The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 was recently enacted by the Minister for Agriculture. It has great importance for all who own any type of animal whether agricultural or domestic.
The act makes it an offence to abandon an animal in a person’s possession or under the person’s control, and significantly increases the penalties on conviction. The maximum penalty on indictment is now €250,000 and/or a maximum of five years imprisonment. Landowners or tenants are now responsible for the welfare of animals present on the land. In the case of neglect, the landowner/occupier is deemed to be the owner and can be liable for prosecution if neglected animals are found on their land.
An owner of land on which there are stray horses, dogs or other animals should contact the Gardai who have the power to detain and dispose of the animals.
The legislation also outlaws attending and recording of dog fights, which is in addition to the previous offence of organising a dog fight.
The act outlaws the docking or cutting of dogs’ tails for cosmetic purposes.
A new provision under the act gives judges to power to prevent those convicted of cruelty or neglect from owning or working with animals.
The microchipping of domestic dogs while not included in the act, was discussed at committee level. It is envisaged that that this will become law in the near future and legislation is being prepared.
The regulation of horses is covered in existing legislation, in particular The Control of Horses Act 1996. The identification and traceability of all horses in the EU by means of a passport and microchip was made compulsory by EU Regulation 504/2008.
The act brings together and modernises existing legislation, and emphasises cruelty prevention, risk assessment and biosecurity. It affects all animal owners and bodies involved in the racing of animals, in particular the greyhound industry.