Puppy farm raid raises call for breeding regulations
In the wake of a massive raid on a Wicklow puppy farm, Fine Gael Wicklow Deputy Andrew Doyle released a statement Sunday calling on Minister for the Environment John Gormley to introduce dog breeding regulations first promised by the department in 2006.
“Puppy farming in Ireland, unlike most European countries, has no regulations governing its practice”, said Doyle in his statement.
Three years ago, then-Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen set up a Working Group to make recommendations on puppy farms and legislation regarding breeding establishments.
The Working Group's final report, released in August 2005, recommended that the government establish a registration system for dog breeding farms and that the environment minister should make such regulations under Section 19 of the Control of Dogs Act of 1986.
According to the recommendation report, the group would have preferred the introduction of new primary legislation.
Instead, the group chose to recommend that the appropriate regulations be inserted into existing legislation because “the time period between the drafting of new legislation and eventual enactment would be too long to address an immediate problem”.
The group recommended that legally enforceable standards for obtaining a breeding registration should include suitable accommodations for the animals; adequate amounts of food, drink and exercise; reasonable precautions against disease; birth and litter restrictions for female dogs; and a limit on the number of dogs at each establishment.
Other recommendations by the group include: defining breeding establishments according to the number of female dogs with breeding potential, funding the new regulations with increased dog licensing fees, using microchips on dogs bred in such establishments to trace and enforce regulations, and introducing regulations on the transportation of dogs.
The last recommendation in the document is for a phased introduction of the registration system, to give breeders time to meet the standards and also to avoid a surplus of unwanted dogs when unsuitable breeding establishments are shut down under the new regulations.
In May 2006, then-Minister for Environment Dick Roche announced that new breeding regulations based on the Working Group's recommendations would be introduced into law.
"However the regulations have still not been implemented and there is no evidence of any progress on this issue since May 2006”, said Doyle in his statement.
Doyle cited the recent raid on a puppy farm in South Wicklow as evidence that breeding regulations are desperately needed in Ireland.
On 20 June, members of the Wicklow Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), acting on a tip-off, raided a puppy farm in South Wicklow, where they found 80 dogs and puppies living in inhumane conditions.
The scale of the operation was so large that the Wicklow SPCA had to call the Dublin chapter out to assist them.
A summary of the incident on the Dublin SPCA's website details that the animals were kept in dirty, cramped conditions in wire or wooden crates, outhouses, lean-tos, and even fruit trays and abandoned cars.
Most of the animals had no access to light, food or clean water. In one instance, the groups found a cat and its kitten in a sealed barrel.
“Absolutely appalling”, said Orla Aungier, a Dublin SPCA education officer that helped at the site. “It was like scenes from a horror film. …The smell, there were mounds of faeces everywhere.”
The two groups removed 76 dogs from the site the first day, and the Wicklow organisation returned the next day to rescue three more. The group has been unable to locate one remaining dog.
According to the Dublin SPCA, many of the dogs now face a host of health problems such as flea and lice infestations, mange, cataracts, overgrown and diseased teeth, ear infections, mites, mammary tumours, and dietary problems, among others.
Thirty of the dogs were taken to the Wicklow chapter's Sharpeshill Animal Sanctuary, and 46 were taken to Dublin, where 16 had to be put down because their injuries and illnesses were well beyond veterinary care.
“It is a disgrace that this grim industry ranks as one of Ireland's darkest, and most shameful secrets”, said the SPCA on its website. “Ireland is one of [the] puppy farm capitals. Here, cheap, poor quality purebred dogs are mass-produced by the hundreds in cages, bitches bred and bred successively until they drop.”
In the aftermath of this raid, Doyle expressed frustration at the government's lack of action in regulating dog breeding establishments in Ireland.
“How many more raids on farms that treat dogs in such a repugnant manner will it take before Fianna Fáil and the Greens act on this practice?
“The report findings concluded that there is clearly a need for enforceable standards in the dog breeding industry in Ireland”, he continued in the statement. "I am now calling for this overdue legislation to be processed to regulate this whole industry and in order to avoid repeated occurrence of the appalling conditions revealed recently by the Wicklow SPCA."
The Dublin SPCA echoed Doyle's frustration, as well as his call for action regarding the Working Group recommendations.
“We've been asking for these regulations for three years”, said Aungier.
“The work's been done”, she added. “This is the third minister to have these recommendations on his desk. We hope the new minister will look at this and act on it.”
On its website, the group asked supporters to e-mail or write to Gormley to voice their support for the breeding registration recommendations.
According to John Whelan, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, “work has been undertaken on the implementation of the majority recommendations of the Working Group's Report and the Minister has directed that this be completed as soon as possible as an interim measure”.
“The Minister shares concerns regarding this matter and is determined to end the suffering of dogs and puppies at the hands of some unscrupulous breeders,” Whelan said.
He noted that the responsibility for legislation in relation to dogs is shared by the Environment Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food, and that the draft programme for government charges the Agriculture Department with creating an Animal Welfare Bill that would include both farm and non-farm animals.
The Working Group's document recommends that the Department of Agriculture and Food introduce legislation regarding the transportation and export of dogs and that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government introduce legislation regarding breeding registration.