A decision to breed a female greyhound owned by Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen eight times, producing at least 35 pups, has been branded as "incredibly reckless".
Mr Cowen, who has responsibility for greyhound racing as part of his new portfolio, was co-owner of a greyhound bitch named Droopys Wiggy from 2007 until at least 2012.
Before entering into Mr Cowen’s ownership she had given birth to two litters. Six more litters followed up to 2012, when the dog was aged eight.
Katie Corcoran, an activist with Greyhound Awareness Cork, said that the new Minister “will be judged by his actions, not his words” in terms of greyhound welfare.
“We know that up to 50% of greyhounds were being culled at the time,” Ms Corcoran said, citing a report on the matter prepared for the Irish Greyhound Board by consultants Preferred Results in 2017.
That report had declared it “indisputable” that in the region of 6,000 greyhounds were being culled in Ireland annually between 2013 and 2015, labelling breeding and culling as being “out of control”.
“To keep breeding an animal under those circumstances was incredibly reckless,” Ms Corcoran said.
Under the Greyhound Welfare Act 2011 the maximum number of litters allowable for the purpose of breeding racing dogs is six.
A further two are permitted if certified by a veterinary practitioner that no risk to the health of the animal exists.
In response to a request for comment from Mr Cowen, a department spokesman said that “compliance with the eighth mating in 2012 is reported”.
Asked specifically whether or not the final mating, which produced no live pups, had been approved the spokesman replied “the Welfare of Greyhounds Act permits an eighth mating, provided it has been certified by a veterinary practitioner and that certificate is lodged with the ICC (Irish Coursing Club)”.
“It is a matter of some concern that the minister, who will regularly face welfare questions regarding these animals, thought nothing of breeding an eight-and-a-half year old greyhound,” an industry source said.
Individual statistics for births are not available prior to 2011; however only one of the six pups born in Droopys Wiggy’s penultimate litter, conceived prior to the enactment of the welfare act, was registered with the Irish Greyhound Board.
Mr Cowen said that three of the remaining five pups from the seventh litter died after birth, with the other two being rehomed.