Thursday, 20 December 2018
Greyhound Racing Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
This relates to section 27, dealing with the administration of substances in greyhounds.
Section 27(1) sets out a number of obligations on the board but uses the word "may". It says "The Board may, after consultation with the Minister, make regulations for the control, restriction, prohibition or administration of substances to a greyhound in relation to the following". It goes on to set out the specific measures the board may take, including "specifying substances or classes of substances to be prohibited or controlled" and the "testing of a greyhound for the presence of performance affecting substances". I argue it should state "the board shall" test rather than "the board may" test. It also includes "listing substances or classes of substances that may not be administered to a racing greyhound." It goes on to refer to "listing substances" and "setting residue limits." I have tabled another amendment that deals with that. The section also refers to "providing for the periods following the administration of a substance". They are all discretionary tools that the board may undertake. They are outlined in the legislation. Many of the issues that have been raised with me about the administration of drugs to greyhounds are with regard to animal welfare and around the very unfair situation that exists from an economic standpoint. It is causing the industry to fall into serious disrepute. It raises questions about the ethics of the industry and the manner in which dogs are treated. On Committee Stage I referred to substances such as beta blockers, cocaine, morphine and Ritalin, which are being administered to greyhounds. They are also being administered anti-malaria drugs and caffeine, as well as all sorts of other human drugs such as those used for the treatment of human hair loss. All of these substances are being fed to racing greyhounds to either make them go faster or slow them down. We have an opportunity in the legislation to deal with the issue from a racing and animal welfare perspective. We should be instructing the board it shall and must undertake a vigilant overview of the area, rather than providing it with discretion. We know what history has taught us. To date, the board has not fulfilled its obligations around this issue. It has allowed the issue of drugs in the greyhound sector to reach the point it has. It is causing regular owners and breeders in the sector to lose all hope. The industry is in a depressed state. This is one of the things causing that. That is why I tabled amendment No. 22. I hope the Minister will be amenable to it.
I apologise. It is my mistake. Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 are linked and are both relevant to the same section. Amendment No. 23 is grouped with amendments Nos. 24 and 25. They all deal with section 27. Amendment No. 23 proposes to replace section 27(1)(e). In section 27(1)(e), the Bill states the board "may, after consultation with the Minister" make regulations for "setting residue limits for substances or metabolites of substances that may be found in samples taken from a racing greyhound by reference to the substance and the nature of the sample taken from the greyhound." I propose that is changed to "stringent prohibition, in line with best international practices, class A substances (drugs) that may be found in samples taken from a racing greyhound by reference to the substance and the nature of the sample taken from the greyhound". It should be prohibited. We should outlaw the misuse of drugs and the absolute destruction it is causing to greyhounds which are animals we all care for. We would not feed our pet dogs cocaine, steroids or beta blockers. One does not treat animals that way but people in the industry are using animals. They are treating them in that way. It is absolutely wrong. That is the purpose of amendment No. 23.
I will proceed to speak to amendment No. 24. It deals with the same section and proposes there would be a minimum period. If a dog was found with a positive sample today, it should not be allowed to race next Saturday night. It should be outlawed. There should be a minimum period introduced for greyhounds found with a positive sample. That is the purpose of amendment No. 24.
Amendment No. 25 is in the name of Senator Alice-Mary Higgins. She will deal with it. I support that amendment. It is important to have minimum standards where a dog and trainer are disqualified for a minimum period. It is very wrong, as has happened, that a dog would race on a Tuesday night, test positive for drugs and be allowed to race again on the Saturday night. It is wrong. That is what is happening at present. It does not matter which amendment is accepted because they are very similar.
Yes. I thank the Senators. I will speak on amendment No. 23, which is in the name of Senators Ó Domhnaill and Norris, regarding the stringent prohibition in line with best international practice. To insert the words being proposed instead of the words "residue limits" would be to remove Rásaíocht Con Éireann's powers to set limits for ordinary animal remedies. Second, class A drugs are a UK disqualification, not an Irish one. I would go as far as to say that the term "stringent prohibition, in line with best international practices" is a contradiction. Given the advances in technology, residue limits must be provided for. There are a number of reasons for doing so, including the necessary medication of greyhounds for welfare purposes and, as I stated on Committee Stage, for reasons of environmental contamination. Studies have shown that drugs are considered an environmental contaminant with residues being found on bank notes, for example. Greyhounds will require medication for welfare purposes but at levels lower than those affecting performance. The key test when a substance is found is whether it is appropriate, performance enhancing or what level it is present at. They are standard measures in sports where doping is a consideration.
Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 regarding a mandatory 120-day or four-month disqualification period following an adverse analytical finding is effectively a repeat of an earlier Committee Stage amendment through which Senator Ó Domhnaill sought an automatic disqualification for a period of four months for the use of a class A substance. As I stated on Committee Stage, the Bill already automatically disqualifies a dog from racing until it tests negative. It also allows the board to set down further periods based on the recommendations of the scientific advisory committee during which a greyhound may not race as it is deemed to still be affected by a residual performance effect following the negative test. This is a fair and balanced approach based on scientific advice. In addition, the Bill places strong emphasis on fair procedures with regard to the conduct of the investigation by the board into possible breaches of racing regulations and with regard to the conduct of hearings by the control committee into suspected breaches.
The purpose of the statutory independent sanctioning regime is to conduct hearings into alleged breaches of the racing code to make a decision on whether there has been a sanction breach and apply the appropriate administrative sanction. There can be an innocent explanation for the presence of prohibited and controlled substances in a greyhound, for example, due to the necessary medication of greyhounds for welfare purposes. The automatic disqualification of a greyhound for a fixed period assumes guilt. To act outside the statutory independent sanction regime of the independent control committee, the appeals committee and the District Court would be to dispense with due process and would be wholly inappropriate.
The Bill sets down the administrative sanctions that may be applied by the independent control committee and appeals committee. The control committee has the ability to impose a lifetime disqualification order on an individual greyhound or on all greyhounds kept, owned or managed by an individual. It could impose a lengthy exclusion order on an individual from being at a racetrack or public sale of greyhounds and could revoke or suspend a licence for breaches of the racing code, including doping. Additionally, a person may be required to pay a sum of €12,500 to the board. I believe this is a far greater deterrent than a minimum ban of three or four months.
Senator Ó Domhnaill, the other Senators and I are on the same page with regard to strong sanctions for breaches of the racing code, but I can only reiterate that the amendments being proposed to set down in primary legislation a mandatory disqualification period with no scientific basis would not reflect best practice, would dispense with due process and would not act as a sufficient deterrent.
Ivana Bacik, Frances Black, Rose Conway Walsh, Gerard Craughwell, Maire Devine, Paul Gavan, Alice Mary Higgins, Tim Lombard, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Niall Ó Donnghaile, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Lynn Ruane, Fintan Warfield.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Martin Conway, Paul Daly, Frank Feighan, Anthony Lawlor, Gabrielle McFadden, Michelle Mulherin, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, John O'Mahony, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly, Neale Richmond.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 29, line in line 34 to delete "injury." and substitute the following:"injury;
"(f) making provision for the health and welfare of a racing greyhound that has been retired by its owner, breeder or trainer.".
In light of the Government amendment that has made provision for rehoming of greyhounds, we will withdraw our amendment.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 30, line 25, after "approval." to insert the following:"Where the compliance issue relates to use of class A prohibited substances, the board shall suspend the licence, permit or approval for a minimum period of not less than 3 months.".
I would be interested to hear what the Minister of State has to say on this amendment. I have already spoken at length about the drugs issue, so I do not want to detain the House further on the matter.
This amendment is a breach of racing regulations specific to the use of prohibited substances. Breaches of sanctions are the domain of the control committee and the appeal committee, rather than the board. Revocations and suspensions by the board relate to administrative matters like the non-payment of licence fees or similar breaches of licence conditions. Appeals of these board decisions are made directly to the appeal committee. However, as set out in section 51 of this Bill, racing sanctions are specifically excluded from this direct appeal process. Therefore, the amendment suggested by the Senator is not relevant to this section.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 38, line 22, to delete "4 years" and substitute "3 years".
These amendments relate to the tenure of the board. Amendment No. 31 seeks to reduce the board's term of office from four years to three years. Amendment No. 32 seeks to amend section 44(9) of the Bill so that instead of providing that a member of the board "may not serve more than 2 consecutive terms", it will provide that a member of the board "may not serve consecutive terms". Amendment No. 34 seeks to provide that any vacancy which arises "will be immediately filled" without any overlap where a member would be allowed to continue on the board indefinitely without being replaced, which is something that has happened with the Irish Greyhound Board in the past. If such structures are allowed to exist, it makes for poor corporate governance. I ask the Minister of State to consider amendment No. 33 in particular.
If the Minister does not intervene after a vacancy arises, board members who have served a greater length of time than that set out in the legislation will remain in their position. That was one of the contentions addressed by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which made this recommendation to deal with that issue.
On amendments Nos. 31 and 32 in regard to the length of each term and the maximum number of terms a member of the control committee may serve, as I stated on Committee Stage, the standard practice and in compliance with codes of governance is for committee members to serve two terms. During pre-legislative scrutiny, the joint committee recognised that it may be difficult to find sufficient people with the right skill set who are willing to serve on the control committee and, for that reason, did not question the fact that they would serve two terms. It additionally advised that the three-year term as proposed at the time of the general scheme of the Bill should be revised upwards to a four-year term. In these circumstances, I do not intend to accept the Senators' amendment.
On amendment No. 33 and the suggestion that control committee members be required to step down immediately, the argument is the same as that which pertains to the main board of Rásaíocht Con Éireann. The provision is a safeguarding one and is a standard one in modern law. In the case of the new statutory control committee, having the ability to stagger the stepping down of committee members will be very important as the eight members of the panel will have been appointed at the same time. Under Senator Ó Domhnaill’s proposal, all eight would be required to step down on the same day without any regard to continuity. If the amendment was to be passed, the eight control committee members would be replaceden masseon the third anniversary of their appointment. The three amendments are unworkable and I do not intend to accept them. A panel is recruited through the Public Appointments Service and it is expected that although technically the members' time will expire simultaneously, the appointments would in practice be staggered such that it would not be a matter of all eight members leaving at once and certainly not of all eight staying.
Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 relate to conflict of interest which is dealt with comprehensively in section 12 of the Bill. Although section 12 regarding disclosure of interest already makes clear that it applies to all members of the board, its committees and subsidiaries as well as the control committee and the appeal committee, I propose the insertion of the wording in my amendment to address the concerns of Senator Ó Domhnaill. If the amendment is accepted, section 44(15) would include specific reference to members of the control committee being subject to the requirements set down in section 12 which is all-embracing in regard to disclosure of interests. Appointments to the central control committee will be made by the Minister and managed through the Public Appointments Service selection process.
I thank the Minister for bringing forward his amendment which addresses part of my argument on this issue. It does not address it all. There is far more I could say but we are under time pressure and I want to be respectful to the other Members.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 38, lines 27 and 28, to delete all words from and including “continue” down to including line 28 and substitute the following:“, with immediate effect, vacate their Board position which will be immediately filled by the appointment of another person so that no vacancy arises.”.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 39, line 3, to delete “shall disclose any potential conflict of interest” and substitute the following:“, including the chairperson, shall not have any potential conflict of interest, which would undermine their impartiality and objectivity, or the perception of impartiality and objectivity”.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 48, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:“Export of greyhounds
56. (1) It shall be an offence for a person within the State to export a greyhound to a country which is not included in the white list published by the Minister in accordance with subsection (2).
(2) The Minister shall annually publish a white list of countries outside the European Union which meet minimum standards with regard to the health and welfare of greyhounds and to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State shall be lawful.
(3) When preparing the white list under subsection (2), the Minister shall have regard to the following:(a) the past record of the relevant country in relation to the welfare protections for greyhounds and the welfare of animals more generally;(4) Where the information specified in subsection (3)is not readily available after reasonable efforts have been made in relation to a specific country, the Minister shall have discretion to include or exclude the relevant country from the white list based on the information that is available.
(b) the existence in the relevant country of enforceable welfare protections for greyhounds which are equivalent to the protections available in the State;
(c) the monitoring and enforcement in the relevant country of the welfare protections in paragraph (b);
(d) the standards of care and management to which the greyhounds are likely to be subjected to in the relevant country; and
(e) information relating to subsections a-d received during the public consultation in accordance with subsection (6).
(5) The Minister shall hold an annual public consultation while preparing the white list in accordance withsubsection (3).
(6) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection(1)is liable on summary conviction to a class A fine.”.
Amendments Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, are variations on similar amendments tabled on Committee Stage and relate to a ban on the export of greyhounds to countries outside the European Union which have horrific animal welfare standards and a statutory requirement to produce a report to provide more data on the export of greyhounds, where they are going and how they are treated when they get there. I again thank Senator Black and her office for their help in drafting these proposals.
This issue was extensively discussed on Committee Stage and I do not propose to go over all the details again. However, groups such as Dogs Trust have reported that Irish greyhounds are being exported to countries in which they are subjected to cruel treatment likely to result in a lengthy jail sentence in Ireland. We have a moral obligation to ensure that our exported greyhounds are protected to the same extent as those in Ireland.
Amendment No. 36 would allow for the Minister to take an active role in monitoring and regulating the export of greyhounds and ensure that greyhounds are treated with care, dignity and fairness in any country to which they are exported. We have made a couple of changes to the amendment as tabled on Committee Stage to incorporate feedback we received. We have allowed the Minister discretion in circumstances where information about a particular country is not available. We have allowed for a public consultation such that if information about relevant countries comes in through an open submission process those data can be used and the research burden is taken off the Minister and the Department. We are trying to make this amendment even more workable and I hope the Minister of State can see that and factor it into his considerations.
I know he will point out that under Articles 34 and 35 of the EU treaties, trade is an exclusive EU competence and member states have no latitude to unilaterally restrict trade, while advice from the Attorney General means that the Minister of State cannot accept this amendment. However, as I stated on Committee Stage, neither the Attorney General nor any other national level legal official can definitively say that this amendment is incompatible with EU law as the only body with the authority to make a definitive judgement in that regard is the European Court of Justice. In the absence of a ruling from that body, we make the argument that Article 36 of the treaty specifically provides that exemptions may be sought on the basis of public policy in order to protect the lives and welfare of animals. What we are proposing is explicitly allowed under Article 36. The only barrier to the Minister of State accepting this amendment is political, not legal. All he would have to do is decide that this is a legislative move on which he was willing to expend political capital on and allow Ireland to lead the way on animal welfare on the European and international stage. That is a decision that he can make here today.
Amendment No. 37 would collate and standardise the data that are already available and give the Minister a role in monitoring export of greyhounds. It would allow for the publication of an annual report from the Minister and his Department to an appropriate Oireachtas committee regarding the number of greyhounds exported in a year, where they are going and how they are treated on arrival. On Committee Stage we tabled a similar amendment and in response the Minister of State claimed that the information being requested cannot be retrieved. After carrying out subsequent research, I do not share his view. He stated that TRACES cannot be used to differentiate greyhounds and other canines, but I am reliably informed that a simple technical change to the system is all that would be required and that such change is likely to be easily made at the request of an Irish Minister. I understand that data are also gathered by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain on UK exports, which would provide data for that large trading partner. The Irish Coursing Club holds data relating to microchipping, the Department of Rural and Community Development holds data relating to dog control and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine itself collects data as a Department vet is required to sign off on the export of a greyhound through the pet passport system. In addition, information will be available under section 28 of the Bill which sets out exhaustive regulatory subsections on the tracing of greyhounds.
With all these data sources and the new traceability section of this Bill, it is simply not plausible that it would not be possible for the Minister of the day to produce a very straightforward annual report to an Oireachtas committee in this area. This amendment is much shorter than the one I tabled on Committee Stage. I am trying to make it easier for the Minister of State to accept it and I really hope he will not let the Bill leave the Seanad without making at least small changes in this area. I have even tabled amendment No. 38, which drops the animal welfare research requirement and only requires a report to register export, country of destination and reason for export. This really is a basic ask and I hope the Minister of State can accept it.
I urge an approach which will facilitate us in moving quickly. My colleague has put forward three versions of this amendment. She has listened with great care and has given clear arguments in respect of all of them. We would love Ireland to take the lead by passing amendment No. 36, which would be a mark of leadership on the part of this country. The Senator has shown that amendment No. 37 is feasible. Amendment No. 38 is so reasonable that it is perhaps reasonable in excess. It simply requires the monitoring of exports in the basic sense. Even the animal welfare monitoring provisions, which are of great concern to all of us, have been removed. I urge the Minister of State to accept one of these amendments and recognise that they are three very valid approaches and attempts to engage with his concerns and the issues he has raised throughout this debate. It is important to take some step. There must be some requirement for reporting on the export of greyhounds in a Bill that purports to regulate this industry.
I thank the Senators. I appreciate that this is a sincerely held concern on the part of most Senators in this House. I have been charged with minding animals since the day I was born and I am as acutely aware of animal welfare as anybody else here. To be honest, the only accurate data available is based on the Irish greyhounds registered with the database of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, GBGB, which indicates that 86% of greyhounds registered with the GBGB to date in 2018 were Irish-bred. Bord na gCon informs me that this equates to approximately 7,000 greyhounds annually. The other information concerns retired greyhounds that are rehomed in Ireland, the USA, Canada, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and Slovenia. As I stated in the last debate, 853 greyhounds were rehomed by the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust and other charities between January and October of this year. A further 58 greyhounds are on the current rehoming list, to be rehomed by the end of 2018. Approximately a quarter of those are rehomed by the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust here in Ireland, with Italy being the biggest rehoming destination, accounting for 30% of the total.
Regarding the proposal in amendment No. 36 for a "white list", I note that any legislation banning the exports of greyhounds to certain countries would face very significant legal difficulties. Placing restrictions on trade with a third country would no doubt need the approval of the EU. The advice from the Office of the Attorney General regarding Deputy Broughan's Private Members' Bill is that it is incompatible with domestic and European law. Given what I have said regarding the UK's position as the principal export destination for greyhounds, the proposed restriction on exports would be impossible to enforce. I am not saying this figuratively. Officers of my Department would have no power to compel a UK purchaser to release details of any onward sale. If the Department tried to police a restriction on greyhounds that are sent abroad being subsequently sent to another country, it would only create a burden of bureaucracy for responsible greyhound exporters and owners. We would fail to stop an unscrupulous exporter who had exported to a country with a problematic welfare record. Such an exporter could refuse to give details of such a sale and as the UK or any other country is outside our jurisdiction we would have no power to either compel it to comply or punish it. Similarly, it would be impossible to prove in a court that an Irish exporter sold a greyhound knowing it would be sold to a country not on the white list. It is for these reasons that our legal advice is that this is unworkable and, therefore, should not be put in legislation.
The Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 obliges Bord na gCon to publish a code of practice for the welfare of greyhounds. The primary objective of the code is to set standards and clearly define what is expected of all individuals engaged in the care and management of registered greyhounds. Currently, the code gives guidance on a range of areas, including general welfare principles, animal husbandry, animal health and use of animal remedies. Bord na gCon proposes to expand the existing code to include provisions with regard to best practice when exporting greyhounds. This will include information and guidance on preparation for export, transportation arrangements and advising the exporter on the need to research the proposed export destination to establish the prevailing animal welfare code and legislation. Bord na gCon encourages and promotes the export of greyhounds to countries that have established a positive animal welfare code and practices.
Based on the information I have provided regarding amendment No. 36, the Senators should appreciate the great difficulties the production of an annual report on the export of greyhounds would present. It is not currently possible to retrieve the information being requested by the Senator and, therefore, it is not possible for any Minister to stand over an annual report which could be presented to a joint Oireachtas committee setting out the details in the Senators' amendments. TRACES which is used to record the export of canines does not differentiate between greyhounds and other dogs. Breed is not a category used in TRACES for categorising animals within the same species. This applies to all species, not just dogs. As such, it is not possible to report on greyhounds exported to other countries. For the reasons stated, amendments Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, cannot be accepted.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Martin Conway, Paul Daly, Frank Feighan, Gerry Horkan, Anthony Lawlor, Tim Lombard, Gabrielle McFadden, Michelle Mulherin, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, John O'Mahony, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly, Neale Richmond.
It is proposed to meet at 4.15 p.m. on Monday, 21 January 2019 for the joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas in the Mansion House to commemorate the first meeting of the first Dáil. At the conclusion of the joint sitting, the House will adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 22 January 2019.