ISPCA, Dogs Trust, and DSPCA welcome the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Governments publication of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009. Whilst we are satisfied with the general thrust of the Bill, we have concerns as to how the legislation will be resourced and enforced and that adequate guidelines will be put in place to ensure the welfare of dogs is paramount. The following comments are a mix of perceived deficiencies in the Bill and points which we consider should be clarified.
The "commercial boarding kennel" is defined but an ‘animal shelter’ is specifically excluded. As there is no definition elsewhere in legislation it might be prudent to further define an ‘animal shelter’. We suggest that any definition be on the basis of a facility connected to or operating on behalf of an animal welfare organisation with charitable status.
Section 8(6)(b) entitles a local authority to refuse a licence if it finds the premises not to be suitable but the Act does not require premises to be inspected prior to licensing or subsequently. From an animal welfare perspective it is essential that annual inspections be carried out prior to the renewal of a licence. There should be an explicit inspection requirement such as:
"On receipt of an application by a person to a local authority to register under this Act in respect of any premises—
(a)if the premises are not registered under this Act, the authority shall arrange for the inspection of the premises by a veterinary practitioner and by an authorised officer; and
(b)in any other case, the authority shall arrange for the inspection of the premises by a veterinary practitioner or by an authorised officer (or by both).
Where an inspection is arranged under subsection xx of this section, the local authority shall arrange for the making of a report about the premises, the applicant and any other relevant matter; and the authority shall consider the report before determining whether to enter the premises on the register."
Clarification is sought on the action to be taken by authorised officers if on inspection of a premises prior to licensing, an incidence of animal cruelty is revealed. In such cases it is recommended that the relevant statutory body be informed.
Clarification is sought on the action to be taken by authorised officers if on subsequent inspection of a licensed premises, an incidence of animal cruelty is revealed that requires immediate intervention.
Section 8(7) entitles a local authority to refuse registration for specific offences. This appears to be a discretionary entitlement but should be mandatory as no-one convicted of animal cruelty should be registered.
Section 11(8) lists the possible contraventions that could lead to the removal of registration. It might be sensible to add as a new subsection 11(8)(d)(vi) to include ‘or any other matter that affects the welfare of the dogs’.
Section 14(4) states that the Minister may issue guidelines in relation to the operation of dog breeding establishments. We submit that it is essential for such guidelines to be in place prior to or on enactment of the Bill. A draft guidelines document is attached for consideration.
Section 15 stipulates that all dogs are to be microchipped but does not define whether or at what age puppies should be chipped. We suggest amending the first sub- section to read:
"(1) The operator of a dog breeding establishment shall cause a microchip to be implanted in each dog over the age of eight weeks kept or bred by him at that establishment or, if less than eight weeks old, before the dog leaves the premises."
Section 16 (1) (b) allows local authorities to appoint persons connected with animal welfare and with whom an arrangement has been entered into under section 15(3) of the Act of 1986 to be authorised for the purposes of the Act. Whilst this is to be welcomed, it is recommended that the warrant of such appointment should be furnished by the relevant local authority and not by the body concerned.
Section 17 (2) states that ‘when performing a function under this Act, an authorised person may, subject to any warrant under subsection (4), be accompanied by such number of other authorised persons or members of the Garda Siochana as he of she considers appropriate.’
In order to facilitate assistance by persons who are not authorised it is recommended that this section be amended to read.
17 (2) ‘when performing a function under this Act, an authorised person may, subject to any warrant under subsection (4), be accompanied by such members of the Garda Síochána or such other persons as may be necessary for the purpose of assisting the authorised person in the exercise of his or her functions under this section and the authorised person, member or any such other person may take with them into the premises such equipment as they consider to be necessary.
12. Section 18 establishes the procedures for improvement notices but fails to establish any offence for failing to comply with the notice. The implied threat may be that failure to comply will result in the issue of a closure notice but that may be draconian in the specific circumstances and consequently revoked on appeal. It would be more effective if there was an equivalent of Sub-section 19(2)(e) in Section 18 -
"A person who fails to comply with an improvement notice or a direction of the District Court under this section shall be guilty of an offence".
13. Section 19(2) (d) establishes the requirements for the rehousing of dogs on service of a closure order to the operator of a breeding establishment. The welfare of the dogs must be paramount in any such process.
Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
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