out his gun and shoot the dog at this owner's feet and, by statute of this House, is declared entitled to shoot the dog at his owner's feet.

Nominally, this Bill exonerates the person who shoots the dog from an action for damages. Does anybody believe that if a man is encouraged to do that by statute of this House, the owner of the dog will step back on the road and say: "I will consult my solicitor"? He will do nothing of the kind. There will be a row. There will be bad feeling. God knows what will flow from such an incident. I do not believe there is a single Deputy here from rural Ireland who believes that any man ought to have the right to shoot his neighbour's dog because it chased a hen.

Similarly I believe there is not a single Deputy who knows and understands rural Ireland who does not agree that if a neighbour's dog chases sheep the owner of the sheep ought to be entitled to shoot the dog if there is no other means of preventing it from chasing the sheep. This amendment in regard to poultry has been put in quite casually by the Minister at the instance of a Senator in the other House. It has not been fully considered. The implications of it have not been studied. To most people who have not lived in rural Ireland it has no serious significance at all, but I suggest that those of us who do live in rural Ireland and know something about it realise that the introduction of the word "poultry" will turn the Bill into something which has in it many inherent dangers.

I should like to see the Bill unanimously passed, as it had been in its original form, but the inclusion of poultry introduces a flaw into the legislation which deprives it of the unanimous support that it enjoyed in its original form.

Unanimity is wonderful and it is certainly very desirable to achieve it, if possible, but sometimes when you get unanimity it is impossible to achieve the purposes you have in mind.

Does the Minister think that a man ought to be entitled to shoot a neighbour's dog because the dog chases a hen?

I shall tell the Deputy what I think as briefly as I can. I do not believe in making a mountain out of a molehill in regard to this Bill. I believe also that it is possible for Deputy Dillon and myself, by the application of a very simple process, to poison our land and kill half the dogs in the country.

But no rational man would do that because a dog chases a hen.

Rational or not, they do it.

Not when a dog chases a hen.

It does not matter— when the poison is laid the dogs are killed in dozens. Four or five neighbours could combine and poison their land from end to end.

They are entitled to do that with due notice.

All I am seeking to achieve is an effective instrument. This is not the first one of its kind; several legal instruments were devised to meet this problem and they have not been successful. Amendment of the law is taking place in other countries and more drastic powers are being sought and given in other countries to meet this problem.

Of a dog chasing a hen?

Dogs chasing animals of all kinds, including hens.

That is quite another story.

There is no use in our thinking that if power is given to a man to use a weapon in certain circumstances the result is more unjust than if he steals out and throws poison at the back of ditches and kills everything that picks it up. I am not one bit sensitive about this. I feel that in a case like this there is often far too much soft talk and, as a result of soft talk, you get an instrument that is completely ineffective which can be tossed about in court from month to month, and year to year. When that happens everybody says that the law does not give him any protection, that people can have dogs and allow them to roam the country, and when that continues dogs can get into packs and travel out through the country from towns and villages to wreak destruction all over the place. I certainly would not encourage anybody to destroy a dog in any sort of callous way but my pity and sympathy go entirely to those who have other interests and more important concerns.

These amendments were discussed in the Seanad by a number of Senators who had at least as much experience of this whole subject, and as much knowledge of rural Ireland and its problems as I, or indeed anyone in this House. As I said, I resisted them not because I did not see some purpose in them but because I wanted to find the best case that could be made for them. I came away from the Seanad with the belief that the Bill requires to be changed and that these amendments would go a certain distance to effect that change. For these reasons I have no hesitancy at all in recommending them to the House.

I want to make this perfectly clear. There is a net point joined in issue here. This Bill, with amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4, is not objectionable to us if it applies to cattle, sheep and horses. The sole reservation that I am concerned to make to-day is that I do not think it reasonable to give a man the right to shoot his neighbour's dog without notice because it chased a hen. I believe that is a mistake. It will make the enforcement of the Act more difficult and I apprehend it will give rise to bitter ill-feeling if it is availed of by anybody in rural Ireland to shoot a neighbour's dog because it chased a hen.

Question put and declared carried.
Amendments reported and agreed to.
Ordered: That Seanad Éireann be notified accordingly.