All dogs must have microchip in bid to stop cruelty
ALL dog owners will have to get their pets microchipped by 2016 or face fines.
A radical overhaul of animal welfare legislation has been put in place introducing stringent new measures to protect animals from cruelty and neglect, with animal rights groups being given powers to police it for the first time.
The new law – announced by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney – also includes a ban on children buying animals.
"The idea that a 14-year-old can buy a horse is no longer acceptable unless a parent or guardian is there to take responsibility for it," said Mr Coveney.
The legislation also makes it an offence to bet on or even attend a dog fight in a major crackdown on the cruel sport.
Until now, it has been very difficult to prosecute anyone in relation to dogfighting because when gardai raid them, everyone scatters and it's impossible to prove who owns the dogs. But now anyone attending can be prosecuted, Mr Coveney told an animal welfare conference in Dublin.
The new microchipping requirement for all dogs mean their details will have to be recorded in a database by 2016 to make it easier to find their owners. It costs around €30 or €40 to get a pet microchipped but funding will be provided to dog welfare charities to carry out free or subsidised microchipping to those who can't afford it, he said.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and Dogs Trust both welcomed the new measures as a historic step forward.
The new system replaces outdated laws by moving away from a system where only outright cruelty could be prosecuted to one which puts the onus on owners to provide for animals' needs, said Mr Coveney.
Crucially it allows enforcement officers to step in early to issue on-the-spot fines or formal warnings against owners where there is a danger of neglect.
To ensure these new powers can be enforced in practice it also allows for animal welfare groups, vets and veterinary nurses to be registered – subject to training – as enforcement officers to police the act and issue penalties.
Fines of up to €250,000 and prison sentences of up to five years can also be imposed for serious cruelty cases, and judges will also be given the power to ban people from ever owning animals again.
A number of animal rights groups protested outside the conference in Dublin Castle saying that the new legislation failed to deal with the most pressing animal welfare issue in Ireland today – live exports to the Middle East.
"We are renewing our appeal for the Minister to stop the awful trade of sending animals for slaughter outside of the EU to countries such as Libya where there is little or no animal welfare guidelines," said ARAN spokesman John Carmody.
The new animal welfare legislation came into force in recent weeks.