Hunts win exemption on puppy kennel fees

HUNTS will be exempt from registration or inspection fees for their puppy kennels under last minute changes to the contentious Dog Breeding laws which were rushed through on the last day of Dáil term.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen agreed to a number of concessions to disgruntled backbenchers who saw the laws as a threat to rural pursuits because they aimed to regulate puppy farms for greyhounds and hunt hounds.

But rural campaign group, RISE, expressed disappointment that the Government did not agree to an outright exemption for kennels breeding dogs for hunting – something sought by some Fianna Fáil backbenchers.

Phil Hogan of Fine Gael, who opposed the bill, said: “I was led to believe the minister was going to treat hunt clubs in which pups are bred for replenishing packs but not for sale differently from breeding establishments.”

He said: “I believe the exemption should be based on them not selling pups.”

However, Environment Minister John Gormley agreed that the new regulations will not be introduced until January 2011 with a six month “phasing in period” and a review of the legislation a year later.

The bill already led to Fianna Fáil losing one TD, Mattie McGrath, and Cork TD Christy O’Sullivan had threatened to vote against the measures which would have reduced the Government’s slim majority to two.

But following discussions with Mr Cowen on the eve of the vote, the Cork South-West TD supported the bill. It eventually got a safe passage after the Labour Party – who initially opposed the measures – agreed to support the bill, which was passed by 92 votes to 50 with just Fine Gael and Sinn Féin voting against it.

The laws were initially intended to regulate so-called “battery” or commercial puppy farms following a number of high-profile cases of animal abuse.

But since the initial proposal back in 2005, Mr Gormley expanded the proposals to include farms which do not sell dogs but replenish packs for hunting or greyhound racing.

The law will ensure any establishment with six or more female dogs is regulated and subject to inspection. There will be limits on the number of litters that female dogs can have.

It also proposed the microchipping of animals, but under a last minute amendment granted by the Government, owners can opt to tattoo their dogs instead.

This will not have to be done by vets and the Hunting Association of Ireland will be allowed to train people to tattoo dogs.

Last week the Government agreed to an amendment whereby greyhounds would not be regulated under the dog breeding legislation but by way of an amendment to the Greyhound Industry Act 1958.

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