Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
29. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will bring forward an amendment to the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 to enable the protection of the legislation to be extended to hares at coursing events. [25840/15]
The Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 represents a major updating of our laws in this area going back to 1911.
Under the Act coursing of a hare is permitted unless the hare is hunted or coursed in a space from which it does not have a reasonable chance of escape. The protections, such as the muzzling of greyhounds, which were introduced in 1993 have played an important role in safeguarding hares involved in coursing. In addition to supervision by officers from the National Parks & Wildlife Service, my Department’s veterinary officials attend around 10% of coursing meetings with a view to ensuring optimum welfare standards. These are selected through a combination of random and risk-based decision making.
The Deputy will be aware that the matter was both debated at length and voted upon during the extensive debates that occurred during the passage of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 through these houses. I think that we have struck a reasonable balance in the legislation as between those opposed to hare coursing and those who consider it to be a legitimate sport.
I am fully committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals and my Department devotes considerable resources to protecting animal welfare and in dealing with breaches of animal welfare legislation. The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 applies across the board, both to rural and urban areas and to all animals, irrespective of species, whether kept for commercial, domestic, sport, show or for other purposes. Under the Act, on summary conviction, a person can receive a fine of up to € 5 ,000 and, on indictment, €250,000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years. There are fixed penalty payments for lesser offenses. The Act provides the framework within which the welfare of animals can be safeguarded and I am hopeful that the substantial and significantly increased levels of penalties for offences of animal cruelty provided for under the Act will act as a deterrent to animal welfare abuses.
In conclusion, I am satisfied that the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 is working well and I have no plans to review so soon after it has come into effect.