Dáil Éireann - Volume 212 - 05 November, 1964
Protection of Animals (Amendment) Bill, 1963 [Seanad]: Second Stage.
Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Haughey) Charles J. Haughey
Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Haughey): I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill was introduced in Seanad Éireann as a Private Members' Bill. The sponsors of the Bill and the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals deserve great credit for the manner in which they undertook the formidable task of preparing and introducing proposals designed to bring the legislation on the protection of animals into line with modern thought and practice. In doing so they have demonstrated that their humanitarian ideals are supported by a practical and commonsense outlook.
 Before being introduced to Seanad Éireann, the text of the Bill was made available to the Government Departments concerned and was considered by the Government. There were discussions with the sponsors on certain aspects of the draft Bill which were unacceptable to the Government and a number of amendments acceptable to both sides were effected at that stage. Some further amendments and modifications were made during the passage of the Bill through the Seanad and the Bill as it now stands, with some very minor exceptions, is acceptable to my Department and to the Government. There are, however, a few matters in the Bill which I think should be clarified before being considered in the House.
In the first place, this Bill does not aspire to be a comprehensive measure. It is designed simply to amend and extend the basic enactment which is the Protection of Animals Act, 1911. Furthermore, there are certain aspects of the subject matter of the Bill which are catered for in other legislation. I shall refer to these later.
Section 7 of the Bill proposes to allow the use of poisonous gas in rabbit holes. Its use is at present illegal under the 1911 Act and the sponsors have in mind the use of cyanide gas which is regarded as a humane method of killing rabbits.
In Section 8 there is a provision proposing to prohibit as from 1st June 1968 the use of spring traps for the taking and killing of animals and there is an interim provision in Section 9 to regulate the use of spring traps in the meantime. I consider that a period of not less than four years should be allowed between the enactment of this legislation and the “appointed day” to enable alternative types of trap to be tested and I may ask the House at the Committee Stage to consider setting the appointed day for the purposes of these sections at a date later than 1st June, 1968.
Section 14 of the Bill proposes to regulate the laying of poison. This replaces a similar provision in the 1911  Act and I welcome it as a considerable improvement on the earlier legislation.
It will be noted that this section makes no special mention of strychnine. The reason for this is that special regulations to control strychnine are being made under the Poisons Act, 1961, and are at present at an advanced stage of preparation. I do not intend at this stage to give details of the proposed regulations but I can say that they are in accordance with the recommendations of the Poisons Council and I am satisfied that they will provide adequate safeguards.
Sections 19 and 20 relate to the exercising and leading of greyhounds. These sections have been greatly modified as compared with the original draft Bill and I consider that they represent a very sensible compromise between the views of the sponsors and the interests of the greyhound industry.
The proposals in Section 22 of the Bill relating to the use of anaesthetics in operations on animals were evolved after consultations between the sponsors, the Veterinary profession and my Department. At this point I should like to acknowledge the help given by the veterinary profession in the drafting of this section.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
Mr. Donegan: First of all, I should like to extend to the Minister for Agriculture my personal good wishes since this is the first occasion on which he has introduced a Bill here in his new capacity.
This legislation is mainly aimed at bringing up to date a lot of old provisions dealing with this matter. We welcome that. It is true to say that there was a sharp cleavage of opinion on it when it was introduced in the Seanad. It met with two different attitudes. The first was that of people who kept domestic pets and who were very anxious about the prevalence of cruelty to animals. It was they who introduced the Bill. The second attitude was put forward by people like the National Farmers Association and other groups representing farmers and cattle dealers who customarily keep large numbers of animals and who earn their living by so doing. There is  a great difference, on the score of experience, between the two groups and it was only wise that the Bill should have been subjected to such lengthy debate and such considerable amendment during its passage through the Seanad.
Under the Bill as it now appears before us, farmers may still use poisons on their land to protect their animals. It will not be out of place at this stage if I emphasise that 100 sheep can in one night be destroyed by a pack of dogs from a neighbouring town. We must not forget that though the dog concerned may be a domestic animal, maybe a lapdog, it was made to hunt and made to kill.
I am glad the Minister adverted to the change in the law permitting the use of gas for the extermination of rabbits. The use of gas is far preferable to the deliberate spread of myxomatosis, which is a very painful disease. The question of traps has been dealt with and, I think, successfully inasmuch as they must be used in a certain specified way until such time as a painless gin trap has been prescribed by the Department.
As the Bill now stands, it is not obnoxious to farmers or to people who keep large numbers of animals and at the same time satisfies all those in all walks of life who worry about cruelty to animals. From that point of view, we on this side of the House welcome it.
We should like to have another look at what I would call the “sporting” provisions—sections 19 and 20. When the Bill arrived in the Seanad first of all the position was that if you were walking greyhounds in a public place you had to have them muzzled. The Minister wisely introduced an amendment and this mistaken provision was removed but, at the same time, it is a pretty strict provision that you can now lead a maximum number of only four greyhounds simultaneously in a public place. Again, I would emphasise that the ideas of a person in the country or even on the outskirts of a city who has been handling greyhounds all his life and the way in which that person, even if the person is a girl, would handle  four to six greyhounds, and the ideas of a person who never saw this done or who knew nothing about it and what could happen if the greyhounds became loose are as different as chalk and cheese.
We of the country know that the people who are used to handling these animals have skill, which has nothing to do with strength, have the power to control, the power to bring back a dog that would not obey a person who is not normally used to handling dogs. These are things on which there can be a sharp division. Let us face it. If the Bill went through as it is a person could ride one horse and lead two, or if it were physically possible, could lead three. On the other hand, a person can walk only four greyhounds. The public beach when the tide is out has always been a place for exercising greyhounds. Greyhounds must be exercised when they are being trained. There is no great danger to anybody in letting two greyhounds together up the strand but a person who does that after this Bill becomes law will be contravening Section 7.
From the farmer's point of view, the fact that it is still possible to poison his lands so long as he properly displays notice that the land is poisoned, is a satisfactory situation. We on this side of the House do not object to the provision in relation to minor operations and the use of anaesthetics. We think the age limits for animals and the type of regulation laid down in the schedule are quite sensible but we would like to look again at this question of greyhounds and the general sporting provisions.
It is a mistake to regard fowlers, huntsmen or fishermen or anyone who indulges in blood sports as cruel people. I should like to emphasise that people who keep horses or dogs for hunting are people who look after these animals better than anybody else in the country. I am sure the Minister will agree with me that if it does happen that a fox, which is vermin, a predator, and from that point of view would have applied to him the principle that he who lives by the sword must perish by the sword, is  caught by a pack of hounds, he dies in an instant. There is no question of cruelty there. He dies as quickly as if he were shot with a shotgun. The dogs and the horses following him are among the best cared animals in the country.
Similarly, in the case of greyhounds coursing hares, it would be wrong to suggest that because greyhounds course hares and kill a hare when they get it there is a danger that greyhounds in a public place, if not controlled, will chase a child and tear it to pieces. That is something that just does not happen. There is no evidence that it has happened. Greyhounds should be allowed in a place such as a public beach to be exercised as they always have been and, I have a feeling, always will be in Ireland.
The question of cruelty in relation to strychnine is one with which we on this side of the House are very much concerned. We welcome the statement by the Minister that Comhairle na Nimheanna is considering regulations in relation to the use of poison. But the farmer must have the right to use poison to protect his animals from the most dreadful cruelty. Anyone who has seen a flock of sheep attacked by a pack of dogs that congregated from, say, somewhere outside a town would immediately agree with me that it is one of the most cruel sights one could see. I have seen sheep that were attacked by dogs running along a field trailing their entrails. I am aware of cases where numerous deaths occurred in the lambing season due to attacks on flocks by packs of dogs.
It is absolutely essential to protect the greater number of animals and the most domesticated and most easily terrified animals from other animals. I am delighted that Comhairle na Nimheanna is considering the matter and as long as it produces a system by which the farmer can protect his animals from what is the utmost cruelty, we on this side of the House will be extremely satisfied.
Mr. Tully Mr. Tully
Mr. Tully: First of all, let me on  behalf of the Labour Party say how glad we are to see the Minister making his first appearance as Minister for Agriculture. If he brings the same breath of fresh air to this office as he brought to his previous office we will have very little cause for complaint. I seriously mean that. We welcome the change.
If the Bill does something to deal with unconscious cruelty to animals, it will be a big improvement. The fact that the Bill makes provision to deal severely with those persons who will not obey the ordinary code is a further big improvement.
Cruelty to animals is the lowest thing that can be done. Any attempt by a Government to prevent the abuse of dumb creatures should be welcomed by all right-thinking people. I quite agree with Deputy Donegan that as far as sheep are concerned very special steps must be taken to weigh in the balance and find which is the greater hardship. I do know that dreadful damage has been done to flocks because of the fact that dogs were allowed to go loose, particularly at the wrong time. I would suggest that this matter can be dealt with otherwise than by the indiscriminate scattering of poison on land. It could be dealt with by dealing directly with the owners of the dogs if they can be traced. That is the proper way to deal with it.
One matter which I hoped the Bill would be able to remedy but which I do not think that, as drafted, it will remedy is the question of stray animals. People keep animals, pets of all kinds, for a period, particularly coming to the Christmas season, and early in January, for one reason or another, abandon them and the city, as well as rural areas, is littered with stray animals. A lot of suffering is caused to these animals and they in turn cause a great deal of suffering and damage to other animals.
I am not in agreement with Deputy Donegan on the question of greyhounds. My personal opinion is that four greyhounds are the very maximum any individual should be allowed to bring into a public place, particularly where a girl is exercising greyhounds  and some other smaller animal happens to cross their path. I have seen it happen too often and there is no question that it is very difficult for a girl or even a younger man to control four dogs who want to get away after something which they think they should chase. Therefore, I am all for the suggestion that the maximum number should be four.
As regards allowing greyhounds to be exercised on the public beach, I live beside a beach and while it is all right in the early hours of the morning when there is nobody else on it, it is all wrong when there are other people using the beach to allow greyhounds, big or small, to be exercised. Since terrier racing started the same thing applies. Terriers and mongrels are being exercised and they are a danger. I should be glad if the legislation on this aspect could be tightened up.
I do not agree with Deputy Donegan in regard to traps. Certain types of traps should be outlawed. Somebody will set a trap which will cause terrible torture to an unfortunate animal which possibly is doing very little harm and the animal is allowed to stay in it for days. That should not be allowed to continue.
In regard to hunting, I do not intend to dwell on the aspect of the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable, in view of the person who holds the office of Minister at the present time. However, I will say that in many cases unnecessary suffering is caused to foxes because of the fact that somebody is more interested in exterminating the fox than in the actual chase.
Mr. Booth Mr. Booth
Mr. Booth: I was one of the Deputies who were asked by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to interest themselves in this Bill in the earlier stages. I was particularly glad members of all Parties were approached because this is essentially a Bill which should receive unanimous support in its final form and obviously this is a Bill which it was proper should be drafted originally by a society such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I do know that the Society had worked very hard on this Bill and  will greatly appreciate the tribute paid to them by the Minister in his speech a few minutes ago.
It is worth recording that the Minister has paid this tribute, because the activities of the Society are very often grossly misunderstood by the public who are apt to regard people such as these as being interfering busybodies who have no real conception of the hard facts of life and the necessity of providing special facilities for those engaged in the breeding of animals as a profession.
This Bill has been drawn up in a most realistic form and the Society deserve great credit for that. I am particularly glad that at this stage of the passage of the Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas the Minister has decided to give his own sponsorship to the Bill by presenting it to the House for a Second Reading. This is very much in order and I do know the Society greatly appreciate his action in the matter. Personally, I think the Bill is an extremely good one. In many ways it could be criticised for not going far enough or, perhaps, for going a little too far.
The main sanction for enforcement of a Bill such as this is the force of public opinion. If the public feel that this is a reasonable Bill or a reasonable Act when it has been enacted they will themselves ensure that it is enforced. We should not leave it entirely to the Gardaí or others to enforce such an Act. The passing of a Bill such as this through the House will give very welcome publicity to the fact that our legislation up to now has had far too many gaps, far too many loopholes and is very much out of date. If this publicity has the right effect, as I believe it will, it will mean that members of the public will take a greater interest in the protection of animal life generally.
The Bill is essentially a Committee Stage Bill and I should not like to comment in detail on the various sections. I am particularly pleased that there is a provision for the care of impounded animals. That omission was a glaring fault in previous legislation. The question of the use of spring traps is quite clearly one which will  have to be dealt with by the Minister with great care and consideration. I welcome, too, in particular, the reference to the power given to the gardaí to destroy injured animals. That is a matter which has frequently bothered members of the public and it has, very rightly, caused adverse comment in the past. Where an animal is very severely injured without hope of recovery it is essential that somebody should have the authority to destroy that animal or have it destroyed painlessly at the earliest possible moment.
It is also interesting that this is the first time that a Bill has been put forward which increases the scope of the definition of the word “animal.” In section 13 this word is now extended to mean “Any domestic animal or wild animal and includes any bird, fish or reptile.” This is a very welcome addition to our legislation and I hope it will meet with general approval. The question of public contests involving animals is one which is not of any great importance but something which it is well worth providing for in case the situation should ever arise.
Abandoned animals, Deputy Donegan has said, have become quite a problem. I myself have been horrified at a seaside resort to find that the local residents are always in considerable trepidation at the end of a season to find out how many abandoned dogs and cats they will be left to care for after the visitors have gone. It is an appalling reflection on our society that people can take pets into their family and then abandon them at the end of a holiday rather than wait for a few moments to look for the dog or cat which has strayed slightly from the temporary home.
The only other matter which has not been mentioned in any great detail is the question of the regulation of the sale of pet animals. This is a business which has grown considerably and as the standard of living rises it will probably grow still more. At the moment, there is virtually no regulation of the sale of pet animals. Children in particular are becoming more and more keen and are being given  facilities to keep pet animals. I am all in favour of this. It is a very good training for a child to be given an animal to look after but we must ensure that those businesses which provide for this taste by having pet animals for sale are properly conducted. It will not, of course, add anything to the responsibilities of pet shops already in existence, but it will save unnecessary suffering in the case of hucksters and street traders, without any facilities, who might be inveigled into this trade.
When the Bill comes up for consideration on Committee Stage, I hope it will have the same careful consideration as it received in the Seanad. I am sure it will. Any further deletion from the Bill should be avoided, if at all possible. The Society has made a number of concessions, not only on its own behalf but also on behalf of the many people who support its aims. The Bill is very nearly in its minimum form now and, from the departmental point of view, I do not think the Minister sees very much, if anything, wrong with it. There may be some details to be tidied up but I am sure we can agree on those. I recommend the Bill to the House and I trust its passage will be both swift and painless.
Mr. T. Lynch Mr. T. Lynch
Mr. T. Lynch: I should like, first of all, to wish the Minister well in his new office. This is, perhaps, a kind of double-edged wish because I have noticed that, when a Minister for Agriculture is successful in his office, he is the least thanked. Let the Minister then examine the records.
I miss some things from this Bill which appeared in the original draft, such as the provision whereunder pigs were to be gassed. A new method of slaughter was to be used. That has been removed. That is a good omen because the Minister in his last Ministry would not delete so much as a comma, or add anything on our request. I am glad he was prepared to listen to other people in this matter and allow himself to be convinced.
I never knew greyhounds were such dangerous animals. I am not now finding fault with the Bill, because I think it is excellent, but people who own  greyhounds know their business and they take precautions. They ensure collars and leads are right when they bring the dogs out to exercise. I have seen more than four greyhounds exercised, and adequately and carefully, being no danger to anybody, by what we would describe as slips of girls. Limiting the number to four is a little bit much, I think. However, we can deal with that on the next stage of the Bill.
The Bill does not go far enough where strays are concerned. I have often seen poor dogs wandering around a town and, coming back to that same town much later, seen the same poor strays still wandering. They may be fed one day and starved the next, with no shelter at night except some gateway, at the mercy of the wind and the weather. Some power will have to be taken, and it must not be a vague one. The animals should be impounded and, if unclaimed, permission should be sought from the court to put the dogs to sleep.
I do not know of any method, except the laying of poison, whereby a farmer can protect his flocks. Deputy Tully does not approve of poison. He says the dogs savaging the sheep should be discovered and the owners identified. That is not so easy because the dogs, having some peculiar telepathy, will not come the night a watch is set. Every sheep farmer will tell you that. I have known men who borrowed guns from neighbours and lay in wait for the dogs, and they never came. I think it is a good thing the Minister has seen fit to permit the use of poison to enable sheep farmers to protect their property.
I should like to compliment the Society on the excellence of this measure. I remember when horses were docked. It was a very cruel thing to do, but I could not say a word because the people concerned were intimate friends. It was fashionable to dock hackney horses. I have seen those horses out on grass, pestered by flies and with no protection against them.
In the case of impounded animals, some check or inspection should be made. It is no harm to have that in this  measure. A pound-keeper should be appointed. Animals should not be placed in these enclosures without either food or water, or both. In Waterford we have an excellent pound, well looked after.
With regard to rabbits, while I do not altogether approve of gas, it would be better to have them gassed rather than tracked or allowed to die from myxomatosis. Gassing should not be prohibited. Rabbits can be a menace to the farmer.
I have nothing to add except to wish the Minister the best of luck.
Dáil Éireann 212 Protection of Animals (Amendment) Bill, 1963 [Seanad]: Second Stage.