Dog Breeding

Speech by Dan Neville TD on Dog Breeding Establishments Bill – Dail Eireann on 2nd July 2010

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009. When the Bill was introduced I understood that its purpose was to regulate puppy farms, which I would completely support because I have seen on television the abuse that animals in some of these establishments suffer. For quite some time my party has pushed for stronger rules on puppy farms. However, the Bill before the House goes far beyond the issue of puppy farms to impose additional costs and duplicate inspection structures on rural industries such as greyhound and hunting dog breeding.

These are important activities in my constituency. Greyhound breeding has been popular in County Limerick for hundreds of years. People of the area love their sport and sometimes treat their dogs better than they would treat themselves. Rather than introduce something that inhibits the development of this industry, we want supportive policies that create jobs and opportunities.

Fox hunting is also popular in County Limerick. Several packs are based in the county, the most famous of which is the Black and Tans pack in Emly. The soldiers known as the black and tans got their name from this pack. The name of the pack in turn comes from the black and tan colour of foxhounds. The County Limerick Foxhounds pack is based two miles from where I live. As a child I was entertained when the horses and hounds walked up the road on which I grew up. We also helped to rear the pack’s pups, which were farmed out to various families. There was a lot of angst among children in the area when dogs reached maturity and had to be returned to Clonshire. We had great days at the puppy shows, when all the new pups were judged.

Prizes were given, children were given lemonade – there was no cola at that time – sweets, buns and God knows what else. It was part of our life. We also have foxhunting, scarteens and many other packs.

The Fine Gael Party proposed a number of amendments in the Seanad to exclude these vital industries and instead focus primarily on puppy farms. While the Minister indicated he will partially reconsider the issue, the Bill before us is unchanged from the legislation passed in the Seanad. Fianna Fáil Party backbench Deputies have correctly expressed their opposition to the proposals, which are an excuse for the Green Party to impose its narrow ideological agenda on rural Ireland under the guise of solving other, real problems. There is no reference to dog breeding legislation or more regulation on industries such as greyhound racing in the revised programme for Government. Backbench Government Deputies will argue that they were unaware that the promised legislation on puppy farms included the areas to which I have referred.

While the Fine Gael Party is happy to engage with the Government and other stakeholders to address the issue of puppy farms, it will not do so while the Green Party is threatening to undermine rural industries which provide real jobs and income. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is a more appropriate public body to have responsibility for animal welfare, with operational responsibility devolved to other bodies.

Under the proposal announced by the Minister, the regulation on greyhound control will be suspended to allow the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Brendan Smith, to examine this area and produce proposals on the 1958 law. If the Green Party is not satisfied with the Minister’s proposals, it can choose not to accept them because the decision will be made at Cabinet. If the Minister has not introduced an agreed regulation by 1 January next, the current proposals will be signed. If the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has problems with the proposals, he can be overruled without reference to the House and Deputies will not be given an opportunity to express a view on the changes taking place. If the Green Party wants to ensure the proposals before us are introduced, it need only refuse to approve any proposal made by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The proposed change merely postpones the evil day. Why not trust the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to do what is right in the area of animal welfare given the Department’s long and illustrious experience, if that is the correct term, in dealing with the welfare of all animals under many regulations and Acts? The Department can be trusted to regulate the welfare of animals.

Hunt clubs are not commercial bodies and hunting beagles are not bred for sale or racing but to replace hounds in the pack. The greyhound industry is highly regulated and tightly controlled by the l958 Act. Why interfere with a system that works?

The proposed powers to access premises are draconian and raise a question as to whether they undermine property rights under the Constitution. The Minister has gone over the top on puppy farms by applying its provisions to hunting beagles and greyhounds