DAIL PQS WITH MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE ON EXPORT OF GREYHOUNDS

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of his deliberations on the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill 2017; the way in which he will improve the welfare of greyhounds being exported in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16267/18]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister and Minister of State are hoping to introduce the greyhound industry (amendment) Bill shortly. It has undergone pre-legislative scrutiny and so forth, but there are rumours within the animal welfare community, including among the ISPCA, Dogs Trust and other organisations, that there will not be a white list of countries with low welfare standards to which the export of greyhounds will be forbidden.

As the Minister and Minister of State know, I introduced the small Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill this time last year. It would have set out a white list of banned countries that did not have our standards.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): I thank the Deputy for his co-operation.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: The welfare of greyhounds is regulated by the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and the Animal Health and Welfare Act of 2013. The latter applies to all animals, whether kept for commercial, domestic, sport, show or other purposes, and contains robust measures against their ill-treatment. It provides that a person having an animal in his or her possession or control must safeguard and not threaten the health and welfare of that animal. The Act also provides for increased levels of penalties.

The position regarding the export of dogs, including greyhounds, is as follows. The majority of dogs that are moved from Ireland go to the UK and trade within the EU of dogs, including greyhounds, is governed by EU law. Dogs moved to another EU country from Ireland must be accompanied by an EU pet passport, be microchipped and have a valid rabies vaccination. The premises exporting dogs must be registered with my Department in advance of the export. Before travel, dogs must undergo a clinical examination by an authorised veterinarian, who must verify that the animals show no obvious signs of disease and are fit to be transported. Dogs must also have a health certificate issued by a Department veterinarian. These procedures, including vaccination, ensure that only healthy dogs over the age of 15 weeks are allowed to be exported. Exporters must comply with EU law on the protection of animals during transport, while the transport of animals by air is governed by the International Air Transport Association, IATA. In this context, I am aware that a number of airlines do not transport commercial consignments of greyhounds.

Bord na gCon, which is responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry, has stated that it does not support the export of greyhounds to destinations that do not conform with the standards in the Animal Health and Welfare Act, the Welfare of Greyhounds Act or its own code of practice and standards. This is a view that I fully endorse.

My Department has a close working relationship with animal welfare charities on all aspects of animal welfare. Officials of the Department have met the welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum, which includes the Dogs Trust, the ISPCA and Bord na gCon, to consider issues surrounding the export of greyhounds.

I am aware that Deputy Broughan introduced a Private Members’ Bill to amend the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 last year.

My focus is on the greyhound industry Bill that I am introducing to ensure that the principles of good governance and regulation are clearly and unambiguously laid down in primary legislation. In broad terms, the Bill seeks to address deficiencies in the existing legislation and the governance of Bord na gCon. It will strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation for exceptional regulation in the sector. It is hoped that a memorandum will go to the Government in the coming weeks, which will request approval to publish the updated general scheme and submit it to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I thank the Minister of State, but he still has not told me whether he will agree to including a white list in the legislation, which is what the welfare agencies want. He and his predecessors have told me that dogs have been exported to Argentina, Pakistan and China. I am always given the mantra that 80% of racing dogs in the UK are Irish, but they end up going from there to other countries. The problem is that countries with low standards of animal welfare are becoming homes for what are almost our national symbol, namely, our wonderful greyhounds. Last month, I asked the Minister of State about how one of our famous dogs, Droopys Patrice, had ended up in China. He told me that no greyhounds were exported directly to China, but that dog was found there.

Primary legislation needs to be strong on this matter. If the Minister of State wants, he can insert my Bill straight into his draft Bill or simply adopt mine as a Government Bill and bring it through the Houses. Either way, we need a white list so that we can ensure our dogs do not end up in places like the Canidrome in Macau.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: The Bill has undergone pre-legislative scrutiny by the committee and I am anxious to introduce it on the floor, where all these matters can be considered. We could have a white list. Ultimately, however, it is not within the competence of this State’s legislation to control dogs travelling onwards subsequent to being exported to EU countries.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Government needs to work closely with the EU on this matter.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: We do.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Greyhound Rescue Association told us that, between 2010 and 2015, almost 3,000 of our greyhounds were surrendered to dog pounds, of which 2,500 were destroyed and 400 were, thankfully, homed or collected by welfare organisations. These are bad figures. In 2016, 284 greyhounds entered pounds, of which half were euthanised. The Government needs to address what is a major welfare issue.

Dogs Trust, which helped me to draft the Bill on a white list, recently launched the #Greywatch campaign asking members of the public to consider adopting greyhounds and lurchers, which are wonderful, sentient animals.

The focus must be on countries that do not share our standards.

I would like the Department to consider that urgently and include it in the Bill.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Governance, integrity and animal welfare are all part and parcel of the draft legislation. I will make the point repeatedly to the stakeholders that they will have to measure up in that regard. Hopefully when the legislation comes before the House we will be able discuss these matters more comprehensively. The pre-legislative scrutiny process worked very effectively, as far as I can tell—–

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: When can we expect the legislation to be published?

Deputy Andrew Doyle: If I had my way, it would be published tomorrow but I am hoping it will be published soon.