ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley last night backed down and offered significant concessions on his dog breeding bill to appease angry Fianna Fail backbenchers.
But negotiations are expected to continue between Mr Gormley and Fianna Fail TDs on the bill, which is to be voted on in the Dail next Thursday.
Mr Gormley announced some changes yesterday after strong protests from rural TDs threatened to scupper his plans.
And there are still some issues that have to be ironed out, with backbenchers such as Johnny Brady from Meath West and John Browne from Wexford questioning the fees that dog breeders will have to pay.
The bill is one of the last pieces of legislation to be voted on before the summer recess and is the latest flashpoint between Mr Gormley and the FF backbench, following on from tensions over the stag hunting bill.
Mr Gormley yesterday said greyhounds will be exempt from regulations under the new bill.
He said Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith will now change the 1958 Greyhound Industry Act which, when amended, will apply to members of the Irish Greyhound Board.
But Mr Gormley said it must have the same animal welfare standards as his dog breeding bill, which will apply to greyhounds until the 1958 act is updated. Mr Smith said yesterday he would make existing guidelines on the care and welfare of greyhounds legally binding this autumn.
Fine Gael's Phil Hogan accused Mr Gormley of holding a gun to Mr Smith's head and said the dog breeding bill would come into force for greyhounds if the amended provisions were not up to scratch.
Mr Hogan said the concessions were introduced to allow the Government to stumble into the summer recess and confront the problem in January, when the dog breeding bill will come fully into effect.
He also said the bill was confusing and showed how Mr Gormley, like a stray dog, had wandered into areas which were not his business.
One of the concessions agreed was to allow hunt clubs to tattoo dogs rather than have them micro-chipped for traceability. But Mr Gormley said he would implement microchipping if tattooing proved inadequate.
Fianna Fail Tipperary North TD Maire Hoctor welcomed the changes, which included the exemption of hunting clubs from paying fees. She also said inspections will not be mandatory for clubs.
Clare's Timmy Dooley also said Mr Gormley had moved "a considerable distance" and people were "reasonably content" with the changes.
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