Contribution to the Debate on the Dog Breeding Leglisation

July 8th, 2010 - Pat Breen

Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 [Seanad]: Second Stage
Friday, 2nd June 2010

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. Pardon the pun, but with unemployment levels and ordinary families struggling to make ends meets, it is not surprising that ordinary people out in the street think that the Government has finally gone to the dogs.
I tried to go through the Minister’s speech but it is only a face-saving exercise for the Fianna Fáil backbenchers so the Government can survive this session. The desperate last minute haggling between both parties will not quell the deep anger in rural areas. The Minister is trying to buy time but what happens if the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food do not bring in the same regulations? The greyhound industry will be back to square one.
If a stay is being put on the Bill until 1 January, why guillotine it? Deputies should have more time to speak on this Bill because it is important in rural Ireland. Last week, Deputy O’Rourke in her contribution on the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill warned the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that there were to be no more ramblings into rural Ireland. This was echoed by the crowds of people who gathered outside the front gates of Leinster House to express real anger at the Green Party. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is a man I respect but this anger was echoed in the Red C poll last weekend, with another fall in support for the Green Party.
People in rural areas are concerned about what is happening. My office has been inundated with calls about this and the way life in rural areas is being changed. Traditions that were part and parcel of rural life are under attack, including the age old tradition of turf cutting; many country families cut turf on their own land and depend on it for fuel. If the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government continues to whip his Fianna Fáil colleagues into submission, turf cutting will be consigned to the annals of history.
I commend the work by dog control wardens in local authorities and welcome that aspect of the Bill. Mr. Frankie Coote looks after the situation in County Clare, picking up abandoned dogs, and regulation is necessary.
It is important the Government takes on board the views of the Opposition. We should all be singing from the same hymn sheet. There can be a compromise with the amendments. Sustaining rural Ireland and its traditions is important. We should not threaten people’s livelihoods and the Government should turn its attention to the problem of rural isolation.
Sporting and angling are vital to the rural economy. This debate and the debate last week should not have been a debate on rural Ireland versus urban Ireland; that has to stop. As many other speakers have said, the greyhound industry contributes a huge amount of money to the economy. It generates approximately €500 million and supports the huge amount of approximately 11,000 jobs.

We all know people in every parish in every county who take great pride in their greyhounds and Clare is no different. Many of the dog breeders there go to the greyhound tracks in Limerick or Galway every Friday and Saturday night and they look forward to that social event. Greyhound racing and coursing are extremely important, particularly the annual meetings in places such as Cooraclare, Killimer, Kilmihill and Clarecastle and Ennistymon, to name but a few. The event in Liscannor is also extremely important. The events are important for local villages and towns.
Many people are involved in coursing clubs, such as the Tradaree Coursing Club. They want to have a dog who will raise a flag and win a race in Clonmel or wherever. Of those involved in greyhound breeding, 90% are small operators and under this legislation they will only be able to breed a brood bitch every 12 months. One does not see a greyhound’s potential until it is approximately a year and half old. This afternoon, a breeder told me that changing the threshold to six bitches will make no difference to greyhound owners.
The greyhound industry is self-regulated to a very high standard and that is important. I visited the kennels of the County Clare Hunt, which are located in my parish of Drumquin. They are very clean establishments and the dogs are looked after extremely well. An odd time I hear the hounds when they go for a walk.
Many owners are concerned about the mechanism that will be put into place to force the greyhound industry into double regulation which is part and parcel of the Bill. They are not convinced that they will not be wiped out and that they will still be forced to pay. Up until now, a small breeder could manage to come up with €20 or €30 along the way so they could stay involved in the sport. For many people having a dog is just a hobby. The Minister stated that €400 is not excessive, but for many people €400 is a lot of money, particularly in these recessionary times. Added to that are veterinary inspection fees. The fear is that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will put in place a similar regulatory system.
I welcome electronic microchipping for dogs. It is a good aspect of the Bill and is very important for tracing lost dogs and with regard to where dogs are bred. As Deputy Hogan stated, Fine Gael supports stronger rules on puppy farms. Whatever legislation we introduce it will be very difficult to track people down because many people ignore the law anyway. There is no doubt that regulation is needed. We have all seen many published incidents of abuse of dogs, the terror some dogs have to go through and dogs that are kept in really bad conditions. This needs to be regulated and all parties in the House agree on that. Even with amendments, many in the greyhound industry throughout the country believe the industry will be strangled and that is why it is important that there is all-party agreement.
I hope the Fianna Fáil backbenchers will not be subject to the Whip again in this debate and abandon rural constituencies. The Government has lost the trust of rural Ireland and they will see this when the election is called and they go knocking on doors. Rural Ireland has been ignored for far too long and people have had enough. The former US President, Andrew Jackson, said, “One man with courage makes a majority”.
I hope there is much courage among our colleagues in the Fianna Fáil backbenches and that they stand up for rural Ireland. We have to wait and see the amendments the Minister will bring on board. I hope the Minister will accept the amendments of the Opposition parties and listen to rural Ireland. This legislation is needed but there needs to be all-party agreement on it.