Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Welfare of Greyhounds Bill 2010: Second Stage
I am pleased to bring the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill 2010 before Seanad Éireann and look forward to an informed and constructive debate during its passage through this House.
Greyhound racing is a very important industry which is responsible for sustaining 11,000 full-time and part-time jobs, both directly and indirectly, principally in rural communities. It provides an estimated €500 million for local economies around the tracks which are spread throughout the country. The greyhound breeding industry is also successful with a large percentage of greyhounds now running in Britain being Irish bred. Greyhound racing also attracts a significant number of continental European visitors to Ireland.
Following enactment of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, it was agreed to introduce separate legislation to regulate the greyhound industry to provide a regime for greyhound welfare. The policy objective is to optimise the level of animal welfare in the greyhound industry. While the objective is similar to that of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act, the approach taken differs owing to the distinct nature of and controls applying to the keeping of greyhounds.
Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club agreed with the need for legislation to regulate all aspects of welfare throughout the greyhound industry and thus protect this country's reputation in respect of care of greyhounds. Preparation of the Bill has involved wide-ranging consultation with a variety of interested parties, including Government Departments, Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club, voluntary bodies and animal welfare groups, especially those concerned with the welfare of dogs. I thank all those who participated in the consultation process and acknowledge their constructive input. I am satisfied we have struck an adequate balance which accommodates various points of view.
The Irish Coursing Club identifies and registers greyhounds individually in the stud book so as to ensure the integrity of the racing system. Furthermore, the industry already has a system of self-regulation in place which can be readily adapted for welfare purposes and which the Bill uses as a starting point.
For the purposes of the Bill, greyhounds are defined as all greyhounds entered in the Irish greyhound stud book and they will be covered by the welfare provisions of this legislation. The welfare requirements specified in the Bill on animal keepers to safeguard animals in their care are in addition to the general provisions relating to cruelty in the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965. While greyhounds that are not registered in the stud book cannot be covered by the scope of the Bill, they will continue to be covered by general animal welfare legislation and the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, where relevant.
Notwithstanding that the provisions the Bill apply to all greyhounds in the stud book, I saw merit in establishing a register of greyhound breeding establishments. These are premises at which not less than four greyhound bitches are kept, each of which is more than 15 months old and has been or is being used for breeding. I make clear, however, that the scope of this Bill extends to all greyhounds in the racing and coursing industry, not only those found on a premises that is registered as a greyhound breeding establishment under the Bill.
The Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, on the other hand, provides for a hitherto unregulated industry, namely, puppy farming, with no existing system either in relation to the registration of individual dogs for stud book purposes or the registration of premises on which they are kept. The welfare provisions of the Act apply to dogs on premises registered under that Act.
Senators will be aware that there is a variety of opinion on any issue involving animal welfare, in particular the welfare of dogs. In the case of greyhounds, however, there are fewer problems involved than in the business known as puppy farming. While puppy farmers and greyhound breeders are both engaged in breeding activity as a commercial activity, greyhound breeders strive to breed high quality greyhounds to win races and, therefore, in greyhound breeding, quality rather than quantity is paramount. I am confident the provisions for the welfare of greyhounds in this Bill and the extensive powers given to welfare officers will result in a very high standard of welfare for greyhounds.
I will set out my overall approach to the issue of greyhound welfare and outline the points of similarity and difference with the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. Stewards of the Irish Coursing Club visit all greyhound breeding premises to register and identify all new litters to ensure the integrity of racing. This Bill provides a legislative basis for them to deal with all aspect of welfare on such visits.
A crucial aspect of this Bill is that a greyhound bitch will not be allowed to breed until she is 15 months of age, compared with a stipulation of six months in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, and a limit will be placed on the number of litters a bitch can produce. The Bill also provides for inspection of premises registered under it as greyhound breeding establishments. Local authorities may appoint welfare officers who are given the same level of powers as stewards of the Irish Coursing Club and I envisage close liaison between personnel from the Irish Coursing Club and the local authorities. The Bill will form the basis of a co-operative relationship between local authorities, Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club.
The legislation requires reports of inspections or details of welfare notices to be notified to the Irish Coursing Club, Bord na gCon and the relevant local authority. This Bill grants a wide range of powers to welfare officers and allows them to specify various items in welfare notices. These provisions will not present any difficulty to individuals who take due cognisance of welfare requirements and who have proper premises and operate their business in co-operation with their local veterinary practice.
The Bill provides a period of up to three months from the commencement of the Act for greyhound breeding establishments to be registered. It will be lawful for an existing dog breeding establishment to continue to operate for this period. This will enable a smooth transition to full registration of greyhound breeding establishments. In line with best practice in any regulatory regime, there is an appropriate scale of regulatory actions that can be taken to ensure compliance. I have provided for some offences for which fines and custodial sentences are possible upon summary conviction and for other lesser offences, mainly concerning records or registration, for which only fines or in some cases fixed penalty notices apply.
A provision is necessary to require owners of establishments to co-operate within reason. There is general need for such a provision and it is especially important in cases where an establishment operates from the private home of the owner. The Bill provides, in circumstances where consent of the occupier to enter a dwelling is not forthcoming, for the authorised person to apply to the District Court for a warrant to enter.
I wish to summarise some of the principal provisions of the Bill. Part 1 contains the usual provisions of a general nature dealing with such matters as Short Title and commencement, definitions, service of notifications, notices and documents, expenses of the Minister and the making of regulations. The key definition is that of a "greyhound breeding establishment" which means:
a premises used, in whole or in part, for breeding greyhounds at which not less than 4 greyhound bitches are kept, each of which—
(a) is more than 15 months old, and
(b) has been or is being used for breeding purposes,
but does not include a premises at which not less than 6 bitches (other than greyhound bitches), each of which is more than 6 months old and is capable of being used for breeding purposes, are also kept[.]
The age limit of 15 months specified in this Bill for a greyhound bitch to be bred is much higher than the six months stipulated in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act. These provisions have been the subject of intensive, constructive debate and have the support of the Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club.
Part 2, which deals with welfare generally, requires the publication of codes of practice for welfare with the consent of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and provides for the welfare standards for greyhounds in terms of accommodation, food and drink, exercise, health and safety. It is important to note that this section applies to all greyhounds whether they are on the premises of a registered breeding establishment or not. That is an important difference between this Bill and the Dog Breeding Establishments Act, which applies to dogs on registered premises only. This Bill is building on an existing and effective regulatory system and will underpin the welfare of all registered greyhounds.
In terms of the identification of greyhounds, I have allowed for both the traditional tattooing method and microchipping. Greyhounds are individually identified by tattooing for registration in the studbook maintained by the Irish Coursing Club as this is vital for the integrity of industry. As tattooing has a long-standing tradition, it is not necessary to require breeders to change their methodology at this stage. The important thing is that every greyhound pup is uniquely identified and this is verified by a DNA analysis programme. In contrast, the Dog Breeding Establishments Act deals with a sector where individual pups in the dog breeding establishments concerned have hitherto not been required to be identified by any method. In that situation, microchipping was considered to be the appropriate method of identification to be used.
Part 3 concerns greyhound breeding and the registration of greyhound breeding establishments and prescribes that a greyhound bitch cannot be mated under 15 months of age. This is considerably higher than the minimum breeding age of six months specified in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act. This section also restricts to six the number of litters a greyhound bitch can produce, as there are welfare concerns with greyhounds carrying excessive numbers of litters. A further two litters may be permitted under veterinary certification.
Section 12 provides for the establishment and maintenance of a register of greyhound breeding establishments. These are premises with four or more greyhound bitches over 15 months of age that have been or are being used for breeding. This is lower than the number of breeding bitches specified in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act which stipulates that premises with six or more breeding bitches must be registered. It will be an offence to operate an unregistered greyhound breeding establishment except during the lead-in period of three months or where an application for registration as a registered breeding establishment is being considered by the Irish Coursing Club.
Part 4 concerns enforcement and allows for the appointment of welfare officers and gives these officers powers of inspection and issuing welfare notices. Welfare officers may be appointed by local authorities, Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club to act as welfare officers under the Bill. The functions of welfare officers are also set out in the Bill and include the power at reasonable times to enter and inspect premises where the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that greyhounds are kept. The Bill also provides that the welfare officer may be accompanied by a member of the Garda Síochána.
Welfare notices can be issued where a welfare officer is of the opinion that there is a contravention of the Act, or where a premises or vehicle poses, or is likely to pose, a threat to a greyhound's health or welfare. These notices must state the grounds on which the officer forms the opinion. Such notices may require a wide range of actions in the interests of the welfare of greyhounds. Examples include requiring veterinary advice or treatment, and the provision of food and drink of specified quantities at specified intervals. The notice can specify the numbers of greyhounds that may be kept in a particular accommodation. The notice can also require, upon advice of a veterinarian, the cessation of breeding or that a greyhound be disposed of or destroyed in a specified manner.
Section 23 allows for, following veterinary examination, the immediate veterinary treatment or humane destruction of a greyhound which is in pain, distress or an acute state of neglect. Obviously it is regrettable but necessary to provide for this but I hope it is a power most welfare officers will never be called upon to implement. The cost of doing so can be recovered from the owner of the greyhound as a simple contract debt in court.
There are provisions dealing with penalties and proceedings and cases can be taken under the Act by Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club, the local authority or the Garda Síochána. Fines shall be paid to the relevant body taking the case. I look forward to engaging on these provisions in detail on Committee Stage and I commend this Bill to the House.
I acknowledge that the Minister must leave the House to deal with important business. I thank the Minister for introducing this important legislation. It follows on from the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2010, which was widely debated in this House and on consideration of which considerable time was spent with contributions from Senators on all sides. At the start of the debate on the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill there was political consensus that something needed to be done in this area and Fine Gael had called for many years for the terrible practices in puppy farming to be addressed. That Bill addressed that specific area. That strong legislation put in place provisions to protect the breeding and rearing of puppies in puppy farm establishments and ensure there is no cruelty or poor practices of breeding in such establishments.
During the debate on that Bill, I as spokesperson on this area identified, as did Fine Gael, that the greyhound industry was being included in that legislation, even though it was already covered under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958. It was pointed out to the Minister, Deputy Gormley, that it would be more appropriate for greyhound breeding establishments to be legislated for and covered under the 1958 Act. Without being too political, I advise that it was pointed out clearly that this Act was the legislation under which greyhound breeding should be regulated and properly managed. Unfortunately, the Minister did not listen at that time despite protestations from the greyhound industry, including Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club and the greyhound breeding industry, which are all proactive in this area of animal welfare and which think very highly of the greyhounds and the racing animals they breed and train. It would have saved the Government considerable hardship and problems if the Minister had listened to the Fine Gael argument made in the Seanad at that time. It is only when that Bill went to the Dáil that the thrust of the Fine Gael amendments were taken on board and proper consultation took place with the stakeholders in the greyhound industry. I welcome that and I am glad it happened, but I am strongly of the view that it would have happened much sooner if the Minister and his officials had listened to those Senators who strongly and reasonably argued that this is what should have happened.
That is the context and background to this legislation. Fine Gael broadly welcomes the legislation, as presented, because the Government, the Minister and the officials engaged properly with the stakeholders, which is all we sought at that time. The thrust of many of our amendments went some way towards addressing the concerns within the industry.
I need not go into how much the greyhound industry is worth to Ireland. It is an indigenous industry that is recognised worldwide for the champion breeding of greyhounds that are utilised not only here but in the UK and much further afield. It is important we protect the good name and reputation of the Irish greyhound industry. This legislation will go some way towards enhancing that reputation. It will ensure the breeding of these champions, many of which have been breed in our greyhound industry and hopefully will continue to be bred, is carried out in a proper and responsible way. I am not saying that was not being done already but this legislation gives statutory strength to authorities such as Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club and local authorities to ensure the establishments are run well and to a high standard.
As in the case of other legislation, it is important to engage properly with the stakeholders who are directly affected by legislation that comes before either House of the Oireachtas. The time that has elapsed between the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill and this Bill has given the relevant authorities, officials and stakeholders time to engage properly and come to an agreement on how best the system of management and breeding of greyhounds can be practised. It will result in a better and enhanced system.
The main provisions of this Bill, which amends and strengthens the 1958 Act, is the new code of practice for the industry. There is work to be done by the Department, the officials, Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club to make sure their members and those people whose livelihoods are based on breeding greyhounds are fully aware of the implications of this legislation and of their responsibilities in this area. I am sure many people who breed greyhounds already implement good practice and high standards in how they look after their breeding bitches and puppy litters. It is in their interests to ensure they have a high standard because the better the standard of litters, dogs, bitches and racing greyhounds they produce, the more that will benefit the businesses they operate and the reputation of the Irish greyhound industry.
I welcome the broadening of the appointment of the inspection regime to welfare officers not only from local authorities and NGOs but also to officers of the Irish Greyhound Board and the Irish Coursing Club. They all will have inspection powers and the power to issue welfare notices. Nobody knows better than the officials of the Irish Greyhound Board and the Irish Coursing Club who are actively breeding greyhounds and where they are being bred. It is important that the legislation included these agencies in terms of the appointment of welfare officers. They have their hand on the pulse and are best placed to engage with the people who will be affected by this regulation. That is an important inclusion in this amending legislation.
I welcome that the age limit of qualifying breeding bitches has been increased from the previously proposed age of six months, which was the definition of a breeding bitch in the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, to the more practical and logical age of 15 months. That was another practical amendment Fine Gael proposed to the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, thereby bringing to the attention of the Minister and his officials that it is rare, if ever, that greyhounds will be bred at six months of age and questioning why that age limit would be included in the legislation which would only add to the confusion. We welcome the fact the age limit has been increased.
There are many other provisions in the Bill as regards restrictions on the number of litters a bitch can produce. We argued there should be flexibility on this up to a certain number of litters. If there were additional litters to be bred, that should be considered under veterinary supervision and certification. In other words, Fine Gael argued that no bitch should be allowed breed extra litters — I believe it was above six litters at the time — unless there was certification that the breeding bitch was healthy and able enough to go on breeding. The reason behind that argument was that if successful breeding bitches that were breeding champions were breeding up to a certain number of litters and if their breeding was restricted unnecessarily without veterinary certification, we and the people in the greyhound industry were fearful that those breeding bitches would literally be transported to another jurisdiction and would continue to breed in that jurisdiction, whether the UK or elsewhere. That provision did not improve the welfare of bitches; the impact of it was to move the issue elsewhere and over time Ireland could have lost many of its champion breeding bitches and, by extension, much of its excellent reputation for breeding champion greyhounds. There is still a restriction on the number of litters that can be produced, but there is a degree of flexibility allowed in this Bill whereby, under veterinary inspection and certification, additional litters can be produced. I welcome that flexibility.
Overall, Fine Gael is supportive of the Bill. It is a much more reasoned and practical approach than pertained previously and involves the stakeholders of the greyhound industry in the regulatory regime that will be implemented. That is so important that it can never be underestimated. All stakeholders who are affected by legislation should be brought along as far as possible in a consultative manner. It is only at this stage that is happening in the greyhound industry. It is important to emphasise to the House that the greyhound industry should be properly supported and investment in it should continue. The industry has significant potential worldwide and I acknowledge the investment that has been made in infrastructure in the industry. A successful greyhound stadium has opened in Limerick and there was investment in the stadium in Waterford, which I often attend. It is important such investment continues because this is an indigenous industry and we can contribute to the breeding lines of champion greyhounds.
This Bill will enhance Ireland's reputation in the industry. We will not have champions unless we have proper breeding standards and procedures to ensure the welfare of pups and animals. It is obvious it was already the case, although perhaps it was not as strictly regulated as will be the case under the Bill. Greyhound owners pay great attention to their greyhounds because it is in their best interests to ensure the pups they produce are of a high standard.
Fine Gael supports the Bill, although we may introduce some amendments on Committee Stage to strengthen it. We welcome this legislation and look forward to ongoing support for the greyhound industry.
I am delighted Senator Coffey and his party support the Bill. I have no doubt he will table amendments but I am sure they will be worth examining.
I welcome this Bill. The Minister, when he published the legislation, stated its policy objective is to regulate the level of welfare in the greyhound industry to complement the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. The approach taken differs in some areas, having regard to the distinct nature and controls applying to the keeping of registered greyhounds.
The greyhound industry is well regulated and has been for many years. The industry registers and identifies greyhounds to ensure the integrity of greyhound racing. This is important because the industry sustains 11,000 full and part-time jobs. It is estimated €500 million is put into the local economies of the 17 Bord na gCon licensed tracks. Eight of those are owned by the board and it has a 51% share in the track in Mullingar. As Senator Coffey has said, the track in Limerick is outstanding. Over the years, Bord na gCon has upgraded tracks and stadia, adding to the comfort of the patrons, trainers, owners and dogs.
There are five Parts in the Bill. Part 2 is important because it deals with the welfare of greyhounds. It deals with the setting out of specific standards and powers to make regulations for the welfare of greyhounds. It deals with the identification of greyhounds and the requirement to notify sale or transfer of greyhounds in order that there can be traceability and attachment to owners.
Bord na gCon published its 14 principles for best practice in 2006. Among them are that the registered owner and-or keeper of the greyhound should take full responsibility for the physical and social well-being of the greyhound and should do so with full regard to the dog's welfare. Registered owners should attempt to provide a suitable home for the retired greyhound. Registered owners should not give away or gift their retired greyhounds to people who will not care for them or use them for illicit purposes. Breeding of greyhounds should be based on the current needs of the breeder and the future needs of the industry. Where euthanasia is inevitable, it should be carried out in a humane manner by a suitably qualified person, veterinary surgeon or local authority dog pound. When transported all greyhounds should travel in safety and comfort. Those are six very important principles that I picked out and I compliment Bord na gCon on publishing a best practice guide.
Part 3 deals with the number of times a greyhound can be used for breeding. I welcome the Minister's consultation with the interested bodies and that they have reached agreement on this. There was a great deal of consideration given and different people would have different opinions on a bitch's age for breeding. Under the Bill, the minimum age will be 15 months, considerably higher than the minimum breeding age in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. The Irish Coursing Club will not be permitted to register litters born to greyhounds under 15 months and, as a consequence, they will not be permitted to race or be used in coursing events. It is important such provisions are built into the Bill and that the Irish Coursing Club and Bord na gCon agree to this. This will be good for the industry as a whole.
I am from an area where there are greyhound breeders and it is important we do things right. A lot of money comes from the export of greyhounds to other countries, and Bord na gCon and the ICC must ensure everything is done properly. Anything that goes wrong could affect the whole industry that provides so much employment and brings in so much money. The industry is highly regarded by British people who come to Ireland to buy dogs, as do the Spanish. Our trainers bring dogs to large race meetings in England and it is great to read about them winning there. It enhances the industry and our breeding programme. Owners are particularly interested in ensuring everything is done right. I welcome the Bill and commend it to the House.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank the Minister for introducing this Bill. I also thank the officials for their briefing. I acknowledge their offer of help. I always find it very valuable to have a discussion with experts involved in the drafting of legislation.
I welcome the Bill. Its Title which refers to the welfare of greyhounds speaks for itself. People should not be allowed to operate in an industry without regulation. Legislation to ensure the welfare of animals is paramount. No one could possibly deviate from this view.
I was watching a programme on RTE a few evenings ago on the IrishSociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which had visited puppy farms and noted animals being mistreated, which is not very pleasant to see. Anyone who engages in such abuse of animals should be hauled over the coals and subject to the full rigour of the law.
The greyhound industry is very important, as has been said. This is especially the case in areas such as west Cork, in which many people breed greyhounds and participate in greyhound racing, a fine social activity, in the stadium in Bishopstown. In recent years the event has evolved to such an extent that the organisers have made it a very good evening out. I have been present on a number of occasions and it is great to see people using the facility not only for commercial purposes but also for entertainment. The industry is worth a lot in terms of employment in rural areas and contributes in no small way to the rural economy. It is, therefore, very important that we be cognisant of this in producing legislation and that we do not over-legislate in this area, thus ensuring a diminishing effect.
Having examined the debate pack made available to Members, it is interesting to note that 75% of greyhounds racing in the United Kingdom are Irish born. This speaks volumes about the success of the Irish greyhound industry which is also important in terms of stakeholders. One of the many criticisms of legislation is that we do not consult enough and are insufficiently involved with stakeholders. It is important to note that both Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club were consulted on this legislation. Its publication in early December was welcomed.
One question the greyhound organisations have for the Minister concerns a point made in his contribution today:
Local authorities may appoint welfare officers who are given the same level of powers as stewards of the Irish Coursing Club and I envisage close liaison between personnel from the Irish Coursing Club and the local authorities. The Bill will form the basis of a co-operative relationship between local authorities, Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club.
With regard to the proposal that local authorities may appoint welfare officers, will the ban on recruitment in the public sector be relaxed? Will it involve the creation of jobs? Will there be the placing of advertisements by local authorities with a view to hiring welfare officers? I am very interested in this matter because my local authority, Cork County Council, has lost a substantial number of jobs as a result of the recruitment ban, early retirements, retirements and the inability to fill casual vacancies. If we are to provide legislatively for the appointment of welfare officers by local authorities, they should be given the resources to do so. Local authorities are strapped for cash and the availability of resources represents a considerable issue for them, as elected members throughout the country would be quick to tell us. We have experienced it ourselves. I experienced it in my local authority. I am interested to know whether there will be provision made in the Bill to make resources available to local authorities.
I welcome the Bill. I look forward to tabling amendments on Committee and Report Stages in respect of parts we consider need improvement. I thank the Minister of State for his time.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe. In association with my colleagues on all sides of the House, I welcome this innovative legislation.
As the Bill and the Minister acknowledge, the starting point was the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. The policy objective of the Bill is to provide for the welfare of greyhounds in the greyhound industry, thus complementing the Act. As will be agreed on all sides of the House, the Minister has agreed that the greyhound industry is already well regulated and has a well established system of self-regulation that provides a very useful and valuable starting point.
When one considers the context and history of the Bill, it is instructive to note that views on the controversy that surrounded the introduction of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill were well aired on both sides of the House. I pay tribute to my colleague on the other side of the House who addressed many of the points raised at the time, with which points many of us were in agreement. This was certainly reflected in the representations and submissions made by the various interested parties.
If ever there was confirmation of the legislative relevance and importance of this House, it is evident in the history of greyhound legislation, starting six months ago with the Dog Breeding Establishments Act and the fallout therefrom. I refer to the consultative environment in which the interested parties – the Irish Coursing Club, Bord na gCon and the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation – came together to make submissions to individual Senators and Oireachtas joint committees, a number of whose meetings I attended. The representatives of the bodies will be the first to acknowledge the vital importance of the Seanad in this process. They believed that, had the Bill been dealt with unicamerally by the Dáil, many or all of the points raised to establish the Bill as separate legislation which was logical in the context of the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 would have been lost. This is because the Dáil is undoubtedly a much more adversarial Chamber. Time would not have been allowed to the extent to which it was allowed in this House to tease out and debate all of the various measures proposed.
A representative of the greyhound industry pointed out to me as late as today that anybody who suggested this House was irrelevant should note the Bill provided a perfect example of how bodies affected by legislation passing through the Houses could, from the very beginning, have access to Members of the House and various Oireachtas committees. In the case of this Bill, the relevant bodies were able to put their point across and the Seanad followed on. While the approach may not have been bipartisan and this side of the House may not have been able to vote in favour of every proposal by the other side, owing to procedural difficulties——
——many on both sides shared the sentiment that this was the way forward. At the beginning of the legislative process it is correct that this is a Seanad Bill considering all that has happened.
I pay tribute to and highlight the extensive engagement by various bodies which engaged in the consultative process and appeared before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to make submissions. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Brendan Smith, said his officials had engaged "very constructively" with the Irish Greyhound Board and the Irish Coursing Club in the preparation of a draft Bill.
The Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation stated on 11 May last year that it was supporting the Bill. It stated the Irish Coursing Club was responsible for maintaining the stud book and registered greyhounds and that, as the integrity and value of the industry was very much dependent on a robust stud book, the Irish Coursing Club had invested significant resources to ensure it delivered on this. The Irish Greyhound Board welcomes the legislation that addresses the issue of puppy farming and indiscriminate breeding. In preparing the legislation the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food consulted all these bodies and other representatives of the welfare sector.
The consultations in the lead-up to the passage of the Dog Breeding Establishments legislation were drawn on in framing the Bill. These included the Dogs Trust, Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club, Veterinary Ireland and the City and County Managers Association. Attention was also paid to the significant number of submissions made to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the context of the proposed Animal, Health and Welfare Bill. The main issues raised in regard to dog breeding establishments have resulted in consultees' viewpoints being taken into consideration, for the most part, in preparing the Bill.
This consultation is a perfect example of how various stakeholders were afforded access to the legislative process and listened to as a result of much of the debate in this House and outside it. The Government responded accordingly and I compliment it on doing so. The confirmation of our having done the right thing is evidenced in this House today by what I suggest is a bipartisan approach to a welcome Bill.
I hope those outside this House who are quick to denigrate its work, its constitutional and legislative role and its part in our parliamentary democracy might reflect on this experience as being one of many, past and future. Not only can those outside this House who represent society have direct access to Members, they can effect meaningful change. I welcome the Bill.
I am lost for words. I assume I am to conclude Second Stage. I had not expected the debate to move so quickly, but I have been impressed with the level of contribution from both sides of the House. We are all in agreement that the legislation is necessary and brings the industry into the 21st century. I am mindful that some of the legislation involved in this area dates back to the foundation of the State. Modernising the legislation is proper, therefore, and putting in place more rigorous standards for the breeding of greyhounds makes sense.
It also makes sense to reflect the many concerns about animal welfare. Something that has characterised this Government is a greater interest in ensuring animal welfare is protected, as seen in some of the legislation that was before us in the past three or four years. This Bill has received a great amount of cross-party support. I look forward to Opposition amendments, as we are ad idem on this matter. We all recognise the future role of the greyhound industry in providing employment to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of families. We all recognise the role of tourism in this context, that is, people travelling to Ireland to have a night out at the dogs at the country's many tracks, and that such nights out can play a great part in one's social life. We recognise the considerable improvement at many tracks in recent years. We are looking beyond seeing a night at the dogs in an isolated manner. It is part of a package, a social experience that we can market better in the months and years to come. We need legislation in place to reinforce the progress made to date and to bring the care and welfare of greyhounds into a modern environment. All this can be done through the details in this legislation.
I welcome the concerns put by both sides of the House in this debate and I look forward to seeing the legislation progress. Instead of being overly complex, it mainly comprises simple, important improvements that are not only in the industry's interests but also in the interests of animal welfare and of those who go for nights out at the dogs. The Bill's provisions reflect best practice abroad. It is important that Ireland leads in terms of improving the industry. Other countries with greyhound industries will benefit from what we are doing.