Animal Welfare Bill passed comfortably

The Government’s latest piece of animal welfare legislation was comfortably passed in the Dáil today after it was altered to secure the support of the greyhound industry and pro-hunt lobby.

RISE! (Rural Ireland Says Enough) and the Irish Greyhound Board said it would no longer oppose the planned controversial dog breeding laws after it was passed by more than 40 votes.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Government Chief Whip John Curran met with RISE representatives yesterday where promised amendments to the Bill were agreed.

“Up until yesterday, when the Hunting Association of Ireland met the Taoiseach they had not been afforded a meeting with any member of the Government to discuss this legislation other than going into a minister’s clinic,” RISE spokesman Liam Cahill said.

“So this was the first time across the table.

“People would be quite happy, as was proved yesterday, if they are brought in to talk about the stuff, their objective will be to create good regulations that would work for everyone.”

Amendments to the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill 2009 included allowing dogs in hunt clubs to continue to be traced using tattoos instead of microchips.

The body said it hoped its concerns would be taken on board when regulations were drawn up from the Bill.

The Irish Greyhound Board said it would also support the proposed laws as separate legislation governing the industry would be amended to legislate for welfare provisions, thereby exempting it from the Dog Breeding Bill.

A planned protest by RISE outside the Dáil today was called off.

Under the Bill, a facility breeding six to 18 bitches capable of breeding and over six months old would pay a fee of 400 euro, while places with less than six would not be affected.

The Bill was passed with more than 40 votes as the Labour Party weighed-in behind the Government. Fine Gael and Sinn Féin opposed the legislation.

In a joint statement, animal welfare groups including the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Dogs Trust, Irish Blue Cross and ISPCA said it was vital the legislation was passed.

The body claimed the Bill was never about the rural/urban divide but ensuring that dogs were bred in humane conditions in accordance to European best practice.

Prior to the vote being taken, the coalition group said: “In the face of an extensive, well-resourced lobbying campaign, which sought to muddy the waters at every juncture, we hope that the minister will succeed in passing this long-overdue, much-needed piece of legislation today thus ensuring that Ireland will bring its canine welfare legislation into the modern age and lose the shameful badge of being the ’puppy-farm capital of Europe’.”

Rebel Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath was expelled from the parliamentary party last week for voting against a controversial ban on stag-hunting.

The stag hunting legislation, which sparked furious rows in the Dáil over recent weeks, was narrowly pushed through by a majority of 75 to 71 votes.

The Dáil now enters its 12-week summer recess, not due to return until September 29. It sat for 100 days between September last year and today.

The Seanad will continue in session next week while Oireachtas Committees will sit throughout the recess, with 88 meetings due to be held.

Cork South West Fianna Fáil TD, Christy O'Sullivan, who had previously voiced strong concerns about the legislation, welcomed the amendments.

“I’m happy with the text of the legislation that has now gone through the Dáil and that is why I supported it,” he said.

“There were a lot of changes needed to the previously published Bill, however following a meeting with the Taoiseach, officials from his Department and the Department of the Environment as well as a delegation from the Hunting Association of Ireland (HAI), we have now reached a fair outcome.”

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