Written answers

Thursday, 13 June 2024

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Control of Dogs

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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47. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine what his Department is doing to encourage responsible dog ownership. [25644/24]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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My Department is fully committed to promoting responsible dog ownership, which is such an important issue. I recognise that the recent series of dog attacks, particularly the tragic and shocking events in Limerick, have caused huge concerns to people in this regard. That is why I am taking firm action, along with my colleague Minister Humphreys, to encourage responsible dog ownership and to consider what further steps might be required to address this problem as a matter of urgency.

Last year, with Minister Humphreys' Department of Rural and Community Development, I established a working group on dog control. The group has produced a report which was approved by Cabinet and subsequently published.

This report contains a number of recommendations relating to the control of dogs. This included the establishment of a stakeholder group to consider and make recommendations on revising the Control of Dogs Act and the issue of restricted breeds. The Control of Dogs Act lies with Minister Humphreys' Department, and so she has established this stakeholder group and has recently spoken about its work.

One of the other key recommendations is the implementation of a media campaign, in collaboration with stakeholders and the Advisory Council on Companion Animal Welfare, to encourage responsible dog ownership.

My officials are also working with Minister Humphrey’s Department in relation to responsible dog ownership, to coordinate across government on this subject. Resulting from this collaboration, in December last year my Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development jointly launched a responsible dog ownership leaflet. This has been distributed widely and is available in electronic form online. We expect to carry out further initiatives to encourage responsible dog ownership in 2024.

The Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025 Working Together for Animal Welfare included a commitment to establish an Advisory Council on Companion Animal Welfare. I established this Council in 2021 with members having a diverse range of skill sets, so that it can advise me on matters relating to companion animals including canines.

Independent members with a range of expertise and experience have been appointed, including members from Veterinary Ireland, UCD, the ISPCA, the DSPCA, the Dogs Trust, the Irish Blue Cross, the Irish Kennel Club and others. This Council therefore is an important grouping which assists the Department and advises me in prioritising and advancing policy initiatives relating to companion animals.

My Department is working with the Council to promote responsible dog ownership. Responsible dog ownership is about educating people on the many considerations in getting a dog, keeping and managing a dog appropriately and breeding healthy dogs.

An example of the work of the Council was in the development of the Department’s approach to the animal welfare issue posed by brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds.

These breeds have a high risk of health and welfare issues, including difficulty breathing, eye disease, spinal problems and skin infections. Many of these dogs require surgery to improve their quality of life. The Council advised that the use of images of brachycephalic dog breeds in advertising, marketing and news media has contributed to increasing demand for brachycephalic dogs in this country. An open letter was therefore issued by the Department on behalf of the Council to media and advertising organisations, requesting that the refrain from unnecessary use of images of these dogs in publications, on merchandise or for product endorsement.

In August last year, I introduced new strengthened legislation to end the practice of ear cropping of dogs. This was widely welcomed as an effective approach to protect puppies from this cruel practice, and instead to encourage a responsible approach to dog ownership and dog welfare.

Last month, I announced that I will be banning the use on dogs and cats of electronic shock collars operated by hand-held remote controls, which is another step forward to improve the welfare of dogs.

In December, 2023, I announced record funding of almost €6 million to 101 animal welfare organisations with an increased focus on rewarding animal welfare charities engaged in educating and raising awareness among the public on responsible pet ownership. The funding recognises the importance of education and dissemination of knowledge to improve animal welfare. Imparting knowledge on animal welfare plays a crucial role in improving standards nationally, and encouraging a culture of responsible dog ownership. The application process for the 2024 grants opened on 1st May and closed on 31st May, and I look forward to announcing the awards for successful applicants later in the year.

Through this range of actions and initiatives, my Department is driving forward to promote and support responsible dog ownership. In combination with the actions being taken in relation to dog control and breed issues by Minister Humphreys, I am confident these will yield results.


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