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Minister Coveney Signs Commencement Order for Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine announced today that he has signed the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 (Commencement) Order 2014 which brings into operation the core elements of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.

Making this announcement, Minister Coveney said “The Animal Health and Welfare Act is an important piece of legislation, bringing together and modernising many existing laws in the area of animal health and welfare and I am delighted to bring it into effect. Given that the Protection of Animals Act dates from 1911 and the Diseases of Animals Act dates from 1966, there is an obvious need to make our animal health and welfare law fit for purpose in the 21st Century. This was a major priority for me and I am very pleased that this Act is now in place’’.

Minister Coveney said that the Act brings the areas of both animal health and welfare together under one legislative framework for the first time. In this context, he went on to say “While in the past animal welfare and animal health may have been seen as separate issues, the Act recognises that they are closely related and in many cases inter-dependent and that synergy can be gained by bringing them together under one legislative roof. Where either health or welfare breaks down, it often has consequences for the other”

The Minister said that the Act, by placing the concepts of prevention, risk assessment and biosecurity at the heart of our legislation relating to animal health and welfare, puts Ireland to the fore of best international practice. Minister Coveney noted that the Act strengthens the already existing protections for animals in Irish Law. For the first time judges will be granted specific powers to prevent persons convicted of cruelty to, or failing to protect the welfare of animals from owning or working with animals. In the case of dog fights, the range of evidence which courts can consider has been expanded to include attendance at a dog fight, which should make conviction easier.

Implementing Secondary Legislation

The Minister also announced that, following the signing the commencement Order, he has also brought forward sixteen statutory instruments, making a series of regulations which set down detailed implementing provisions relating to several Parts of the Act. These include:-

  • The Animal Health and Welfare (Operations and Procedures) Regulations 2014 and the Animal Health and Welfare (Section 17) Regulations 2014, which set down conditions under which minor, routine operations undertaken as part of the normal husbandry and management of an animal may be carried out as well as those procedures which can be undertaken without anaesthetic. The Minister said “I am referring procedures under these Regulations to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Animal Health and Welfare to obtain up to date expert advice on setting appropriate boundaries and to ensure international research and best practice is properly taken into account”.
  • The Prohibition on Tail Docking and Dew Claws (Dogs) Regulations 2014 which will regulate the limited circumstances under which a dog may have its tail docked or dew claws removed. Under the Act, tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes is being banned outright, a move that will cover most dogs in the country. The Prohibition on Tail Docking and Dew Claws (Dogs) Regulations 2014 will allow tail docking and dew claw removal in very limited cases and will be restricted by age, breed and function of the dog. In cases where the removal of tails or dew claws is justified on the grounds of breed and activity the procedure may only be carried out by a  veterinary practitioner or veterinary nurse.  This closely matches the approach in Northern Ireland. With regard to these regulations the Minister said “I will refer this issue to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Animal Health and Welfare when new scientific evidence becomes available”.

 

Service Agreements

Minister Coveney said that one of innovations in the Act is that it allows his Department to enter into Service Agreements that will allow other bodies to act as Authorised Officers for the purposes of the Act in certain circumstances. Agreements are being drawn up with groups such as the ISPCA and the Turf Club which will allow officers of these organisations greater ability to perform their current functions.. However, Department of Agriculture of Agriculture, Food and The Marine officers will continue to carry out on farm inspections. The Minister said “I welcome this development. I intend to make Service Agreements with specific groups who have a proven track record of professionalism so as to permit them greater powers to carry out their existing work”. Prosecution under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 will remain a matter for the state bodies such as Department of Agriculture Food and The Marine, Local Authorities and An Garda Siochana.

Codes of Practice

The Minister also said that, as provided for under Section 25 of the Act, he intends to publish a number of Codes of Practice designed to provide practical guidance relating to various parts of the Act. These codes will play an important role serving as guides to good welfare for those working with animals and reflecting best practice internationally. In this context, he announced his Department was now finalising a draft Code of Practice on mink farming and this is available for public consultation on the Department’s website.

Animal Welfare Conference

The Minister also announced that he would hold a conference on the issue of animal welfare in Dublin Castle on May 16th. “This is a major new step in animal welfare legislation in Ireland and I think it will be important to introduce and explain what is happening to many of those involved.” The conference will deal with a number of related topics that will be of interest as well as the new regime under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013.

Conclusion

Minister Coveney noted that the Act will be administered by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, local authorities and An Garda Siochana working collaboratively to ensure that the legislation is effectively implemented.

Concluding, the Minister said “In preparing and drafting the Act and the implementing regulations, I have always been aware of the need to balance the requirements of the commercial agri-food sector with the need to protect the health and welfare of animals. In the first instance, it is important for Ireland, as a developed civilised society in the 21st century to ensure that it fully recognises and respects the importance of animals as sentient beings and this Act does this.

The Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 will also be a vital link underpinning the ongoing success of Ireland’s agri-food sector. Animal health is vital for this success because, in the absence of robust controls in this area, the agri-food sector would not be able to gain or retain export markets across the world. It is equally true that welfare standards are of increasing importance in making an impact in high value markets. The onus is on Ireland to achieve these standards, without which we would fall behind our competitors.”

 

 

Notes for the Editor

Statutory Instruments

Following the signing into law of the Animal Health and Welfare Act the Minister has also brought forward sixteen statutory instruments making a series of regulations which form the first and biggest step in bringing all legislation in this area under the Act.

These include:-

The Animal Health and Welfare (Operations and Procedures) Regulations 2014 and the Animal Health and Welfare (Section 17) Regulations 2014 set down conditions under which minor, routine operations undertaken as part of the normal husbandry and management of an animal may be carried out. Many current arrangements of procedures on animal husbandry will continue under these regulations.

The Prohibition on Tail Docking and Dew Claws (Dogs) Regulations 2014 will regulate the limited circumstances under which a dog may have its tail docked or dew claws removed. Under the Act, tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes is being banned outright, a move that will cover most dogs in the country. Tail docking and dew claw removal will be permitted in very limited cases, basically for specific hunting breeds (pointer/retrievers, spaniels and terriers) where there is evidence that the individual dog will be used for that specific purpose. Where tail docking and dew claw removal is to be allowed it will only be permissible for a veterinarian or veterinary nurse to do so. Further research is ongoing in this area and the Minister will take account of scientific recommendations going forward.

The Control On Places Where Horses Are Kept Regulations 2014 and the Control On Places Where Poultry Are Kept Regulations 2014 continue the current registration requirements for such premises and so will play a general role in maintaining Ireland’s high animal health status.

In addition there are a number of SIs focused on specific diseases such as African Swine Fever and African Horse Sickness, including some that have become more significant recently.

The Bovine Viral Diarrhea Regulations will update the existing arrangements, with some modifications including the role of the laboratory services and the introduction of a National Reference Laboratory for BVD purposes. A BVD Implementation Group has also been recognised legislatively for the first time.

The Animal Welfare (Electro-immobilisation) Regulations 2014 continues a ban on the use of electric immobilisation technology which has been in operation for some years. Similarly, the Animal Health and Welfare (Restriction on Horned Cattle) Regulations 2014 continues a ban on the public sale of horned cattle. This ban is on health and safety grounds. .

The Pet Passport Regulations 2014 contain provisions on the movement of certain pet animals (dogs, cats, ferrets), both within the EU and from third countries, primarily to guard against the threat of rabies. These draw on the existing controls but bring them under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 and so create a more coherent and uniform regime for animal health and welfare.   

 

New Features

  • Increased penalties – summary conviction up to € 5,000 and on indictment € 250,0000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years
  • Fixed penalty payments for lesser offences
    • Clear responsibilities on owners of animals to provide for the 5 freedoms - Freedom
      • from hunger and thirst,         
      • discomfort,
      • pain, injury and disease, 
      • to exhibit natural behaviour,
      • from fear and distress
  • Greater power to intervene in advance of potential welfare situations rather than waiting for problems to occur
  • Clarity on abandonment of animals
  • Greater powers in relation to dog fighting, including attendance being an offense 
  • Greater powers to judiciary including power to disqualify people from owning or working with animals
  • General ban on the docking of dogs tails and the removal of dew claws – certain restricted exceptions
  • Introduction of regulation  to make micro-chipping of dogs compulsory by 2016
  • Extension of authorised officer powers to NGO welfare organisations for the first time, with a focus on urban areas
  • Animal Welfare Codes of Practice being developed – draft code in respect of fur farming available for consultation
  • Similar authorised officer powers to officers of the Turf Club
  • Clarity in relation to the sale of animals to minors
  • Department Animal Welfare Helpline Lo-call Helpline provided
    • 1850 211 990 and
    • Dedicated email address AnimalWelfare@agriculture.gov.ie to report instances where animal welfare may be compromised.
    • All calls received are treated in confidence and are followed up by authorised officers
  • Close collaboration with Gardai
  • Consolidating and simplifying legislation – replacing 1911 and 1966 Acts
  • New rules on the transfer of ownership of horses and updated rules on premises registration
  • Increased funding to € 1.8m to animal welfare organisation in 2013 – 40% increase in 3 years

Added 07.03.14

Mark Beazley, Dogs Trust with 'Bill', Minister Simon Coveney with 'Simon' and Katrina Bentley, Dogs Trust.

 

Added 07.03.14

Vivienne Duggan, Veterinary Ireland with Minister Simon Coveney with 'Simon'

View Press Release as a PDF:  DAFMPR 30/2014 (pdf 721Kb) 

 

Date Released: 07 March 2014