Control of Dogs Bill, 1986: Second Stage.

Wednesday, 22 October 1986

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 114 No. 7

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Professor Dooge: Information on James CI Dooge  Zoom on James CI Dooge  I think it is clear from what was agreed at the commencement of business today that it would be the wish of the House that we should deal with this Bill to the extent possible tonight, in other words, that while business will be interrupted from 6.30 p.m. until 8 p.m. in order to take Private Members' Business we should sit if necessary until 10 p.m. to complete the Second Stage of this Bill.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hegarty): Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  This Bill arises from the widely acknowledged deficiencies that exist in the controls exercised over the dog population. These deficiencies have led to a situation where there are dogs roaming our countryside and the streets of our towns and cities doing considerable damage to sheep flocks, causing health and environmental problems and attacking adults and children. The existing control measures, some of which date back to 1847, are not working and it is believed that part of the problem is that responsibility for enforcement of these measures is dispersed over several Government Departments.

In response to criticism emanating from political, farming and animal welfare circles for action to tackle the problem, an Inter-Departmental Committee on Dog Control was set up in September, 1983, at the behest of the Minister for Agriculture. The committee comprised [702] representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Justice, Environment and Finance. After consultation with various interests involved it produced a comprehensive report and made detailed recommendations which the Government have adopted as the basis for a new system of dog control. The Bill will repeal all the existing legislation in the matter and consolidate in one stature all matters pertaining to dog control.

It is estimated by some people that there is one dog to every five persons in the State. That would leave a dog population of 700,000. There are no official statistics to corroborate this figure, but information compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute in the course of surveys indicate that 51 per cent of households keep at least one dog, giving a minimum figure of 500,000 dogs. The real figure probably lies somewhere between the two. The number of dog licences taken out fell from 205,000 in 1975 to 80,000 in 1985 and that reduction is in itself a further reason why the control of dogs needs to be tightened up considerably.

The problems associated with dogs do not arise entirely from numbers but also from irresponsible ownership. This can lead to attacks on sheep which, in economic terms, result in substantial losses to sheep farmers and to the national economy. Other results of such irresponsibility can be attacks on persons and especially on children, environmental pollution through dogs fouling paths, parks and beaches, traffic accidents attributable to uncontrolled dogs and public health hazards such as transmission of disease. A serious health risk, especially, for children playing with infected pets or coming in contact with dog excrement, is toxocara canis, which in some cases may cause eye damage or even epilepsy. Salmonellosis and ringworm may be picked up from dogs.

The most serious health risk comes, however, from rabies. Fortunately this country is free of the disease and there are strict precautions on the importation of dogs and cats as a protective measure against the disease. The westward movement [703] of the disease in Europe increases the danger that infected animals could appear in Ireland and in turn infect uncontrolled dogs.

At present primary responsibility for enforcement of dogs legislation rests with the Garda Síochána. Because of the many pressures on the force in relation to serious crime and the maintenance of the security of the State and the fact that it is inappropriate to use highly trained Garda personnel to do work which could be done equally well by other trained personnel, it is proposed to place the task of enforcement of the dog control measures in this Bill with dog wardens to be appointed for the purpose.

A further obstacle to effective enforcement of the existing control measures is the diffusion of responsibility between various Departments. The Bill, therefore, will entrust overall responsibility in the matter to the Minister for the Environment because of his involvement with local government, at which level the problems will be tackled on the ground. The major local authorities, i.e., the 27 county councils and five county borough corporations will administer the Act in their respective areas. This will involve licensing dogs, appointing dog wardens and providing dog shelters. The licence revenue which will accure to the local authorities concerned in respect of dogs licensed in their respective areas is expected to be sufficient to cover the expenses incurred. It is envisaged that local authority areas with small dog populations and consequently low revenue will make appropriate arrangements with adjoining authorities for the operation of joint schemes. The intention is that the dog control measure will operate on a self-financing basis.

I think all genuine dog lovers will have no compunction about paying the licence fee, when they will have tangible evidence that the money is being utilised for a proper system of dog control. For some years now the Department of the Environment have been encouraging local authorities to get involved in dog control and have been grant-aiding those [704] who did get involved to the extent of 50 per cent of their costs. For this year, a sum of £125,000 has been provided in the Department of the Environment Estimates for the purpose and it is estimated that sums of £175,000 in 1987 and £200,000 in 1988 will also be required.

At present 12 local authorities are actively involved in dog control, and the powers which this Bill will give them will be of considerable help. Most of these local authorities engage the services of the ISPCA, which operates on an agency basis for the authorities concerned. It is proposed in the Bill to permit such arrangements to continue so that each local authority can decide to operate the scheme directly, or operate a joint scheme with another local authority or have the scheme operated on their behalf by the ISPCA or other body concerned with animal welfare.

While there are many owners who exercise proper care and control of their dogs and due consideration for their neighbours, there are, unfortunately, some who let their dogs run wild. This is the real problem and is the cause of sheep worrying, attacks on people, traffic accidents and so on. Until we get the loose dogs off our lands and streets we will not solve the problem and, accordingly, the Bill proposes that a loose dog which is not accompanied by any person and is outside the confines of the land or premises where it is kept will be regarded as a stray dog and will be seized by a dog warden. This is the core of the Bill and will give real teeth to those operating it. While the aim of the dog wardens will be to encourage and advise on responsible dog ownership, I recognise that there are those who will ignore such advice and these people must be dealt with in a different way.

Section 1 contains the definitions of the terms used in the Bill. The Government decided that, while the Minister for Agriculture would sponsor the Bill, the Minister for the Environment would be responsible for its implementation. Consequently the Minister has been defined in the section as the Minister for the Environment.

[705] Section 2 makes it unlawful for a person to keep a dog without a licence. In order to restrain impulsive buying of dogs, particularly as presents for children at Christmas and on other special occasions, I am also providing in this section that a licence must be obtained in advance of the purchase of a dog. The section will, accordingly, make it unlawful to purchase or sell a dog which is not covered by a licence. Under existing law all dogs aged one month or upward must be licensed. This section will provide that all dogs must be licensed, and this is necessary to tie in with the requirement to purchase a licence in advance. However, I am providing in section 5 that pups under four months, still kept with the bitch, will be exempt from licensing. I feel that this will accord more closely with the practical situation.

Section 3 provides for the issue of dog licences by the local authority. As at present, there are two types of licences provided for — a dog licence which will apply to a single dog and which will be issued by the local authority for the area in which the dog is kept or is intended to be kept, and a general dog licence which will also be issued by a local authority and will apply to all dogs kept by a person within the functional area of that local authority. At present a general licence applies to all dogs kept by a person in the State, but because of the devolution of the licensing function to the local authorities, practical considerations make it desirable to confine the validity of the general dog licence to the area of the local authority which issued it. This section also provides that a local authority may, with the consent of the Minister for the Environment, enter into arrangements with another body for the issue of the licences on its behalf. That function is, of course, currently exercised by An Post.

Section 4 prevents the issue of a licence to a person under 16 years of age or to a person who is disqualified by a court from keeping a dog because of a conviction for cruelty. Section 5 sets out the categories of persons who will be exempt from holding [706] a licence. These comprise the local authorities, the ISPCA and any other animal welfare bodies involved in the operation of the Act, the Garda Síochána, blind persons using guide dogs, persons keeping pups under four months with the dam or foster-mother, officials who round up dogs under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966, for example, in the event of a rabies outbreak, and such other class of peson as may be prescribed.

Section 6 provides that a licence will be transferable with a dog, except when there is a change of ownership. Under Section 7 the licence will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue, unlike the present situation where we have a fixed licensing date — 1 January — which prompts some people to avoid licensing dogs acquired late in the year. Section 8 specifies the licence fees which are unchanged at £5 for a dog licence and £100 for a general dog licence. The Minister will have power to alter these rates by way of regulations or to specify different rates in respect of different classes of dogs. While it is not intended to specify different rates in the immediate future, it is considered prudent to provide the necessary powers in case at some future date it is considered desirable to adjust licence fees to distinguish between different breeds or sizes of dogs or between sterilised and unsterilised dogs.

Section 9 imposes an obligation on owners or other persons in charge of dogs to accompany them and keep them under effectual control, when they are outside the confines of the premises where they are kept. Therefore, persons who permit their dogs to wander around the streets or, in a rural area, to move off his land will commit an offence under the Act. The existing law, under the Dogs Order 1966, provides for control of dogs between sunset and sunrise only. The offence now being created is a new one, but it is essential that it be introduced if we are to have effective dog control. Wandering dogs, not under anybody's control, are a menace and are the cause of many serious incidents and their owners must be made accountable. Section 9 also repeats a provision in the Dogs [707] (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1960, making it an offence where a dog worries livestock. Section 10 repeats the provisions in the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, whereby greyhounds must be kept under leash in a public place and not more than four may be exercised together by one person.

Section 11 is aimed at providing effective powers for ridding our towns and countryside of stray dogs. The existing law governing stray dogs is contained in the Dogs Act, 1906, and provides that a police officer, who believes that a dog found in a highway or place of public resort is a stray dog, may seize it. A further provision about stray dogs is in the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1960, and enables a member of the Garda Síochána to seize a dog which has been worrying livestock or enables a person who finds a dog worrying livestock to seize it and deliver it to the Garda. As I have stated already, it is inappropriate that primary responsibility for enforcement of these provisions should rest with the Garda Síochána and the section accordingly provides that dog wardens shall take all reasonable steps to seize stray dogs. This will impose an obligation on the warden to seize stray dogs. Under this section the Garda will continue to be empowered to seize strays but it is envisaged that, with an effective dog warden service in operation, the services of the Garda will be rarely required.

The section also repeats the provision in the Dogs Act, 1906, for the giving of notice to the owner that a seized dog will be disposed of — which is defined as sold or given away under section 1 — or destroyed after seven days unless the dog is claimed and related expenses paid. A person claiming such a dog will be required to make a declaration and satisfy the local authority or the Garda Síochána that he or she is the owner or is authorised to claim the dog. An interesting point in the Bill is that we have the practical advantage of seeing dog wardens in operation. In other words, we are not talking about an hypothetical situation in the future or about the situation in the North.

[708] Here at home near us in Wicklow and around the place we have a very effective operation in place.

Under section 12 a local authority will be empowered to accept unwanted dogs and to dispose of such dogs or destroy them. This is a very important feature of dog control and is a service that has been rendered on a voluntary basis by the ISPCA for a long time in our major population centres. It provides a simple, inexpensive and humane way of limiting the dog population. Dogs disposed of under this section and the previous section may not be disposed of for the purposes of animal experimentation but may be sterilised before they are sold. Sections 11 and 12 also provide that a person receiving such a dog becomes the owner. On the question of disposal I might say that it will be the intention that, as is the case at present with animal welfare groups, dogs will be disposed of to persons who will be adjudged to be dog lovers and capable of caring for them and bitches will be spayed, unless they are valuable for breeding.

Section 13 updates the provisions in the Dogs Act, 1906, and the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, governing the situation where a person finds and takes possession of a stray dog. Such person will be required to return the dog to its owner, or deliver it to a dog warden, or detain the dog and give notice in writing to the Garda Síochána or a dog warden. If the dog is detained for 12 months and the dog has not been claimed by its owner, the finder will become the owner. This section also updates a provision in the Dogs (Protection) of Livestock) Act, 1960, whereby any person may seize a stray dog suspected of worrying livestock and deliver it to a dog warden. This is the only situation where a person other than a dog warden or a garda may seize a stray dog. Section 14 provides for the keeping of a register of dogs seized.

Section 15 imposes on each local authority the duty to employ at least one dog warden and to establish and maintain dog shelters. A local authority will, however, be empowered to delegate the entire dog [709] control function to the ISPCA or, with the consent of the Minister, to a body connected with animal welfare such as the Irish Kennel Club or anybody else. A local authority may also, again with the consent of the Minister, delegate to any person the function of providing and running dog shelters and of dealing with the dogs therein. This section also takes on board a provision in the Planning Acts enabling local authorities to grant-aid bodies providing shelters for stray or unwanted dogs.

As I have already indicated, some 12 local authorities, with the active encouragement and financial assistance of the Minister for the Environment, and indeed, with the co-operation of the farming organisations have initiated dog control services of one kind or another. For the most part the work is carried out on an agency basis by the ISPCA. Those county councils which have got limited services under way should be in a position, immediately it is enacted, to avail of the statutory powers to be conferred in this Bill and to provide a comprehensive service and to serve as a model for the particular counties that up to now have not got experience in this area. Section 16 details certain powers of the dog warden and gives power of arrest without warrant to a garda where a person obstructs a warden or fails to give a correct name and address. This section usually is a bit sensitive in all types of legislation but it is a standard section.

Section 17 authorises local authorities to make by-laws relating to the control of dogs within their functional areas. Depending on the situation locally, each authority will have their own priorities and may or may not wish to impose controls, additional to these in the Bill, within their own area or within particular locations. The section lists specific controls, which an authority may introduce, requiring a person to remove the faeces where a dog has fouled a public place — that applies both in the North of Ireland and the UK where you have to go along with a bag and shovel — specifying areas where dogs must be kept on a leash or where dogs, other than guide dogs, would [710] be prohibited altogether. The environmental and public health aspects of dog faeces in urban areas are of increasing public concern.

Some public authorities in other countries have taken action to tackle this problem. I consider it desirable, therefore, to provide this enabling power should any of our local authorities wish to take similar action. On the morning radio programme we heard some time go, about the volume of faeces and the actual tonnage in Dublin is absolutely extraordinary and the cost of this to the ratepayer and the overburdened taxpayer must be astronomical.

Section 18 restates a provision in the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, whereby a person convicted of cruelty to a dog can be disqualified by a court from keeping a dog for such period as the court thinks fit. Section 19 provides that the Minister may introduce regulations for the control of premises where more than five adult dogs are kept. These will include breeding, boarding and guard dog kennels and it is desirable that the dog wardens should be empowered to control dog welfare in these establishments, where such control is deemed to be necessary. It goes without saying that if a number of dogs are kept by somebody for breeding, greyhounds, fox-hunting or whatever, these should be properly looked after and properly supervised.

The Minister will be empowered also to regulate, if necessary, the use of guard dogs in the course of business. The use of guard dogs as a security measure is now a common feature of business life and it is considered prudent that the Minister should be able to exercise control in this area, if necessary.

Another precautionary power proposed for the Minister is the muzzling of dogs and the keeping of dogs under control. While it is not expected that the Minister will have need to exercise this power in the near future, the possibility of an outbreak of disease which could be spread by dogs must be guarded against. Rabies would be one of the diseases. The Minister will also regulate the identification [711] of dogs by way of collar or harness, which is a requirement at present under the Dogs Order, 1966, and may in the future specify other means of identification, such as tattooing, and prescribe a means of licence identification.

Opportunity is being taken in the Bill to increase the maximum fine for a conviction under the Protection of Animals Acts from £50 to £500 and this is provided for in section 20. It is provided also that fines may be increased in future by way of regulations; such regulations would require the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas. Section 21 restates section 3 of the Animals Act, 1985, concerning civil liability for damage done by a dog. The section was extensively debated in the House last year and is included here because the Bill is a consolidating measure concerning dogs. Section 22 authorises a court to deal with dangerous dogs and to order that such dogs be kept under control or destroyed. This provision has its origins in the Dogs Act, 1871.

From an agricultural point of view, section 23 is important. Under the law as it stands — Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1960 — it is a good defence for shooting a dog if the defendent proves that the dog was shot when worrying livestock on agricultural land. I now propose that this provision be widened to permit the shooting of dogs worrying or about to worry livestock no matter where they are and of stray dogs which had not left the vicinity where livestock had been injured or killed and which could not be seized or identified. Section 24 restates a provision in the Dogs Act, 1906, which requires that carcases should not be left unburied in places to which dogs could gain access, but excludes parts of carcases used as poisoned bait.

Section 25 provides a court remedy for persons aggrieved by excessive barking of a dog. The court may order abatement of the nuisance or limit the number of dogs on a particular premises or direct that the dog be delivered to a dog warden and dealt with as an unwanted dog. That particular part of the legislation will not [712] be implemented by the dog warden. That will be a private matter between two neighbours. The provision is in the Bill that a neighbour will have to take his neighbour to court and get him to cease the noise if there is too much noise at night.

Section 26 specifies the offences and penalties arising under the Bill. Section 27 introduces on-the-spot fines for minor offences which carry a maximum fine of £100 and for failure to keep a dog or greyhound under effectual control. While lack of effectual control could have serious consequences in some circumstances, there will undoubtedly be occassions when the offence would lead to no great harm and could be dealt with on the spot by the dog warden.

Section 28 provides that the local authority may prosecute offences under the Bill and places the onus on the defendant of providing any relevant facts, for example, age of dog, existence of licence or importation of dog. The concessions about age of dog or importation into the State are being made to facilitate dog breeders and persons bringing dogs in from the United Kingdom for shows, etc. That happens regularly. It was one of the representations that was made to us with regard to show dogs in particular. It is reasonable that such parties should have to prove the facts in cases of suspected abuse.

Section 32 will enable the Minister to make grants to local authorities and to bodies concerned with the provisions of dog shelters or with the welfare of dogs. Under section 15 a local authority are similarly enabled to aid such bodies. Section 34 enables the Minister to extend the provisions of the Act relating to acceptance of unwanted dogs, the provision of shelters and the grant-aiding of bodies providing shelters to other pet animals. The limited service operating in some local authorities at present for dog control is providing a very useful service by taking in large numbers of unwanted cats as well as dogs. It is considered desirable, therefore, that the Bill should provide a statutory basis for that activity. I [713] wish to emphasise that there is no question of wardens being involved in the seizure of cats. This provision is designed to facilitate the disposal of unwanted cats.

These are the salient features of the Bill which I commend to the House and in so doing I would like to thank all those who have contributed in some way to the preparation of this Bill, particularly the National Action Committee on Dog Control, the members of the Inter-Departmental Committee, the ISPCA, the Irish Kennel Club and the Advisory Council on Animal Health and, indeed, the farming bodies as well.

In conclusion, I should like to make the point that we are now coming to another lambing season. Farmers all over the country are in fear and trepidation of what could happen. We see gruesome pictures in the papers. It is appropriate that we should deal seriously with this Bill, have it properly discussed, and hopefully passed. Thank you.

Mr. T. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  This legislation is very welcome, particularly if it comes to grips with the problem of stray dogs. It will amend and extend the law relating to the control of dogs. I hope when the Bill is finally passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas that it will be enforced rigidly.

I believe the law as it stands at present is adequate even if it was enforced, but unfortunately it is not. We have legislation on the Statute Book dating back to 1871. There are many other statutes such as those in 1906, 1925, 1926, 1963 and so on, dealing with this problem in one way or another. In fact, we had legislation a few years ago making it obligatory for dog owners to ensure that their dogs wear collars with the dog owners' names on them. How many dogs are wearing such collars nowadays or, indeed, how many prosecutions have taken place in the intervening years? I doubt that very many have. My point is that unless the law is enforced, it is a waste of the time of this House putting through legislation. I ask the Minister at the start of the debate on this very important measure to make sure as far [714] as he can that when this legislation has passed through the House it will be enforced.

It is obvious from the revenue received in 1985 from dog licences, namely, £0.4 million, that the law requiring dog owners to have dog licences is not being enforced. The potential revenue from dog licences at current rates is £2.5 million. The Government are allowing that valuable source of revenue to be whittled away by neglecting to enforce the law. Indeed, in bygone days when the gardaí had only bicycles to get around their districts, they did the rounds regularly to check on defaulters, in rural areas anyway. Of course, they did not have to call on every house because once they made an appearance the bush telegraphs began to operate and usually the defaulters made a beeline to the local post office to renew their dog licences. The gardaí do not have time to enforce this law now, which is still on our Statute Book, and so we lose over £2 million in revenue. Not alone that, but we know the damage straying and wandering dogs cause to individuals and, indeed, to the countryside.

Under this Bill local authorities will be given the responsibility for collecting the dog licence fees. It is expected that eventually the scheme will be self-financing. That, of course, will be great if it happens, but unless there is a determined effort to enforce this new law all we are doing here is passing the buck from one body to another.

How can we expect local authorities to collect licence fees when the Department of Justice, who are at present operating the scheme, cannot collect them. Exchequer and to local authorities for dog control in 1986, it is estimated, will be of the order of £125,000. This would be less than £4,000 for each of the 32 local authorities involved. I consider this to be completely inadequate if we are to be serious about the control of dogs. Neither is one dog warden employed by each local authority sufficient to enforce the law. Indeed, going on local authorities records of collecting water and refuse service charges, there is no way they will be able [715] to collect dog licences. For that reason I recommended that the Department of the Environment should continue to subvent local authorities for this scheme. Otherwise we will be wasting our time.

Section 15 details the method of appointment of dog wardens by local authorities and states that every person so employed shall be furnished with a certificate of his appointment. I submit that before a person is issued with such a certificate he or she should undergo a training course on how to handle a dog. You cannot issue a certificate to a person without the necessary training. I understand the ISPCA are quite capable of providing such a course. Their services should be availed of by the Minister.

A date should be set for the appointment of these wardens. Otherwise local authorities will delay their appointments. This is very important. We all know how local authorities operate. If this regulation is foisted on them without specifying the date on which those wardens should be appointed, then their appointments will be put on the long finger. For that reason I ask the Minister to set a date for their appointment.

Every spring we read terrible reports of sheep being worried and slaughtered by stray dogs. Indeed, it is unbelievable the damage that can be caused by a few stray dogs when they chase a flock of sheep of lambing time. Usually the unfortunate farmer who is the victim of such an attack has to live with the loss of his animals unless the marauding dogs can be tracked down and the owners made to pay.

Section 9 provides that where a dog worried livestock the owner or person in charge of the dogs shall be guilty of an offence. The owner should also be made responsible for compensation to the aggrieved farmer. This should be written into the Bill. We all know of the worry of farmers who have land adjoining cities and large towns. They seem to suffer more than anybody else, particularly at spring time and during the lambing season. Indeed, the Minister referred to this in the course of his speech. The lack [716] of control over those animals is unbelievable. Every year committees of agriculture and other concerned bodies throughout the country pass resolutions asking people to tie up their dogs, particularly during the lambing season, but in many cases those pleas go unheeded. I cannot put a finger on the amount of damage caused to the sheep flock. I am sure it runs into many hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is tragic that people are so irresponsible as to allow their dogs to wander and cause such damage. Where a farmer finds dogs worrying his livestock he should be entitled to shoot those dogs.

I am pleased to note in section 23 of the Bill that farmers will be empowered to do this. The Minister said he now proposed that this provision should be widened to permit the shooting of dogs who are worrying or who are about to worry livestock no matter where they are and of stray dogs who had not left the vicinity where livestock had been injured or killed and which could not be seized or identified. It is proper that farmers would have power to deal with those straying dogs.

Section 10 deals with the control of greyhounds. It should be specified that a person leading up to four greyhounds should be over 16 years of age to ensure the effective control of the animals.

Section 11 deals with stray dogs and sets out the duties of dog wardens and the gardaí regarding the seizure and detention of these animals. It should also specify that stray dogs, known to be dangerous, cannot be released. Subsection (7) sets out the length of time local authorities or the gardaí may detain a dog before disposing of it or arranging for its destruction. The time is set at seven days following the making of an entry in the register. I believe this could be reduced to four or five days because this part of the Bill is a legacy from the 1906 Dogs Act. There is now better communication. It is more easy to contact dog owners than it was in 1906. For that reason the time allowed could be reduced to four or five days. It would also save [717] money because dogs would not have to be fed for up to seven days.

A number of points could be made relating to this Bill. I know other speakers would like to get in. Perhaps with a few changes this Bill could be made a little better. I am sure the recommendations I have made can be included in the Bill. If that can be done and the legislation passed I hope it will contribute towards eliminating this menace once and for all. It is a menace in towns and in the countryside. The Minister outlined some of the problems caused by the destruction wandering dogs cause to parks and to footpaths as well as the destruction that can be caused to sheep flocks at lambing time. I hope this legislation will help in some small way to eliminate such destruction.

As I said at the outset, unless the legislation is enforced we will not solve the problem. Many other Acts have been put on the Statute Book and, while their intentions were good, as the years passed we found they were not able to tackle the problem of straying dogs which are such a menace to society. I welcome the Bill. On Committee Stage I will be making a few recommendations which could help to improve the legislation.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  As one who has been privileged to serve on a sub-committee of the Animal Health Advisory Council in consultation with the Inter-Departmental Committee of the Department of the Environment, I want to say I am pleased that the Bill has now reached the legislative stage and is before the Houses of the Oireachtas for full and frank discussion. I deliberately left behind me all the notes I had compiled over the past 12 months on this subject because today I were the at of a legislator and not a sub-committee member who had an input into the framing of the legislation. Since the Bill has been published there has been widespread debate about it among people associated with dogs, the care of dogs, guide dogs, dogs involved in the canine clubs, the ISPCA whose work all of us would highly commend in this House, and owners of livestock which have been [718] devastated as a result of uncontrolled dogs wandering our streets and our countryside day and night without proper care and attention from their owners.

There are provisions in this legislation which will need both clarification and identification for all the interests concerned. In the course of my short contribution I will outline some of the difficulties of people directly involved with dogs on a daily basis, the concern they have about the legislation and what they contend will be restrictions on their activities as dog owners.

Nobody holds any brief whatsoever for the unwanted dog or for the owner who obviously does not take care of his dog: that dog in its uncontrolled state is a menace and has been the cause of widespread livestock losses particularly in hill counties and in sheep farming in general. Over a number of years we have witnessed the devastation of young lambs at lambing periods. Everybody with any sense of responsibility in this area must commend the Minister for his initiative in trying to do something effective to control unwanted dogs. I am satisfied that the efforts for the collection of dog licence fees which rested with the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice have been a failure because of difficulty in collecting licence fees from dog owners who do not accept responsibility for stray dogs.

Debate adjourned.


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