My Department continues to prioritise equine traceability and equine welfare. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/262, which came into effect on 1 January 2016, lays down the rules governing the identification of equidae. This legislation was transposed into national legislation in Ireland via the European Union (Identification of Equidae) Regulations (S.I. No 62 of 2016)(as amended).
Proper identification is comprised of four elements, all of which must be in place within twelve months of the date of birth of the animal. These comprise:
- a single lifetime identification document (passport) containing a unique lifetime identification number (UELN) in respect of the animal, issued by an approved Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO);
- all equines issued with a passport since 1st July 2009 must have a corresponding microchip inserted, by a practicing veterinary surgeon, the unique number of which is recorded on the corresponding passport to ensure an unequivocal link between the animal and the identification document;
- a database recording of specific identification data in the database of the PIO that issued the passport; and
- a database entry in the central equine database of the country where the issuing PIO is approved.
In addition, persons in charge of any premises in which equines are kept are required to register their premises with my Department and to maintain records to assist the Department in tracing horses, should a disease outbreak occur. Furthermore, as part of the identification process for equines resident in Ireland, an owner/keeper who applies to have their horse identified is requested to provide the premises registration number of the holding where the animal will be normally resident to the issuing PIO.
The Equidae (Transfer of Ownership) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No 201 of 2016) governs the transfer of ownership of equine animals and requires that transfer of ownership details be notified to the relevant PIO and the central database within 30 days of date of transfer.
My Department continues to dedicate a substantial level of resources and funding to animal welfare. In December 2019, the largest ever allocation of funding from my Department of €2.906m to 106 animal welfare organisations was announced. A number of other organisations undertake work with equines. I will make an announcement of funding for 2020 shortly.
The Programme for Government also contains commitments to provide additional urban horse welfare programmes. My Department continues to take a proactive approach in tackling challenges by developing facilities for urban and Traveller horse populations and in educating young people among these communities in the care and welfare of horses. This work is carried out in close collaboration with the local authorities, and will be reflected in the new Animal Welfare Strategy which I will launch shortly.
My Department continues to support a number of urban horse projects nationwide, bringing education on all aspects of equine welfare to disadvantaged areas. As an example, the DSPCA with financial assistance from my Department, continues to facilitate castration and ID clinics and education programmes in an effort to address the problem of over-breeding which can add to welfare issues.
The Control of Horses Act, 1996 is currently under review within my Department and plans for replacement legislation are well advanced. My Department will be further engaging on this with stakeholders at an early date. Under the Act, local authorities may take a range of actions in relation to equines including prohibiting horses in certain areas, the issuing of licences, the seizure of horses in contravention of the Act. These powers can be used in respect of straying horses which includes horses put on land without the owner’s permission, including public land. The local authorities may also prosecute offenders under the Control of Horses Act. While still at an unacceptable level, the overall numbers of equines seized have been falling year-on-year from a high of approximately 5,000 in 2014 to less than 900 in 2019.
My Department continues to support other agencies and local authorities in the enforcement of horse welfare related matters.
The Deputy may be aware that my Department operates a confidential animal welfare helpline through which members of the public can report incidents of animal cruelty or neglect for investigation. If the Deputy wishes to pass on details of any cases of alleged neglect or cruelty that she is aware of, they will be fully investigated by my Department and appropriate actions, up to and including prosecution, may be taken.
The dedicated e-mail address and Helpline in place for reporting suspected cases of animal welfare are:
Helpline Phone No. Call Save - 0761 064408, phone - 01 607 2379 and the email address -firstname.lastname@example.org.