Amendment No. 16 is out of order.
The current position under the animals Act is that it is up to each local authority to provide a pound. In reality, this does not work because most local authorities do not have pounds. From a security point of view, they cannot enforce the provisions if 30 or 40 horses are rounded up and brought to a pound. Local authorities are strapped for cash as it stands and they cannot afford the manpower to properly man such facilities. If they are lucky, it may be possible to have an individual looking after a pound. If we had a national pound to which all local authorities contributed, we could provide proper security. This would mean that if ten or 15 people tried to reclaim horses, there would be someone there to deal with them. At present, if they turn up at a local area, the animals are just turned over to them because there is no one there to deal with them.
I did not intend a national pound to be a potential charge on the Exchequer. It should be paid for by all local authorities, as is their duty at present. Instead of providing a pound in each local authority area, a national pound should be established to which they would all contribute. This would cost local authorities less than it is costing them now. Any costs involved in removing animals, etc., could be recouped from the owner whenever he or she reclaims the animal. That was the reason for the national pound as well as to make it more difficult for people who allow their animals to stray on a regular basis.
I refer to the proposals for a national pound on Second Stage. I am not opposed to the idea, but pounds are operated by the Department of Justice and for that reason, it would not be advisable to write it into the Bill. I have also consulted local authorities and their view is that regional pounds may be preferable to a national one. Problems could also arise in relation to the distance people would have to travel to retrieve their animals. In a recent court case a judge awarded £1,000 to someone because they had to travel from Dublin to the west. I have no objection to the proposal, but it would not be advisable to write it into the legislation. It is likely that regional pounds will be established when this Bill is enacted.
Does the Minister know how many regional pounds there will be around the country and where they might be located?
There is a proposal for ten regional pounds, but that is subject to debate. There will be widespread discussions with all the local authorities and we will take their views into consideration when recommending the number of pounds and where they should be located.
I presume this will be done by ministerial regulation at some future date. Ten regional pounds is too many because we need to make it difficult, not easy for these people to reclaim their animals.