Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
657. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the efforts being made to deal with the rising tide of animal cruelty; the number of cases that have been prosecuted on indictment for animal cruelty; the number of sentences of imprisonment that have been imposed for the mistreatment of animals in the past five years; the average fine imposed upon conviction in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49343/21]
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has always been clear and consistent, and the Programme for Government places a positive emphasis on animal welfare, committing to the continued robust enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.
Trends from the number and nature of animal welfare complaints received by my Department, and indicators from on farm welfare inspections, do not support the assertion that there is a 'rising 'tide' in incidents of animal cruelty.
Neglect of, or causing unnecessary suffering to animals, is not acceptable and where instances of abuse, cruelty or neglect of animals are encountered, evidence is gathered and where appropriate those responsible are prosecuted through the Courts.
In addition to continued and vigorous enforcement of the law, the Department is committed to a policy of education and awareness-building in order to prevent animal welfare issues arising. Significant animal welfare related measures have been advanced recently within the scope of our national Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025, Working Together for Animal Welfare. The Strategy is backed by resources and expertise within the Department and involves dialogue and cooperation with other Government Departments and Agencies, with stakeholders and with civil society. Furthermore, I established a dedicated Animal Welfare Division within my Department earlier this year to drive the initiatives outlined in the strategy.
To cite just a few examples: in December 2020, I announced record funding of €3.2 million to animal welfare organisations - an increase of over 10% on 2019. The Programme for Government includes an undertaking to double our funding on animal welfare in line with policy priorities, and I am fully committed to this undertaking.
The Control of Horses Act 1996 is under review and the Department continues to support several urban horse projects nationwide, bringing education on all aspects of equine welfare to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council has been re-launched, and a new Advisory Council on Companion Animal Welfare has been established and will convene this month.
The Department continues to enforce the law in this important area along with An Garda Síochána, the Customs service, and authorised officers from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Offences under the Act may be prosecuted in the District Court by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, local authorities and member of An Garda Síochána. Matters tried on indictment are the remit of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the normal manner and I refer the Deputy to the DPP for number of prosecutions on indictment.
At the suit of the Minister, in the past five years, eleven persons have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment which were suspended in nine cases. The Probation Act was applied in eight instances.
The average fine imposed for persons prosecuted over the past 12 months was approximately €1,640.