I wish to briefly ask the Tánaiste about a matter that was raised earlier. He was Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for five years. We are a nation of animal lovers. Most people throughout the country were disgusted by what they saw on the “Prime Time Investigates” programme last night which seemed to indicate a major wanton slaughter of greyhounds, numbering up to 6,000, year in year out, simply because they were not fast enough.
I recognise the importance of the Bill and the widespread discussions and consultations the Minister of State has had, the necessity to bring forward good governance and the establishment of Rásaíocht Con Éireann and all it entails. We do not want to unduly hold up the progress of the Bill. I still believe the amendments are reasonable. The Minister of State has said making the white list and enforcing it under the amendments would be impossible but when one looks at international trade one finds all types of restrictions and rules.
In amendment No. 5, we seek to insert in page 25, between lines 13 and 14, under the heading “List of countries to which export is permissible”, a provision to the effect that the Minister would prescribe from January 2020, by regulation, a list of non-EU countries which meet minimum standards with regard to the welfare of greyhounds and that the Minister would take into account the past record of the relevant country relating to the welfare of greyhounds, the welfare of animals in that country generally, the existence in the relevant country of enforceable welfare protections, the monitoring and enforcement in the relevant country and the standards of care and management in the country.
The Minister will be aware that a few weeks ago the Zoological Society of London published the Living Planet Report 2018, which shows that the animal populations on the planet have reduced by approximately 60% since 1970. This is being talked about as the sixth mass extinction. The World Wildlife Fund is asking that we would begin to treat this matter in the same way as we do climate change by putting in place an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement in regard to animals and biodiversity.
The Minister told us at the end of 2017 that there were almost 260 dog breeding establishments registered with various local authorities. Some 36 were registered in Limerick city and county, 35 in Cork and 28 in Wexford. The various numbers were supplied. Inspection fees amounted to €83,000. Between 2013 and 2017 four closure and 31 improvement notices were issued, but four improvement notices were appealed to the District Court. What were the numbers of inspections, by county, in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018 and the outcomes in cases of breaches of the guidelines?
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.
Today during Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Tommy Broughan again asked for the welfare of greyhounds being exported to be further regulated and improved. It is just over a year since Deputy Broughan introduced the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill 2017, which was to provide for a white list of countries to which the export of greyhounds under licence would be permissible. It would also make it an offence for persons to export greyhounds to countries not on the white list.
I am delighted to have a brief opportunity to speak on this important motion brought forward by my colleagues, Deputies O’Sullivan and Daly, and the other members of the Independents 4 Change technical group. I commend my colleagues on this motion.
While there has been some tiny progress on animal welfare since the 2013 Act, there are still increasing reports of animal cruelty, loopholes in regulation and insufficient monitoring and enforcement across the spectrum of animal care. As Deputy O’Sullivan stated, the Minister told the House this time last year that there had only been 13 successful prosecutions under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 in one year and that there were 38 prosecution files being processed at that time. These numbers seem incredibly low, given the many millions of animals reared each year. At present, there are 12 million domestic farm animals in the Republic alone.
Many people were shocked during the summer when the champion greyhound Clonbrien Hero tested positive for benzoylecgonine. It seems the only sanction for the owner is a significant withdrawal of prize money and the fact the dog will not be allowed to race again until it has passed further tests. What is the process when a racing greyhound tests positive for banned substances? How is the process being monitored and enforced? Are we doing enough testing?
I am delighted to have the opportunity to move this important legislation, the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill 2017. The Bill amends the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 by inserting a new Part 4A. It provides for control of the export of greyhounds and for the publication of a white list of countries to which the export of greyhounds under licence will only be permissible. The Bill will also make it an offence for persons to export greyhounds to countries not on the white list and will provide for related matters. I thank Ms Suzie Carley, the executive director of Dogs Trust, and her staff for their powerful advocacy and research on this Bill and for bringing this matter to the Legislature and the public. Dogs Trust has been in Ireland since 2005 and has re-homed 7,000 dogs since 2009. Indeed, they re-homed almost 3,000 in 2016 alone.