Thursday, 8 July 2010
Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 [Seanad]: Committee and Remaining Stages
I draw Members' attention to a printing error in the list of amendments. In amendment No. 50, the text at the end of the amendment beginning with the words "be accompanied by" should be further indented as it only applies to paragraph (b) of the inserted subsection (2).
Section 1(3) states: "This Act shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or provisions." This is something the Minister did not deal with in his speech on Second Stage. Perhaps he will clarify that he missed a paragraph of his speech on that occasion dealing with a commencement order in respect of this legislation on 1 January 2011. What he is saying effectively is that, notwithstanding what is agreed or disagreed in the House, the Act will come into operation after such time as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will have an opportunity to amend the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 in the autumn. Will the Minister clarify if this means he can implement regulations on 1 January 2011, irrespective of what is agreed with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or new animal welfare regulations or legislation brought forward by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the autumn, or can he supersede those powers by introducing his own regulations? Clarity is required on that issue.
What is the current state of negotiations between the Minister's Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, if there are such negotiations, regarding pending legislation? Is there a timeframe? Are there heads of a Bill for amending legislation? What is the status of the proposed amendment to the 1958 Act? There has not been enough clarity on that.
I will be adopting the same consensual approach as I have adopted heretofore. I will engage not just with the stakeholders, but also, in this instance, with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. He intends to amend the 1958 Act accordingly. This is being done because it is recognised now that the main purpose of the 1958 Act is to regulate the greyhound industry. It has been successful in doing that but its primary focus is not welfare and this Bill, after all, is a welfare piece of legislation. We want to ensure there is agreement among the people on the greyhound board that this is necessary. They are anxious to co-operate fully with us and I acknowledged this in my summing up on Second Stage. The Irish Coursing Club, in particular, has been most constructive in its proposals. I want to see this done. The Deputy asked about a time line. I would hope we can do this as quickly as possible in the autumn and, therefore, I will be in a position then, at the start of 2011, to bring forward a commencement order.
There is a level of ambiguity which Members thought was resolved last Friday when the Minister said it was proposed that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would amend the 1958 Greyhound Industry Act to legislate for welfare provisions for members of the Irish Greyhound Board. Once amended, the welfare of the IGB registered greyhounds will be addressed through the amended 1958 Act and would then replace for IGB registered greyhounds, breeders and trainers only, the provisions of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009.
I am not too sure where the Minister is going and whether he is creating a legislative difficulty. He does not cite the 1958 Act in this Bill. By his reference of last week he is stating that this will be dealt with through separate legislation on the greyhound industry. What is the Minister's position? More important, where is he in a legislative sense? He seems to have a foot in both pieces of legislation but he is not stating where it stands in either.
I do not understand the Deputy's point. I think I was quite explicit in my contribution on Friday when I said, in so far as greyhounds are concerned, the welfare provisions will be inserted into the 1958 Act. This is very clear. I am not citing - why would I cite - the 1958 Act in this legislation when it is a separate piece of legislation-----
-----and that is the point. We will ensure the welfare of greyhounds is looked after under the amended 1958 Act. However, the people in Bord na gCon have agreed that in so far as inspections are concerned, we will have people from the local authorities conducting them. As was stated by a previous speaker, we are not going to have self-regulation as such. We have to have objective criteria. Most people recognise that this has to be part of the legislation. I wish to be very clear. As I said earlier, Deputy Hogan's understanding is correct. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will undertake to make those amendments as quickly as possible. For everybody's sake, and for the welfare of animals, it is important that we proceed as quickly as possible.
I reiterate a point made in my contributions that there are some differences, one of which is that Bord na gCon has a tattooing system, which was alluded to by Deputy Sherlock and which has been in place for quite some time. I regard microchipping as being far more effective. I have had discussions with experts. I refer Deputies to the Australian example and the fact that the Australian greyhound board and the UK greyhound board all use microchipping at this stage. There is no difference in the dogs' performance and it presents no difficulties. It is cheaper, more efficient and I hope we can have ongoing discussions on this issue. This seems to be the way to go, in my view, but I am not laying down any markers as I have left that open for the Bord na gCon people to consider. I want to consult widely. This is not a case of imposing anything but rather it is about consulting and seeing what is best for the industry and what is best for the welfare of animals.
I know he has had various meetings in recent times but he certainly caused a lot of angst to his Government backbenchers by his lack of interest in all sorts of dialogue until the gun was put to his head, effectively, in the last week or two. All of us are interested in the animal welfare issues. We are asking the House to agree in this section, without any reference to the details of what will come forward in the 1958 amended greyhound Act. We do not know what has happened in the smoke-filled rooms as to the details of what the Minister has in mind to be proposed in the autumn by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We do not know whether the Minister, Deputy Gormley, agrees or disagrees with any proposals being made, if there are any, yet he is asking the House to finish dealing with this Bill without that detail.
I do not know what has been going on in rooms around the House over the past couple of weeks and perhaps the Minister might tell the House what he has agreed but I am certainly not impressed by the fact that he knows exactly what he wants to do. He has had a number of meetings with various stakeholders. I presume he has had a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We do not have any piece of paper before us today nor any note from the Minister to be read to the House about what agreement he has reached in respect of animal welfare regulations that would be introduced to amend the 1958 Act and yet he expects us to buy a pig in a poke. That is our problem.
In my view, in section 1, the Minister is waving the big stick over the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with regard to the amending of the 1958 greyhound Act. He is asking him to bring in animal welfare regulations and put them on a statutory basis and at the same time he is saying that he gives himself powers for a commencement order on animal welfare to be brought in on 1 January 2011 in the event that he does not reach agreement with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We want this to be quite explicit. This is legislation and there are further amendments from Deputy Ciarán Lynch and myself on section 2 which will reflect this. We want to see an exemption, which is what the Minister promised the Fianna Fáil backbenchers. He should not have any difficulty about exempting his own role in animal welfare issues, in respect of this Bill, if he trusts the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to bring in an amendment to the 1958 greyhound Act. That is my point and I ask the Minister to take it on board.
We are being asked to pass legislation on the basis of a leap of faith. In essence, a greyhound owner looking at the legislation who had not been in touch with the ICC or Bord na gCon in the past number of weeks would not be aware of what negotiations had taken place. Therefore, there is still a lack of clarity as to the exact nature of the proposals. If Members are being asked to pass this legislation, I would like to know more about the substantive nature of those negotiations, the qualitative and quantitative outcomes of those deliberations, and if we are to have regard and to have trust in the Minister or the Government of the day to deliver the right kind of amendments to the 1958 Act.
I welcome the Minister's new-found regard for the Irish Coursing Club in that in a contribution of 40 minutes last Friday he failed to mention the club's name. I welcome his engagement now as this is a step forward. What does the Minister want the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to do with the 1958 Act?
What amendments does he see as acceptable? We must see the colour of the Minister's money. I would love to believe the Minister but I simply cannot. I have seen what he has said in this House on other issues. He said he would protect the frontline but he is not doing so in respect of other issues. I want to see this in black and white. That is not here today. What does the Minister want the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to do? What is acceptable to the Minister as the Green Party Minister pushing this agenda?
I concur with previous speakers. We are being asked to support or oppose something that is ambiguous to say the least. We do not know what it will contain or what influence the Department will have on the welfare side of the 1958 Act. This matter needs more clarity. Sinn Féin wants to be crystal clear on the detail of this.
I will simplify the problem. From the outset, the difficulty was the inclusion of the greyhound industry in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill because another Act covers the greyhound industry. That is a recognised difficulty with the Bill. Last week the Minister indicated he would try to tidy up this but no material change has been made to the Bill. If greyhounds were included in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill last week and there has been no material change, the greyhound industry will be included in the Bill next week. However, last week the Minister stated, "As part of this proposal, until such time as the provisions listed above are incorporated into the 1958 Act [ the greyhound act] the regulation of dog breeding establishments containing greyhounds will continue under my Department as provided for in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009. Will we reintroduce the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill on 2 January after the Minister has made amendments to extrapolate this legislation? This is the sort of nonsense brought before us by the Minister.
In February 2009 I asked the Minister if the proposed dog breeding establishments regulations would be incorporated or superseded by the soon-to-be published animal welfare Bill. The essence of the response was that the process included discussions with various interest groups and that it was the intention of the Minister to introduce amending legislation on dog breeding establishments. The Minister said his proposals in this regard would be published as soon as possible and would compliment measures being prepared by his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the area of animal welfare and health.
Regarding the comment of Deputy Ciarán Lynch, will the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill continue to have an animal welfare remit or will this be removed or superseded by the animal welfare Bill? What agreements have the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food come to? I asked if the Minister had been in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but he did not answer.
Deputies opposite need to concentrate on one item of legislation at a time. Commentators have also used confusing terms. Reference has been made to the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill and the animal welfare Bill, which has yet to come before this House. The animal welfare Bill is a separate item of legislation under the remit of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is substantial legislation, overhauling legislation that is more than 100 years old. I hope the Bill will be before the House in the autumn. It has nothing to do with what we are discussing today. Deputies should be crystal clear on that point.
Let us be very clear, the animal welfare Bill concerns animal welfare provisions outside the scope of this legislation. This Bill deals with the dog breeding establishments. There was confusion last week in the Seanad where Fine Gael voted against all of the provisions of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, including the essential provision providing hunting licenses for those affected by the confusion about the firearms certificate.
I remind the Labour Party Deputies that in the Seanad, Labour Senators voted with the Fine Gael Party on a number of amendments. This did not make any sense. They wanted to extend the breeding age.
I have answered every question. Deputies suggested I said I would make an exemption but I never said that. I was quite explicit that I could not make exemptions for any breed of dog.
Fine Gael is operating hand in glove with RISE!, which is regrettable. Let us deal with the legislation before us, which is good legislation that will allay the concerns of many people. Fine Gael has stoked up this matter and continues to do so.
The Minister sought to introduce legislation through the backdoor system to give him powers on all sorts of other issues, including greyhounds, hunt clubs and beagles. This is extraneous material that no one called for except the Minister. They were properly regulated by the self-regulation system.
The Minister should answer the question he was asked. What deal has he done with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on animal welfare that allows the Minister to remove from this legislation any reference to a commencement order on 1 January 2011 on animal welfare under this legislation?
We are trying to clear the way in respect of the body of animal welfare legislation. I am sure the Minister agrees with our line of questioning in that we are merely seeking clarification. We seek clarification on the negotiations with the ICC and Bord na gCon regarding the role of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food vis-À-vis the amended 1958 legislation. The second point concerns how specifically that Act will be amended.
The animal welfare Bill is under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. On no fewer than ten occasions, the Labour Party has asked the Taoiseach when that legislation will be published. We do not have a Bill before us even though we are told it will be published in the autumn. If this is on the C list of the Government's legislative programme, where is the balance of priorities and how does the Minister envisage its implementation? Will legislation enacted now be superseded by that legislation or is it separate? It is very confusing. I am relatively new to this game but I am trying to speak with common sense. With respect to the Minister, all I seek from him are some clear unambiguous answers to which Members are entitled.
The job of Members on the Labour Party, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin benches this afternoon is to test the robustness of this legislation. It is to keep the Minister focused on the legislation on hand, despite his attempts to go off on a tangent into other areas.
Ultimately, Dáil Éireann has two hours in which to discuss all stages of this Bill. Members have very little time for scrutiny as a result of the decision by the Green Party and Fianna Fáil to guillotine the legislation. This Bill spent a great deal of time in the Seanad without being much amended by the Minister. However, he has introduced a whole raft of amendments this evening to which he has given little time.
Consequently, I call on the Minister to focus his comments and contributions to the content and context of his amendments and to what Members on this side of the House are saying. He should move away from the divisive approach he has taken on this legislation since he inherited it from previous Ministers. This comes down to producing simple legislation and the Minister has not answered the query I raised initially. Where stands the greyhound industry on 2 January, if the conditions to which the Minister referred last Friday are implemented? Does the greyhound industry still remain within the remit of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 and if not, because it is not specified in the Bill, by what means will it be incorporated into the 1958 Act? These measures will result in an outcome that no one wants, which is that the Irish greyhound industry will be governed by two legislative items, namely, the amended 1958 Act and the Bill before Members today.
I again ask the Minister to be clear on what he seeks. He should indicate to Members what he intends to do with the greyhound industry. I refer to his remarks to the effect that he considers microchipping to be better than tattooing. Were the greyhound industry to be taken out of this, as the Minister has stated it will be, he would not have a view on the greyhound industry. Consequently, he should inform Members what would be acceptable to him in respect of the greyhound industry. What material differences will he agree to have incorporated into the 1958 Act?
He has stated that certain breeds of dogs were always supposed to be separate from this legislation. That is not so. It simply is not the case and anyone-----
The other point Deputy Hogan was trying to make was that somehow, I did not consult. However, all these people were part of the task force. There was total consultation and I have met representatives of the Irish Greyhound Board a number of times.
This is simply complete nonsense.
This legislation is an animal welfare measure. As agreed, I am giving the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food an opportunity to amend the 1958 Act-----
-----which will allow him to include animal welfare provisions in that legislation. As to whether I am able to state on the floor of this House what exactly will be included in that legislation, I cannot.
This is ridiculous. We are here to discuss this legislation but Members now wish me to begin to discuss legislation that has not even been published yet.
That is absolutely ridiculous. Let us have calmness and some sanity and let us talk about the legislation before us. When the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food publishes his legislation, we can talk about it in detail. I imagine-----
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, before section 2, to insert the following new section:
2.—This Act does not apply to any matter regulated by the Greyhound Industry Acts 1958 and 1993.".
The commentary and contributions of the past 15 to 20 minutes constitutes the opening chapter on why I tabled this amendment. The amendment is self-explanatory. Is highly disingenuous for the Minister to state this stuff is being introduced by Members on this side of the House. The reason this debate is taking place is because last Friday, during the Second Stage debate, the Minister was at pains to talk about the greyhound industry, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and amendments to the 1958 Act. The interpretation that arose from that debate was that the Minister had made a wise decision, having got himself into a bundle of knots in recent months on what should have been a simple Bill. In fact, this legislation should simply have coasted under the radar through the House to deal with the scandal of puppy farming in Ireland. However, in his wisdom, the Minister decided to broaden the scope of the Bill. Moreover, he sent signals to the greyhound industry and to the Hunting Association of Ireland. I refer to a letter he sent to Deputy Dermot Ahern in 2008.
Perhaps the Minister can correct me, because his signature appears at the end of this letter. He stated:
Given that the primary objective of the proposed regulations is to regulate commercial dog breeding, and in view of the stricter standards which apply to the members of the Hunting Association of Ireland, it is my intention that groups affiliated to the HAI be granted an exemption from the requirements of the regulations.
I note that Deputy Mattie McGrath is sitting behind the Minister. He put it more eloquently than me when he construed the Minister's words to mean that if one was not part of the problem, one should not be part of the solution.
Consequently, my amendment proposes to get the Minister out of the quagmire he has created for himself by taking legislation that had cross-party unanimous support in this House to deal with the issue of puppy farming. It proposes to leave issues relating to the greyhound industry and greyhound breeding within the remit of the 1958 Act. At this late stage, I hope the Minister will accept this amendment and will support this proposal. This amendment constitutes an effort by the Opposition to assist this Bill by making it more robust. It does not create a scenario whereby the greyhound industry will be regulated under two Acts and this clarifies this debate, in order that Members can move forward and deal with the more substantive issues, which are the intent of this Bill, namely, those pertaining to puppy farming.
The amendment tabled by Deputy Ciarán Lynch is similar to amendments Nos. 16 and 17 that I tabled in a different section. I agree with the sentiments expressed by my colleague, Deputy Ciarán Lynch, about the misinformation being given by the Minister, Deputy Gormley, to try to convey the impression that he did not wish to do anything except the honourable thing in respect of animal welfare. The Minister introduced a form of misinformation to various Deputies, including a Cabinet Minister, which is remarkable, as far back as 2008. Deputy Lynch correctly referred to that. The Minister brought the greyhound industry, the Hunting Association of Ireland and their affiliated clubs into the equation in terms of the Bill. He generated the controversy and he has spent the past couple of weeks trying to extricate himself from it-----
It is clear that the Minister is not disagreeing with me. In these amendments we seek to have the greyhound industry removed completely from the Bill, which is what, in effect, the Minister has postponed until 1 January 2011 by giving himself an enabling provision to go ahead with his own animal welfare regulations for all dogs, including greyhounds, if he does not reach agreement on the amendment of the 1958 Greyhound Industry Act with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the autumn. In effect, that is what the Minister is doing.
We seek to give certainty to the greyhound industry that we will remove all references to animal welfare from the Dog Breeding Establishments legislation and let the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food deal with it as stand-alone legislation in the autumn. Fianna Fáil backbenchers believe they had an agreement with the Minister and the Taoiseach to that effect, namely, that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would deal with animal welfare issues surrounding the greyhound industry, but that is not the case. Under the Bill the Minister would still be able to introduce his own regulations through a commencement order in 2011 if he does not agree with the proposals of the Minister, Deputy Smith, in the autumn.
Politically speaking, the Minister is waving a big stick over the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. He is saying that if the Minister, Deputy Smith, does not agree with him he will do his own thing on 1 January 2011. The Minister has given himself the necessary power and provisions in the Bill to do exactly that on 1 January without reference to the Dáil. He does not have to come back to the Dáil. He is giving himself substantial powers at a time when he is not trusted on the matter by his backbencher colleagues in Government. If the Minister wants to be genuine with the people he has been negotiating with, not just stakeholders but Government backbenchers, he should say he will remove all references to matters relating to the Greyhound Industry Act and the greyhound industry and leave it to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Smith, to deal with it in the amendment to the 1958 Act. The Minister will have an input at Cabinet level and the Dáil will have an opportunity on the floor of the House.
That is the way it works. The Minister cannot have it every way. Trust is very important. We are taking what the Minister has said on trust, that he will reach agreement with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on those issues in the autumn. In effect, the Minister is saying to him and to all of the people who have an interest in the matter such as the greyhound industry and Government backbenchers as well as Members of the Opposition that he will still have the whip hand over anyone and everyone who wishes to have matters relating to animal welfare and the greyhound industry included in the legislation. We wish to remove all references to the greyhound industry and if the Minister trusts the House and his colleagues he will agree to do that. He has given his word on the matter in various meetings in the past two weeks. If that is his position he will have no difficulty whatsoever in removing references to the greyhound industry from the Bill and leaving it to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the autumn.
I wish to refer to the Minister's Second Stage speech where he stated:
I have also stated that I understand the legitimate concerns of certain industry sectors, such as the Irish Greyhound Board, and I am prepared to accommodate them as best I can. For that reason it is proposed that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would amend the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 to legislate for welfare provisions for members of the Irish Greyhound Board.
We note the words "welfare provisions". Given that the Minister has stated that it is not possible to give an indication today of what will be in the amended legislation, which we accept to a certain extent, in order to ensure that there is no ambiguity and so that the greyhound industry is not placed in a position where it is taking a giant leap of faith in terms of what the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food might offer by way of the amended legislation, we propose an amendment that would make it clear and unambiguous as to where the Minister's intentions lie. If he were to support the amendment that would give great solace to the Irish Greyhound Board, the Irish Coursing Club and to every single dog owner throughout the country who courses hares or races greyhounds in such places as Curraheen Park and Youghal.
The Minister does not understand the greyhound industry. I have been listening in recent weeks to the Fianna Fáil backbenchers from Tipperary who are sitting behind the Minister. I refer to Deputies Hoctor and Mattie McGrath and others. The Minister does not understand the concerns of the greyhound industry, which is represented in abundance in our county. He does not understand the commitment of those people to animal welfare. They have built their livelihoods and created employment in our county and they are worried about the Bill which is why they are lobbying us on a constant basis. The Minister has failed to recognise the contribution that the industry makes to the economy. I am very concerned about the matter.
If one takes any parish in any part of County Tipperary, from Golden to Lorrha, or down to Newcastle, people there are involved in the greyhound industry. Every one of the people I met at the show in Clonmel last Sunday is very angry with the Minister because he does not understand their commitment to animal welfare. The Minister is insulting their commitment. He should consider the amendment because it is the view of the majority of Members of Parliament and it is what the people want. I urge the Minister to rescind his current position and leave the greyhound industry alone. It is committed to animal welfare. The people involved in it like what they are doing and they want to continue with their business.
I agree with my colleagues across the Chamber. I appeal at this late stage to the Minister to consider the amendments. We have had many meetings, and they were not in smoke-filled rooms. I assure Deputy Hogan that I attended all the meetings up to last week. The meetings are ongoing. I concur with my south Tipperary colleague. The greyhound industry is a vital one. The Government took severe austerity measures to try to stabilise the economy and get people back to work yet in this case we have an industry but we are putting people out of work. That is why I cannot support the Bill. At this late stage I urge the Minister to listen to the sensible requests from the Opposition.
I concur with previous speakers. The greyhound industry is important in rural areas, especially in my constituency in north Kerry, and contributes substantially to the local economy. Those involved are most concerned about what the Minister has proposed in the Bill. It would alleviate many difficulties if we had clarification on the Minister's input on the amendment of the 1958 Act.
I support Deputy Lynch's amendment. It reflects the views of those associated with the industry, good decent people who contribute substantially to the rural economy. It is probably one of the most successful aspects of the rural economy at the moment. The fear is that the Minister is trying to destroy it.
I fully support the amendment. It is a fundamental one which would remove the greyhound industry from the provisions of the Bill. The Minister has said he would remove the greyhound industry to give comfort to Fianna Fáil backbenchers who have put pressure on him. That is what he has been telling them. We are giving the Minister an opportunity to take their concerns and those of the Opposition on board. There should not be any fighting or wrangling. The 1958 Act is good legislation. The amendment has been tabled in good faith to protect the greyhound industry. I appeal to the Minister, at this late stage, to take it on board and listen to the views of the people, including those in the Government benches who used to support him. He has lost their support because of his actions on this issue and others.
I do not propose to accept these amendments. Our advice is that the Greyhound Industry Acts from 1958 to 1993 do not make provisions for animal welfare. As I indicated on Second Stage, I will be happy to delay the commencement order of the Bill until 1 January 2011. This is to allow the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to amend the Greyhound Industry Act to include the welfare provisions of this Bill for the greyhound industry.
Furthermore, I have provided an exemption from fees for hunt clubs. However, all dogs, including hunt dogs and greyhounds, are to be subject to the general provisions of this Bill.
When referring to exemptions, I stated repeatedly I was referring to exemptions from fees. I do not know how many times I have had to clarify that in the House. Unfortunately, Deputies are deliberately stoking up fears.
Deputy Tom Hayes is not disabusing them of any of their notions either. It suits his political purpose to tell them they are correct and that I cannot be trusted.
That is regrettable.
I keep returning to the point that this is animal welfare legislation. We have succeeded, through dialogue and the forming of consensus, in persuading Bord na gCon to come on board. It now accepts the legislation. Therefore, it is beyond me to understand how it can accept it while the Deputies opposite do not.
When I entered the House as a newly elected Deputy in 2007, I was quite surprised by the amount of adversarial politics in the Chamber, even when a common sense approach is taken to a matter. I once tabled an amendment to a housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill to correct a technical error. An incorrect year was referred to in the Bill. My amendment was to insert the correct year but the Minister voted against it. I called the vote just to test the matter. This shows how ridiculous circumstances can be in the Chamber on foot of the adversarial politics that obtain.
The Minister will not accept any amendment from this side of the House this evening. It does not matter what we propose, such is his intransigence on this issue. This is regrettable because he has not been able to explain how the greyhound industry will be exempted from the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill when the commencement order is made. On that basis, I will press my amendment.
I thank the Deputy for the lecture on the nature of adversarial politics. I listened to his colleague, Deputy Rabbitte, speak last weekend. He informed us on the radio that the only reason the Labour Party voted against the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill was because it wanted to see whether doing so would topple the Government, and that it did not believe in what it was doing. I found that amazing. This is a typical example of adversarial politics. It is regrettable and no principle was involved.
The only principle was to try to get into power as quickly as possible. I have consulted a wide body of people as best I can. The legislation is consensual and tries to move away from adversarial politics in so far as possible. I was heartened that, at least on Second Stage, the Labour Party voted with the Government. However, I hope it will do so during Committee and Remaining Stages. I hope it is not trying to appease certain people in rural areas while also trying to appeal to urban voters. This is what has happened. The divisiveness to date has pitted rural people against urban people. It is a totally false divide.
Evidence exists to demonstrate the public's fears. Consider the Minister's approach to Poolbeg, for example, in light of his talk about principles.
I read an article recently in which it was stated a Green Party member in a country I cannot recall wants to black out one side of goldfish tanks. This rubbish and áiféis is why the public is afraid of the Green Party.
I will revert to the House on the relevant member of the Green Party who wants goldfish tanks blacked out on one side. He only wants three sides through which goldfish can look out. This is why the rural public is afraid of the Minister and the Green Party. It regards this legislation as a stepping stone to other legislation that the Minister will more than likely introduce to-----
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 64 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Joe Carey, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Mattie McGrath, Joe McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)
Against the motion: 72 (Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Bobby Aylward, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Seán Power, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran
Amendment declared lost
I do not propose to accept this amendment as it would exclude the provision for appointing as authorised officer a person connected with animal welfare, with whom an arrangement has been entered into under section 15(3) of the Control of Dogs Act 1986. Many local authorities have sub-contracted dog control services and such arrangements have worked very successfully. There are numerous safeguards in the Bill as regards authorised persons, the first being that the local authority has to appoint the person. Local authorities have proven very responsible in this regard and I have no reason to believe they will not act responsibly in the future.
The second safeguard is that an improvement order can only be issued by a veterinary officer employed by the local authority. Therefore I do not propose to accept this amendment.
I acknowledge that the Minister has made efforts in amendments to safeguard the concerns of people in relation to authorised persons. The concern related to the type of people entering premises in an unstructured disorganised manner, without proper notice, perhaps with a hidden agenda. Such people had sufficient powers of access to property without necessarily evincing the type of concern they should have in relation to welfare issues.
I acknowledge the Minister has gone a considerable distance in allaying fears. Nevertheless, he should understand the fears that people have, with perhaps animal rights people under the auspices of official positions being allowed under this legislation on the basis of working for a charity, as defined, to enter a property and engage in activities that go beyond the scope of the legislation. Those are the concerns people have. I shall withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister has made certain provisions later on in the legislation.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 4, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:
" "dog" includes bitch;".
This amendment is simply there to provide for the avoidance of doubt. Where there is a reference to a dog, it will include a female dog, as appropriate.
Amendment No. 4 is in the name of Deputy Ferris. Amendment No. 5 is related and alternative to it. Amendment No. 5a is related and alternative to amendment No. 5. Amendment No. 6 is also related. Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 4, to delete from "at which" in line 16 down to and including "purposes," in line 19 and substitute the following:
"or any number of premises owned by the same proprietor where 5 or more litters of pups are produced in a calendar year.".
A division along those lines would be fair to all. It would be very difficult to hide clutches of pups. Kennel clubs would also be used by the authorities to establish how many clutches were registered.
As matters stand, without this amendment, if less than six breeding bitches, say five, are kept in a number of different premises the proposed legislation will not apply to them. It means that a person either hunting or shooting with seven bitches in use for the particular sport can have one clutch every three or four years and will be classified as running a puppy farm when the legislation is enacted. I suggest that the Minister take this on board and accept the amendment as written. The situation is wide open to abuse as matters stand. Anyone could ride a coach and four through it as it stands and exploit it for selfish benefits, so I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.
I speak to this amendment because it is similar to one that was proposed by our local club in Monaghan which questioned the fact that one person could have a number of farms, with five bitches on each of the units. Very clearly, if it is a question of the number of clutches or batches of pups being reared, such an amendment is vital. I have a neighbour who has 20 bitches. He might only have two litters of pups per year, maximum, and yet he will be included under the Act. However, if he were to spey those annual bitches they would be no use for hunting. It is as simple as that.
He is only interested in hunting and whatever pups he has he shares with his friends in the business. All he wants is to be allowed to carry on and care for his animals in a proper manner.
I remind Deputies that the working group agreed on the definition as being based on the number of female dogs on a premises with breeding potential. The working group included a representative from Veterinary Ireland, the senior superintendent veterinary inspector of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Louth County veterinary inspector and the ISPCA inspectorate supervisor. There was, therefore, no shortage of veterinary expertise in the group.
The definition which the working group has come up with is clear and unambiguous and as such will aid enforcement. The group noted the difficulties experienced in the UK with definitions based on breed, which became unenforceable. The working group's report noted that it was agreed that the number of litters produced on a premises would not provide a suitable basis for defining a dog breeding establishment as constant supervision would be required to ensure compliance. I cannot accept the Opposition amendments.
Amendment No. 5 refers to the definition of a dog breeding establishment. The Bill currently defines it as a premises at which bitches are kept, not less than six of which are four months old and capable of being used for breeding purposes. The stipulation of "four months" was to ensure that any bitch which fell pregnant, regardless of how young, would be reckonable when defining a breeding establishment. I am willing to substitute the "four months" with "six months" in response to calls for same in the Seanad although this does not invalidate the rationale for specifying an age threshold, which was to ensure that any dog with breeding potential was included. As I have stated already, this should not be considered as setting down a marker for when to start breeding.
It would not be wise, as some have proposed, to have a threshold at 12 months or even two years, an issue debated in the Seanad. Everyone will acknowledge that most breeds of bitch could breed in the first 12 months of life and as such a 12 month threshold would discount litters born before a bitch reached 12 months of age, possibly leading to an increase in the overall number of litters per bitch to the detriment of her welfare.
An amendment stipulating a term of two years was tabled in the Seanad and supported by the Labour Party Senators. I could not make out why they did this. It is hoped that on this occasion Members will understand this does not make sense from a welfare point of view.
I cannot fathom the Minister's approach in this regard, in particular in respect of the greyhound industry. It is not realistic to determine that a greyhound bitch could be potentially useful for breeding at six months. While in general terms, a bitch, once finished racing and if part of a good litter could be used for breeding purposes she would never be so considered at six months of age. While this measure has relevance in regard to thigh breeds and puppy farming regulation, it has no relevance in respect of the greyhound industry.
I will give an example. A great bitch won the Irish Oaks in Shelbourne Park a few weeks ago. She is owned by a Clare man, Father Jack Meade. Her dam, Dalcash Diva, has had three litters. In her first litter to Droopys Scholes she gave birth to ten pups, six bitches and four dogs. Under this provision the establishment at which these bitch pups are kept will be, on their reaching the age of six months, regarded as a breeding establishment. This will be the case in respect of only one litter.
One has to rear greyhounds and generally does so up to 12 to 14 months. The six months provided for has no relevance to the greyhound industry and will create huge damage therein. Under this provision an establishment, following the birth of one litter of pups, will become a breeding establishment. The Minister stated that all breeds will be subject to the provisions of this Bill. He is trying to legislate for thigh breeds of dogs and intensive puppy farming and will as a result badly damage the greyhound industry. The fundamental problem I have with this legislation is that we will have duplication because of the determination in this provision of a bitch as being useful for breeding purposes at six months old, which is crazy. That does not happen.
The legislation provides that six bitches over the age of six months constitutes a breeding establishment, which is rubbish. This will hurt the greyhound industry and put in jeopardy 11,000 jobs and €550 million. There are 17 greyhound stadiums in this country at which people enjoy greyhound racing every night of the week. Ireland is a world leader in this area. The Minister in trying to legislate for puppy farming is drawing in the greyhound industry, which is wrong. I appeal to him to take another look at this to ensure it does not impinge on the greyhound industry.
The Minister referred to a dog breeding establishment as defined. An establishment which keeps five breeding bitches, fewer than six, on any number of premises will not come under the Act. The point I am making is that where five or more clutches of pups are produced in a calendar year in all premises, they will come under the Act. I think the Minister is missing the point.
Amendment No. 6 in my name deals with the same issue in terms of the definition whereby a particular number of bitches constitute a litter and a breeding establishment. The points made by Deputies Ferris and Carey are worthy of consideration. In practical terms, there is an onerous responsibility, including a financial responsibility, on individual greyhound breeders in whose interest it is to ensure a high level of animal welfare as their pups will be for sale. These people are not involved in breeding bitches on their premises for the purpose of cruelty to animals. They are involved in so doing for the purpose of economic value and of assisting an industry which has been going through a difficult time recently, as is the case in respect of most rural pursuit industries. They are involved not alone for disposable income reasons but in respect of the economic value of the animals they have for sale. There must be practical implementation in respect of this measure.
The Minister was not fully up to speed in the Seanad debate on the implications of the Greyhound Act 1958 in regard to the registration and marking of animals. I am aware that the Minister has since then had several meetings with members of the Irish Coursing Club and Irish greyhound industry. I am sure he is now more familiar with the activities of people involved in breeding and offering pups for sale. Animal welfare issues are important to these people. They have a vested interest in ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare. I noted that at the time. I know the Minister has had several meetings with people involved in the Irish Coursing Club and the Irish Greyhound Industry since then and I am sure he is more familiar with the activities of people who are involved in breeding and also offering pups for sale. He knows that animal welfare issues are very important to those people. They have a vested interest in ensuring they have the highest standards of animal welfare. I ask the Minister to look again at the amendments to see how we can implement them in a practical way with a view to achieving the objective. I do not think anybody is going out on a limb or displaying the level of zealousness that the Minister has shown in animal welfare issue. The Minister is trying to create a perception that nobody else is interested in animal welfare. That is not the position. We have argued the case. We want to ban puppy farms where animals are being exploited but we want to ensure the implementation of rules and standards in dog breeding establishments, that are not only in compliance with the law but can be implement in practice so that dog owners and breeders are able to get on with their business as they have done for many years, without a poor record being cited.
The transportation of animals, particularly greyhounds, to places outside the jurisdiction caused me to worry about animal welfare issues. People who are involved in the breeding of these animals in this jurisdiction do an excellent job.
The issues now being debated result from the Minister not accepting the previous amendment. As a consequence, we are now looking at all canine matters in the broadest context. Instead of examining the issue of puppy farming this afternoon, we must look at every single item in the Bill not only in the context of puppy farms but hunting clubs, greyhounds, as Deputies Hogan, Ferris and others have mentioned. We will spend the remainder of the afternoon debating issue in the wider context, which is regretful and a missed opportunity. The context in which we are debating these issues was never intended and distorts the rest of the debate.
Puppy farms can send animals in the back of vans to England, without a requirement for tagging, identification,or passport. The guesstimate for dogs leaving our ports ranges from 25,000 to 45,000 and the reason it is so wide is that nobody has a clue. There is evidence, although I have not seen it, of establishments with hundreds of bitches kept in unfit conditions and that is what we were trying to regulate. Since 2007 I have been asking the Minister to bring forward legislation to deal with this segment of the sector. There are simple ways of dealing with the issue. We need a commonsense definition of a breeding dog, a bitch. I accept it is much too complicated to define the onset of the ability of the bitch to go in pup by age groups or by breed. Defining in legislation the age of four or six months as the age of breeding is not relevant to certain animals but it is relevant to others. I suggest it should be worded in a manner similar to that of amendment No. 6 which states "have already had one litter in their lifetime.". That means the bitch is definitely a breeding animal. Deputy Carey instances a case of a bitch that has had a litter of pups, five of which are female, when the pups are six months old, the owner has a dog breeding establishment, under this Bill, even if he or she has only one breeding animal. I appeal to the Minister to adopt common sense and support the sensible amendment tabled by Deputy Hogan. We are not trying to paint him into a corner.
We are all in favour of legislation to deal with the dastardly practices of abusive puppy farms. The then Minister, Deputy Dick Roche initiated the Bill. Abusive practices must be stopped and people must be prosecuted for shameful practices. There is no sense or meaning in trying to define a breeding bitch by her age in months. I have had many cordial debates with the Minister on this, but we have not reached a position that makes sense. As Deputy Sheehan states when they breed, they are then a breeding animal.
The Minister has made a genuine effort to take on board the concerns members have raised but for the purposes of this legislation, the definition of a breeding bitch is to cover and ensure there are no loopholes. It does not matter that the greyhound does not give birth until one year later. That is not the reason it is being done.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 69 (Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Bobby Aylward, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, Martin Mansergh, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Seán Power, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 68 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Mattie McGrath, Joe McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 4, line 20, after "pound" to insert "or hunt club".
This amendment has to deal with the exemptions for hunt clubs. I know the Minister has an amendment later that reflects the same sentiment.
I do not propose to accept this amendment as it would have the effect of excluding hunt clubs from registration and inspection. The Hunting Association of Ireland publicly welcomed the regulation of dog-breeding establishments. I am willing to give hunt clubs the fee exemption in response to their financial concerns on the basis they are not commercial operations. However, it is important for the effectiveness of the legislation that all dogs in breeding establishments are included. I, therefore, do not propose to accept this amendment.
I am disappointed by the Minister's response. I was led to believe he was going to treat hunt clubs in which pups are bred for replenishing packs but not for sale differently from breeding establishments. Accordingly, hunt clubs would be treated in the same way as the greyhound industry in this legislation. I accept the Minister's amendment No. 41 goes some distance in allaying the fears of hunt clubs in this regard. However, I believe the exemption should be based on them not selling pups. I accept there is a need for regulation and inspection of establishments.
The Hunting Association of Ireland subscribes to ensuring proper animal welfare standards in the same way as laid down in the 1958 Greyhound Act. At the Oireachtas committee on the environment, the association outlined very cogently and to the satisfaction of all committee members that it was operating to strict animal welfare standards. This Bill is about ensuring good animal welfare standards. The hunt clubs already have high standards with their own registration system. Will the Minister re-examine this amendment, particularly in the context of how he treats the greyhound industry?
Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 provide for the tattooing of hunt dogs and maintaining a separate register. I accept tattooing is the traditional method for traceability in this sector and I believe there should be no undermining of such measures. I hope all Members will agree that having in place a method for tracing pups is essential in ensuring high standards of animal welfare are maintained. However, in the long term, microchipping is far more effective. I am happy to listen to what the Opposition has to say on these issues. We do have a certain amount of time - up to 4.10 p.m.
To return to the point made by Deputy Ferris, in the conversations we have had with stakeholders we have taken many of their concerns into consideration. From the Deputies' point of view, it is important to remember that Bord na gCon is now, for the most part, in agreement with what is in the legislation and with the amendments I am tabling. Similarly, the hunt clubs had a meeting yesterday with representatives from the Government side, and they appear to be happy with the way things are going. I ask Deputies to bear that in mind.
Is there any evidence that packs of hounds are being mistreated in any way? There is no need for regulation if people are going about their normal business in a sensible and reasonable manner. There is no need to be passing laws unless legislators are forced into implementing them to ensure that dogs, hounds or whatever are treated properly. I have never heard of any packs of hounds being mistreated, and therefore I fail to see why the Legislature needs to impose regulations that are unnecessary. If puppy farms are abusing dogs, I can fully understand why regulations are introduced, but where people are going about their daily business, doing their jobs properly and not interfering with anybody, why do we need to pass laws telling them they must do X, Y and Z? If the Minister came in here and said he had evidence that packs of hounds were being mistreated and that we needed to impose regulations to ensure this mistreatment ceased, I would fully understand it, but I have no evidence that this is occurring, and I ask the Minister whether he has any.
The Minister mentioned agreements with bodies outside this House. This is the Legislature; it is where laws are passed. It is right and proper that the Minister listen to sound amendments from Opposition parties rather than talking to people on the outside. Have we any role or function in the introduction of legislation, or are we just a rubber stamp, walking through the Níl lobby while the Minister's troops walk through the Tá lobby? I feel strongly about imposing legislation on people who are carrying out their day-to-day duties in a reasonable fashion, and I do not see why we should be asked to pass a law which imposes obligations on them that are totally unnecessary.
Of course if people are carrying out their duties in a reasonable fashion, they have nothing whatsoever to fear. The people concerned have made it very clear that they are complying with the highest animal welfare standards. These inspections will not be on a regular basis, as some have said. According to the Bill, if an establishment is well run, inspections may be on an annual basis. The Dogs Trust has said it is aware of welfare issues; one need only watch the RTE report that was shown the other night, to which Deputy O'Donoghue alluded, in which a greyhound was brought in with a tattoo that was not traceable.
I have consulted widely, I have listened, and I will continue to listen. What we have here is a Bill that has resulted from the consensus that was developed.
Before the debate on this amendment is concluded, perhaps the Minster could provide some clarification. I agree an inspection regime is required, but we must consider enforcement. To move for a second to a different arena, there are about 220,000 private households in this country in which human beings are living and the Government has an inspection rate of 5.5% or 6% in this area, so I would not be too hopeful about the inspection regime for dogs.
The inspection regime needs to be clarified, not in terms of methodology and standards but in terms of who is carrying out the inspections. The regime has an entry point and an exit point. We are pressed for time here as a result of the Government's decision to guillotine this Bill, which is a missed opportunity, because substantive amendments have been tabled by the Opposition parties which would have added to the quality and robustness of the Bill and improved animal welfare. It is regrettable that we do not have time to go through these. Could the Minister clarify whether the inspection regime is a function that remains within local authorities or one that can be subcontracted out? That is a concern.
The Minister said there would be annual inspections. I ask the Minister to be more clear on this. We know that farmers are being intimidated by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by being made to undergo three or four inspections per year for the rural environment protection scheme. I am one of those farmers who had four inspections last year - one every three months. An act of God blew a tree down over an electric fence and I was denied part of my REPS payment because an inspector saw it in an image taken by satellite or aeroplane. I feel I was intimidated because I was denied my grant. Can we have guarantees in the legislation that the inspections will be annual? There is nothing in the Bill to say that inspections will not take place every two, three, four or five months. That could be the case. The Minister has not clarified this sufficiently.
The legislation is absolutely clear, and I suggest that the Deputy read it. Inspections are a function of the local authority or an authorised person nominated by the local authority. That is the best way forward. There are individuals from the ISPCA who are interested in animal welfare. That is a point I wanted to make earlier but neglected to do so. Deputy Hogan mentioned animal rights. We must distinguish between animal welfare and animal rights. This is an animal welfare Bill and the people nominated to carry out inspections are those who are interested in animal welfare.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 67 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Joe Carey, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Joe McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)
Against the motion: 74 (Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Bobby Aylward, Joe Behan, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Seán Power, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran
Amendment declared lost
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 4, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:
" "public trainer's licence" means a public trainer's licence granted by Bord na gCon under the Regulations of 1961;".
The reference to "public trainer's licence" is used to facilitate the exemption from registration fees to which the public greyhound trainer will be entitled. This will eliminate the costs associated with registration for trainers. The regulations of 1961 state that a public trainer means a person holding a licence from the Irish Greyhound Board, authorising him or her to train or manage greyhounds for reward. The public trainer differs from a private trainer in that the latter is authorised to have no more than four greyhounds and therefore does not fall within the scope of this Bill.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 5, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
" "Regulations of 1961" means the Greyhound Trainers' Regulations 1961 (S.I. No. 58 of 1961);".
This amendment refers to the regulations of 1961 which define a "stipendiary steward" as a steward appointed by the board to fulfil the duties of an authorised officer under the 1958 Act. I propose that a stipendiary steward or veterinary practitioner may accompany a local authority veterinary inspector for the inspection of premises containing registered greyhounds under the amendment to section 17. The purpose of this amendment is to give the Irish Coursing Club and the Irish Greyhound Board oversight of the inspection and improvement order process. It will become apparent that well run dog breeding establishments, with or without greyhounds, will have nothing to fear from these inspections.
My party colleagues and I came into the House today with the intention of supporting this Bill in principle. However, the Minister's responses to amendments Nos. 1 and 2 have eroded any confidence we had in the Bill such that we cannot support it at this point in time. I am very concerned about the powers given to certain people to carry out inspections without any training or qualification whatever and the provision that the only means of redress is through the courts, with no grounds of appeal to the local authority regarding inspections carried out. As I said, my party colleagues and I had agreed to support this Bill in principle, depending on the answers we received from the Minister. I have asked the Minister whether he has accepted any of the amendments put forward by the Opposition but have received no reply. It is almost time to vote on the Bill in its entirety. We are being treated with contempt by the Minister and by the Government. Sinn Féin's position is that we cannot support the Bill as it stands.
I support Deputy Ferris's comments. Members may not be aware of the severity of the fines that will be imposed on people arising from offences under this legislation. For example, subsection (12) of section 8 states: "The operator of a dog breeding establishment registered under this section shall display the registration certificate issued to him or her in respect thereof in a prominent position at that establishment." The Minister is proposing to increase the fine for a failure to meet this requirement to €5,000. That is completely out of proportion to what we are trying to achieve.
The Minister is using a sledgehammer to deal with the problems that exist. Instead of dealing with those problems effectively, he has included extraneous material to deal with aspects of industry that have regulated themselves quite well heretofore. He is introducing provision for draconian criminal prosecution that is entirely out of kilter with the types of measures required. A fine of €5,000 for failure to display a registration certificate correctly says it all in terms of the Minister's missionary zeal to implement a regime that is completely out of sync with reasonableness. He has utterly ignored the practical suggestions we on this side of the House have offered in the course of this debate.
If this legislation were ice cream the Minister would not be able to give it to children. We have a situation where a legislative proposal that attracted a broad consensus across the House has regrettably become a very divisive issue because the Minister has managed it so poorly. Its core intent remains to deal with the abhorrent and scandalous circumstances of puppy farming in this country, an industry generating approximately €29 million per year and affecting some 90,000 pups.
There is a need for legislation in this area and it is important that it is tackled and dealt with. However, the Minister's handling of the legislation this afternoon has created a situation whereby a more robust, measured and detailed approach could have been taken.
There will be shortcomings, although one could argue there are shortcomings in all legislation. I refer to some ideas not included such as examining the area of granting cheaper licences to elderly people. Another simple suggestion was that the Bill could have been future-proofed. The Minister could have regulated rather than proscribed the identification measures to be used for different breeds of dog. DNA sampling may well become the methodology of the future and, if that takes place, the Minister will have to write a whole new Bill.
There is a great deal of insufficiency in this legislation. The approach to puppy farming must be challenged.
Every July in this House stretching back several years since I came here first we have seen legislation rushed through the House as a result of the Green Party. Last year, we had the second home tax, which became a debacle because of caravans, mobile homes and granny flats. The year before we had the introduction of the VRT regime, which brought the car industry to a halt.
This is the type of legislation we have been subjected to from the Green Party over the years. The Labour Party will be supporting the legislation this evening. I trust the Minister will leave the Chamber this evening having learned that there is a world of difference between sitting in the office of the Minister and being the Minister. He had an opportunity to legislate in this area and to give the Bill ample time. I trust he will learn the art of legislating before this Government comes to its end.
I remind the Deputies opposite that the working group was set up more than five years ago. More than 650 submissions were received after the publication of its report. The working group, set up under my predecessor, included the best experts from Veterinary Ireland and others.
I remind Deputies of its terms of reference. They were to examine the current position regarding the management of kennels and to make recommendations for such improvements. Essentially, this is what we have done.
Many Sinn Féin members should find the legislation perfectly acceptable. I believe that party is making a mistake by not voting for it because there is nothing to fear in this legislation for those who are genuinely concerned about animal welfare.
As it is now 4.10 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for Committee Stage not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, that the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to; that the Title is hereby agreed to; that the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and the Bill is hereby passed."
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 92 (Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Bobby Aylward, Joe Behan, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, Tommy Broughan, John Browne, Joan Burton, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Seán Connick, Joe Costello, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Eamon Gilmore, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Michael D Higgins, Máire Hoctor, Brendan Howlin, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Tom McEllistrim, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Liz McManus, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Brian O'Shea, Christy O'Sullivan, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Seán Power, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Brendan Smith, Emmet Stagg, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Jack Wall, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 50 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Phil Hogan, Paul Kehoe, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Mattie McGrath, Joe McHugh, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, John O'Mahony, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Leo Varadkar)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Joe Carey and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried