Irish breeders call for better regulation
Group calls for more powers for vets in ‘farming’ fight
Breeders in Northern Ireland last week called for proper regulation of their industry and also called for the Department of Agriculture to ban people convicted of cruelty from keeping animals.
Canine Breeders of Ireland, which represents around 600 breeders, said that government vets should be made responsible for animal welfare and given powers to deal with unscrupulous puppy farms.
Giving evidence to the agriculture committee, the group said that the term puppy farm was a derogatory term which the public associated with unregulated breeders who treated dogs cruelly. The group continued that its members were proud of the puppies they produced and that their premises were open to inspection by councils.
Committee members were invited to inspect a breeding establishment in County Fermanagh where pups are reared for the market in Britain.
Owner David Hamilton said it was time that the government recognised the financial contribution made by the dog breeding industry to the local economy.
‘This is a licensed breeding establishment and I think people need to understand that a puppy farm is somewhere where animals are treated badly, where there are welfare issues and where they are exploited.
‘That is certainly not the case here, and I'd say that is not the case in the vast majority of licensed breeding establishments.’
The breeders group said the introduction of new animal welfare legislation provided an opportunity to place the responsibility for dog welfare with Department of Agriculture vets.
The committee asked whether breeders were contributing to welfare problems by producing so many pups and thereby adding to the number of strays councils have to deal with.More than a third of all the UK's stray dogs are in Northern Ireland, where 7,400 animals were recovered by wardens last year.
The breeders group said pups produced by its members were high-value animals which were mostly exported to Britain and that few, if any, end up in dog shelters.
The puppy farming call comes came only a few days after plans for a ten-fold increase in the annual dog licence in Ireland were ‘reversed’ following opposition from dog owners.
Department of Agriculture officials announced plans for a £50 a year licence while briefing the assembly's agriculture committee. The minister responsible for the new dog control legislation, Michelle Gildernew, said she had listened to what people had to say.
She now plans to introduce a £12.50 licence with concessiions for dog owners over 65 years of age and people on means tested benefits. The current fee of £5 would apply to people on low incomes.
Owners who have their dogs neutered would also be entitled to the reduced fee of £5 a year. The licences would be renewable on an annual basis are not currently required for: a puppy, if it is kept by the person who owns or keeps the bitch that gave it birth; a guide dog; a dog for sale in a licensed pet shop; a dog kept by a person who holds a block licence under the 1983 Order; or a police dog.
There was also suggeston of compulsory microchipping.
Tom Elliott of the assembly's agriculture committee welcomed what he called a ‘climb down by the minister’.
The new dogs order was published on the Dept of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) on November 20, and gives members of the public until February 2010 to make their views know, suggesting that no ‘backing down’ has occured as yet.
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