Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Greyhound Industry

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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651. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the animal welfare measures taken by Greyhound Racing Ireland in 2019 and to date in 2020; the monitoring mechanisms of same in place by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44526/20]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ) is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. RCÉ is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

RCÉ, as part of its Strategic Plan 2018-2022, has, as a clear objective, the maintaining of animal welfare at the centre of the industry. Measures taken in 2019 and 2020 under RCÉ’s overall care and welfare programme include:

- The opening of the first Care Centre in Thurles in July 2020 which will act as a half-way house between the end of a racing career and the placing of the greyhound in its ‘forever home’. The centre will allow greyhounds to be socialised and for interested parties to consider the fostering or adoption of a greyhound in such a setting.

- The implementation of an extensive rehoming programme with 1470 greyhounds rehomed in 2020 to end November with assistance from the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust, an entity established by RCÉ.

- The introduction of a financial incentive for all domestic rehomings to encourage further rehoming in Ireland.

- The implementation of a Foster-to-Adopt Scheme.

- The operation of an Injuries at Track Financial Support Scheme whereby funding is available to address injuries sustained to racing greyhounds to ensure that they can be retired from greyhound racing.

- The establishing of a confidential phone line/email through which any welfare issues can be reported on a 24/7 basis. All reports are fully investigated by RCÉ welfare staff.

- The utilisation of the Exclusion Order process whereby a party can be excluded from being on a greyhound racing track.

- The updating of the Code of Practice for the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound which has been the subject of a public consultation process. The Code is provided for under Section 6 of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011.

- The continuing of an intense testing regime both at race events and through out of competition testing. The urine sampling regime has been expanded in 2020 to also cover blood sampling on a periodic basis . Work is also underway in terms of the necessary protocols to implement further enhancements of the testing regime through hair sampling.

- RCÉ implemented a COVID-19 Care Payment Scheme during the period of suspension of racing activity from March to June 2020. Some €998,000 was paid under the scheme to ensure that the welfare needs of the racing greyhound were met during a period when racing activity was suspended.

RCÉ also provides veterinary services at all tracks and has a welfare team engaged on a wide ranging and extensive inspections programme.

In addition, as part of the conditions attached to the allocation of the Horse & Greyhound Racing Fund, RCÉ is obliged to commit 10% of the fund towards welfare and integrity measures. This includes measures in relation to regulation, testing, laboratory and other aspects of activity that will improve the welfare and integrity approach of RCÉ.

My Department officials have regular ongoing engagement with RCÉ in relation to the implementation of programmes from a regulatory, integrity and care and welfare perspective. There are regular liaison meetings which are held between my Department and senior executives of RCÉ, the last such meeting was held on 6thOctober 2020.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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652. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the actions taken by his Department and Greyhound Racing Ireland to address greyhound culling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44527/20]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ) is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. RCÉ is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

RCÉ, as part of the modernising of the legislative framework governing the greyhound industry, will be introducing a traceability system in relation to racing greyhounds. The system is provided for on a statutory basis under the Greyhound Racing Act, 2019. RCÉ tendered for a traceability system earlier this year and work has been ongoing with the appointed contractor. RCÉ expects to have the system operational by year end.

Regulations will be advanced in 2021 to underpin the system and ensure enforcement of the provisions for traceability. The traceability system will provide for the recording of important life events in the life of the racing greyhound including birth, microchipping, registration, racing career, changes of ownership/trainer, location, export, retirement and end of life.

RCÉ’s Code of Practice for the Care & Welfare of the Greyhound, prepared in accordance with Section 6 of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 specifies ‘euthanasia must only be performed by a registered veterinary practitioner unless on exceptional grounds. The owner must obtain a death certificate appropriately stamped and signed by the registered veterinary practitioner’. Public consultation on the updated Code of Practice has recently concluded.

RCÉ also operates a 24/7 confidential phone/email line for reporting of any care and welfare issues relating to greyhounds. Any reports of inappropriate behaviour will be followed up by RCÉ’s Welfare Officers.

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