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Ireland has “dreadful reputation as the puppy farm capital of Europe”
21 June 2018

Dublin Central politician Maureen O’Sullivan TD has highlighted Ireland’s “dreadful reputation as the puppy farm capital of Europe” and asked “whether puppy farms should be in existence at all”.

During a parliamentary debate on the dog breeding industry, she pointed to the "appalling conditions" on puppy farms, the serious environmental issue and the lack of enforcement of regulations...

Thank you to Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan (Independent, Dublin Central) and Clare Daly (Independents 4 Change, Dublin Fingal) for raising these issues in Dail Eireann...

Dog Breeding Industry Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday 14 June 2018

Clare Daly TD

To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the legislative changes he is considering as a result of analysing the submissions received through consultation regarding dog breeding establishment guidelines; and the steps being made to progress those changes. [25115/18]

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy)

It has been agreed that Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan will take Deputy Clare Daly's Questions Nos. 12 and 13. Will Deputy O'Sullivan forfeit her 30-second introduction of the questions and allow the Minister of State to respond to them?

Maureen O'Sullivan TD


Seán Kyne TD

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 13 together.

My Department is currently finalising revised dog breeding establishment guidelines, taking account of the submissions received during the public consultation process, a summary report of which has been published on the Department's website. In recent months, departmental officials have been engaging with the members of the original working group and with other stakeholders to ensure that the revised guidelines reflect, where appropriate, the views received during the consultation period. I expect to have the revised guidelines ready for my approval to publish later this month. That is a commitment I gave in February in responses to parliamentary questions in the Dáil.

I want, and I am sure we all do, the highest standards achieved by dog breeding establishments in Ireland and will oversee the progression of any necessary legislative changes required in this area. My immediate priority is to finish work on revising the guidelines. Amendments to the relevant legislation, if necessary, will be progressed subsequently. My Department is currently identifying legislative amendments that may be required.

Broader issues relating to enforcement and licence conditions were also raised in the public consultation. I have asked my officials to consider whether further measures are required in these areas.

In this context, it is important to bear in mind that the enforcement of animal welfare standards for all animals, including dogs, is a matter for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the Animal Health and Welfare Acts. Both Departments work closely with each other to ensure a co-ordinated approach is taken in this area.

Maureen O'Sullivan TD

There is an urgency about these guidelines given the dreadful reputation Ireland has as the puppy farm capital of Europe. The conditions on puppy farms are poor and there is a lack of enforcement of regulations. Deputy Clare Daly and I constantly receive calls from individuals, organisations and animal welfare groups about those conditions. I checked the DoneDeal website this morning. It has over 2,000 advertisements selling puppies and that does not take into account the number of puppies available in each one of those ads. We know the appalling conditions on some of those farms. We know about the lack of enforcement. They are all the issues that are going to have to be taken on board.

The rescue communities have to pick up the pieces. I know they are being funded but not to the same extent. These puppy farms are a profit-making operation, churning out puppies all the time. We see the seizures being made by customs officers practically every week. For example, a couple of puppies were seized last week. Those puppies have to be rehoused and retrained and it's the animal welfare groups take all that into account. I do hope that what you said in your reply will actually see much, much better conditions and also enforcements.

Seán Kyne TD

I wholeheartedly agree with the Deputy. We all recognise the important issues regarding puppy welfare. A number of submissions were made during the public consultation process. I expect to publish the revised guidelines by the end of this month. We can also be positive about some of the changes that have been made under the Animal Welfare Acts, including microchipping, and the trends in dog control statistics. The total number of dogs euthanised in local authority pounds was 996 in 2017 compared to more than 1,600 in 2016. That indicates a continuation in the annual decline in the number of dogs being euthanised, which is down from a high of more than 21,000 in 2002. There is positivity in the area, notwithstanding the issues that have arisen.

At the end of December 2016, 248 dog breeders were registered with the local authorities and 275 inspections of dog breeding establishments took place. The total number of dog breeding establishments on the register with local authorities at the end of December 2017 was 258.

Maureen O'Sullivan TD

The problem with inspections is that they are by appointment and, therefore, the dog breeding establishment knows when the inspector is coming. There needs to be on-the-spot appointments. If a fault is found, a notice is given to improve that situation. Enforcement is not strong enough.

There are two other aspects, one of which is related to revenue. We need to consider the number of dog breeding establishments in Ireland and their revenue. I have been trying to pursue that with the Minister. There is also a serious environmental issue. Hundreds of dogs are being bred on puppy farms and there is the issue of dog poop and what exactly is happening in that regard. There is a serious environmental issue on that.

In his response to a Topical Issue matter I raised with the Minister previously, he agreed that the scope of the existing guidelines need to be enhanced because they are benign. They represent a minimal standard that is no longer acceptable. We need to move much more radically on this issue.

Responsibility for animal welfare comes under three Departments - the Minister of State's Department, and the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

When it falls between three departments, the cracks are there and the abuses are taking place.

Another question is whether puppy farms should be in existence at all. Puppies are not livestock and are not bred for slaughter or food production. I hope that the guidelines will be much more robust and have severe enforcement aspects.

Seán Kyne TD

The consultation was robust and there were a number of submissions which we expect to be able to take on board. I note the Deputy's concerns about this being a cross-departmental issue. Some of the submissions also made that point and were of the view that it should be entirely within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, where vets have a role. The local authorities, which fall under a separate Department, have ultimate responsibility for enforcement. There is good collaboration, however, between the Departments, vets and local authorities. My officials have engaged with the relevant stakeholders, for example, local authorities and vets under the auspices of the County and City Management Association, CCMA, the ISPCA and Dogs Trust, on revising the draft documents.

The Deputy is right concerning Buy N Sell, and so on. She can take up the Revenue issues with the Minister for Finance, but it was a valid point.

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