The objective of AnimalLaw is to provide a resource for those who want to see more emphasis placed on the enforcement of the legislation that is currently in place to protect animal welfare. The relevant acts are Control of Horses Act 1996, Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, Control of Dogs Act 1986 and the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are tasked with and funded in the Budget to enforce the Animal Health and Welfare Act. This act empowers ‘authorised officers’ to issue welfare improvement notices, remove animals to safety, and initiate prosecutions. DAFM has 138 of these authorised officers. However the number of prosecutions brought by DAFM under this legislation is as low as two per annum. DAFM partially funds NGOs such as the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) who have been successful if prosecuting 111 people to date for infringements under this Act. At the launch of the ISPCA’s Inspectorate Report in 2018, Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed stated the following: ‘Most importantly the (Animal Health and Welfare) Act provides for the appointment of authorised officers and granting of legal powers to NGO employees. These officers are providing very valuable assistance in the care and protection of animals in this country. The ISPCA currently have 9 authorised officers under the Act and I am delighted to have an opportunity to meet some of them today. These inspectors are key players in the enforcement and I would like to thank them for their dedication and Trojan work in protecting animal welfare. I understand that to date ISPCA have initiated 111 prosecutions under the Act with 21 finalised in 2017.’
While this ‘Trojan work’ is indeed to be applauded, it remains in stark contrast to the number of prosecutions initiated by the DAFM’s 138 nationally deployed authorised officers/veterinary inspectors. It seems clear from the Minister’s speech that he does not see himself or his 138 Authorised Officers as responsible for initiating prosecutions under Ireland’s animal welfare legislation. And because ISPCA are reliant on government funding, it means they are not in a position to criticise state departments for inaction.
AnimalLaw sets out to raise the standard of enforcement of animal welfare law in Ireland by providing a free, non-profit public service with the aim of improving public awareness and knowledge about the powers of Authorised Officers. Every Garda is an Authorised Officer for example but the majority of Gardai are unaware of their powers under this Act. We provide this information to any Garda that wants it. We also make the information available to our elected representatives so that they can use their knowledge to inform Parliamentary Questions in the Dail. And finally, and perhaps most importantly we want people who see an animal in distress, neglected, abused or abandoned to understand how to 1. Help the animal and 2. Bring sanction to the offender.
It’s an often-quoted and regrettable fact that the only mechanisms that successfully reduce deaths on the roads is enforcement of speeding and drink driving laws. Good legislation is in place, but enforcement is required to deter drivers from speeding or drink driving. Similarly, better enforcement of existing animal law will deter thse who abuse or neglect animals and over time bring behavioural change and improve the way animals are treated in Ireland. AnimalLaw seeks to remove perceived compexity, increase knowledge and empower you to effect change.