ISPCA calls for animal welfare to be taught in schools
Animal welfare should be taught to primary school children to increase awareness, according to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The ISPCA's helpline received more than 21,000 calls last year, its annual report shows.
As a result of the increased number of calls, and reporting suspected animal cruelty cases through the society's website, more than 40 pending prosecutions are before the courts. Three of these cases have been successfully prosecuted.
The report points out that while it and the public "might welcome higher penalties and a ban on keeping animals imposed on offenders, it is equally important that the outcome of these cases (be used) to educate and inform the public".
Dr Andrew Kelly, the ISPCA's chief operating officer, said many animal owners still did not know what their legal responsibilities were.
"Many of our supporters have indicated that they feel the penalties on conviction for animal welfare offences are not high enough," he said.
"We will continue to do our job and bring offenders to court. How the offenders are dealt with is a matter for the courts
"What is important for the ISPCA is that we use these cases, regardless of the penalties imposed, to inform the public of their legal responsibilities.
"The ISPCA would like to see animal welfare taught to primary school children as part of the curriculum, and we are intent on lobbying the Government to make this happen.
"In the meantime, every time there is a successful prosecution, the ISPCA will do its best to get the message out there that abusing animals, in any way, will not be tolerated."
Many reported allegations of cruelty are "cases of ignorance" on behalf of the owner or those responsible for the animals.
The report details with graphic images the cases of abuse and neglect in Ireland that came before the courts from 2010 to last year.
About 4,000 investigations are carried out each year, and on average 700 animals are seized or surrendered.
A number of appalling cases of animal cruelty have been reported to the society. In one case alone, 160 dogs were found to be mistreated by a woman in Co Donegal.
The oldest person convicted was a man aged 77 who neglected 18 dogs. The majority of animal cruelty cases involved dogs, horses and donkeys, while there was one of abusing birds.
The heftiest fine was €2,500, while a three-month custodial sentence was handed out, several suspended sentences were also given and lifetime bans on keeping animals were imposed.
In March last year, ISPCA inspectors became authorised officers under the Animal Health and Welfare Act, enabling them to submit case files directly to the Department of Agriculture's legal team for possible prosecution.
The ISPCA has one chief inspector and five inspectors monitoring 14 counties.
Two more inspectors are expected to be appointed later this year to cover Limerick, Waterford and south Tipperary.