Animal Health & Welfare Bill
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, announced today that that the Animal Health & Welfare Bill has now been passed by both houses of the Oireachtas and will be sent to the President for signing in the coming days.
Welcoming the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas, Minister Coveney said that the bill represents a significant step forward in the area of animal health and welfare law. It is a major piece of legislation, containing seventy eight sections, updating and replacing a wide range of existing legislation, some which, such as the Protection of Animals Act 1911, are over a century old.
The Minister said that the Bill includes new provisions which will lead to greater protection of animals. It will allow the courts to bar individuals convicted of serious animal welfare offences from keeping animals. The Bill also strengthens laws on animal baiting and dog fighting so that for the first time those attending dogfights will be liable for prosecution before our courts. More generally, there are a range of specific requirements being placed upon animal keepers requiring that animals be fed, watered, given suitable housing and checked regularly. Minister Coveney acknowledged that the vast majority of responsible animal keepers are already complying with these requirements but the new provisions provide more effective tools to ensure that the tiny minority who do not care for their animals properly can be dealt with appropriately and quickly before animal welfare problems escalate. A provision to enable the microchipping of dogs has also been included in the Bill.
The Minister said that the risks of animal disease have grown significantly since the Diseases of Animals Act 1966. There is far greater movement of animals, animal products and people. Therefore Ireland needs to ensure it has robust biosecurity procedures and that the State can act not just when there is a disease outbreak but in a preventative way, focused on reducing risk. Nevertheless, the Animal Health & Welfare Bill also foresees strong action, where necessary, with fines and imprisonment being prescribed where disease is spread intentionally. Ireland has had significant success in protecting itself from animal disease and the Animal Health & Welfare Bill will build upon this success.
The Minister said “It should be remembered that this Bill will apply across the board, both to rural and urban areas and to all animals whether they be commercial, domestic or other. Existing lawful activity is not interfered with but the duty of care owed to animals is made much clearer. Therefore I have sought a balance between the differing demands being made upon me during the drafting of the Bill.”
Concluding, Minister Coveney, noting that he had accepted a large number of amendments to the Bill, thanked all parties in the Oireachtas for their very constructive participation in the debate on the Bill on its journey through both Houses. The Animal Health & Welfare Bill will be sent to the President shortly and following his signing will be published as an Act and commenced into law. Following this, there will be a number of specific tasks, including a public consultation on the issue of microchipping of dogs.
Date Released: 22 May 2013