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Vets say new dog breeding guidelines need to improve standards

Submissions received during a public consultation process differ on “a significant number of issues”.

File photo of a corgi
File photo of a corgi
Image: Shutterstock/Veronika 7833

NEW GUIDELINES FOR dog breeding establishments need to improve the standards at such organisations, Veterinary Ireland has said.

VI, which represents veterinary practitioners around the country, has called on the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) to make sure the guidelines are published by the end of the month, as previously promised by Minister Michael Ring.

A spokesperson for VI said the new guidelines “are needed to give adequate direction and clarity to operators of Dog Breeding Establishments (DBEs) and to Local Authority Veterinary Inspectors (LAVIs) and also to further improve standards at these establishments”.

The Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 came into force in 2012. The then Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, under whose remit the issue previously fell, concurrently introduced DBE guidelines to assist organisations to comply with the Act and to help LAVIs to apply it.

The guidelines were put in place to increase awareness around welfare standards and to aid good practice in dog breeding throughout the country. They deal with matters such as the construction and maintenance of establishments, and their registration, operation and management.

The DRCD is currently drafting revised guidelines, taking account of the 117 submissions received as part of a public consultation process from 1 December 2016 to 28 February 2017. These submissions and a summary report were published on the department’s website in February 2018.

Differing views

The report notes: “The submissions received through the public consultation process contain many differing views on a significant number of issues e.g. size of kennels, staff-to-dog ratio, breeder obligations, buyer obligations, licensing of DBEs, feeding, etc.

“Each submission was reviewed and considered, relevant suggestions were extracted and the data was compiled into a database for further analysis.”

A spokesperson for the DRCD told TheJournal.ie it’s expected that the revised guidelines “will be ready for approval by Minister Sean Kyne, who is responsible for the Control of Dogs Act, later this month”.

“The Department is currently identifying any legislative amendments that may be required.

While the focus is currently on developing revised Guidelines, broader issues relating to enforcement of regulations and licence conditions were also raised in the course of the public consultation.

“The Department is also considering whether further measures are required in these areas,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

A total of 258 DBEs were registered with local authorities at the end of 2017. A DBE is defined as any establishment at which six or more female dogs, over the age of six months and capable of breeding, are kept.

DBEs include hunt clubs, dog rescues and boarding kennels as well as establishments where dogs are kept specifically for breeding.

Court cases

Speaking about the need for revised guidelines, Dr Gerry Neary, President of Veterinary Ireland, said: “There has been a significant improvement in the standards of DBEs in Ireland since the commencement of the Act in 2012.”

However, he added that, while most DBE operators are compliant and cooperate with LAVIs to improve their facilities and standards, local authorities have issued 31 improvement notices and four closure notices to DBEs between 2013 and 2017.

Improvement notices are issued by local authorities in cases where they are satisfied that there has been a contravention of the Act or of conditions attached to the DBE registration, or where the DBE poses a threat to public health or animal welfare.

Closure notices, which require the DBE operator to cease breeding or keeping dogs at the establishment, are issued where local authorities are satisfied that there is a serious and immediate threat to public health or animal welfare.

Of the 10 improvement notices issued by local authorities in 2016, four were appealed by DBE operators to the District Court. “This high rate of appeal is due in part to a lack of clarity in the current DBE guidelines,” Neary said.

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Órla Ryan

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