The animal health and welfare legislation applies to both farm animals and domestic animals. This chapter focuses principally on domestic animals. However, some of the obligations also apply to farm animals. Some of the powers and obligations referable to farm animals set out in other chapters also apply to domestic animals.
A protected animal is any animal kept for farm and recreational, domestic or supporting purposes either not living in the wild or in the possession temporarily or permanently of a human being.
A person who has a protected animal in his possession or under his control, must having regard to the animal’s nature, type, species, breed, development, adaptation, domestication, physiological or behavioural needs and environment and in accordance with experience and scientific knowledge, take all necessary steps to do the following.
The animal must be kept and treated in a manner that safeguards its health and welfare and does not threaten the health or welfare of the animal or another animal. All buildings, gates, hedges, boundary walls and structures used to contain the animal must be constructed and maintained in a way that does not injure it or cause it unnecessary suffering.
Failure to comply with this obligation constitutes an offence. It is a defence to show the person took all reasonable steps to ensure that the necessary measures in the circumstances were taken, to comply with the obligation.
No Unnecessary Suffering
A person must not do anything or cause or allow anything which causes an animal unnecessary suffering or endangers its health or welfare or neglects or is reckless regarding the health or welfare of an animal. Contravention of this obligation is an offence. Where a person is convicted of an offence, he may be ordered to make such contribution towards veterinary and other expenses incurred in relation to the animal and its upkeep.
In determining whether a person has caused unnecessary suffering, regard may be had to the following:
- whether the suffering could reasonably be avoided, terminated or reduced,
- whether the conduct which caused the suffering was in compliance with the Act, other legislation, animal health and welfare regulations or a code of practice,
- whether the conduct which caused the suffering was for a legitimate purpose, including benefiting its health and welfare or protecting a person’s property or other animals,
- whether the suffering was proportionate in all the circumstances to the purpose concerned and whether the conduct was in the circumstances that of a competent and humane person.
Enforcement & Defence
An authorised officer who has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is in breach of the obligations may require the person to desist from offending, and if necessary, take such action as may require in the interests of the health and welfare of the animal concerned. Failure to comply with a direction is an offence unless there is a reasonable excuse.
Where an authorised officer has reasonable grounds for believing that an offence is being committed or will be committed, he may seize the animal and any dependant offspring of the animal. He may remove it and or arrange for it to be removed to a place of safety or another place as he sees fit. The costs of such intervention may be recovered from the person concerned as if it was a debt.
The above provision is not breached by the destruction of an animal in an appropriate and humane manner, or things done in accordance with regulations made under the legislation. The provisions do not apply in relation to fishing or lawful hunting of an animal unless the animal is left in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition, or lawful coursing of a hare unless the hare is hunted or coursed in a space which does not have a reasonable chance of escape.
A person who has a protected animal in his possession or control or transports such an animal must provide and supply to the animal,
- a sufficient quantity of wholesome and uncontaminated drinking water or other suitable liquid appropriate to its physiological or behavioural needs which satisfies its fluids intake requirements; a quantity and
- suitable and wholesome food to satisfy the reasonable requirements of the animal, and
- such other nourishment having regard to its nature, type, species, breed, development, adaptation, domestication and state of health and to the animal’s physiological and behavioural needs, in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge.
A person may not supply food or liquid to an animal that does not satisfy its reasonable requirements, or which may cause it disease, suffering, or contain a substance that may do so. It is a defence that the person could not reasonably have known that the relevant food or liquid was likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering or could not reasonably have prevented the animal from consuming the food or liquid.
Where a person having possession or control of an animal fails to comply with the obligations, the owner will be equally guilty of an offence unless he can show that he took all reasonable steps to ensure that necessary measures in the circumstances were taken.
A person shall not abandon an animal that he has under his possession or control. Abandonment of an animal does not relieve the person of responsibility for that animal. A person who has an animal in his possession or control which is a protected animal shall not without reasonable excuse leave the animal unattended unless he or she makes adequate provisions for its welfare.
Consideration may be had in determining, the above adequacy of provision to the following:
- the kind of animal concerned, its age, state of health,
- the length of time for which it has been left unattended,
- what it reasonably requires by way of suitable, wholesome and uncontaminated food, water or other liquids, shelter and warmth, adequate light and ventilation, and adequate exercise.
Breach of the above obligation is an offence. Where the person having possession or control is not the owner, the owner may also be guilty of an offence unless he takes reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the above obligation.
Abandonment does not include release into the wild of an animal normally in a wild state in Ireland, or formerly found in a wild state as part of a program to reintroduce animals of that species, or stocking of land with game birds if the animal having regard to its type, species, breed and development is able to survive and fulfil its normal needs.
No Animal Training & Fighting
It is an offence to organise, cause or permit a performance involving animal fighting. This includes wrestling, fighting or struggling with an animal, dog-fighting, cock-fighting, animal baiting, throwing or casting with ropes or other appliances, any unbroken horse or untrained bovine, riding or attempting to ride an animal by the use of any appliance or treatment by which it is or has been stimulated with the intention of making it buck, or any other activity which may cause unnecessary suffering to an animal or is prohibited by regulation.
A person may not be present, take part in or attend an animal fight or performance or, activity except for an investigative purpose. An investigation of the purpose includes a criminal investigation.
A person shall not keep or train or cause or permit another to keep or train an animal for the purpose of an animal fight or performance. A person may not publicise or promote an animal fight or performance, provide information about it with the intention of enabling or encouraging persons to attend or receive money or other consideration for admission to such performance or fight.
A person may not make or accept a bet on the outcome of an animal fight or performance or on the likelihood of anything happening in the course of an animal fight or performance. A person may not take part in an animal fight or performance. A person may not, other than for investigatory purposes record an animal fight or performance by photograph, video or other means. They may not be supplied, displayed, shown or published.
A person may not have in his possession or under his control, an animal for an animal fight, performance, or keep, use or assist in the keeping, use and management of any land or place for an animal fight or performance. A person may not have spurs, equipment or other appendage used or adapted for an animal fight or performance in his possession or under his control on land or premises on which an animal is kept or in a vehicle, vessel, railway wagon, aircraft or container in which an animal is being transported.
Evidence & Defences
It is a defence to show that person could not reasonably have been expected to know that the appliance or treatment was to be used for the above purpose/ intention. Breach of any of the above is an offence.
Regard may be had to the following when determining whether an animal has been involved in an animal fight or performance including
- the pattern of injury or scars on the animal that is likely to have been inflicted on in a fight or performance,
- equipment or drugs commonly used in the same
- the breed, nature and type of the animal,
- any blood, torn tissue or fur on the land concerned,
- records of animal fighting including betting slips on the premises.
The prohibition on throwing or casting with ropes, any unbroken horse or untrained bovine, is not to prevent the training of an animal for the purpose of domesticating it and making it safe to manage by persons competent to do so, provided they do not cause unnecessary suffering and the activity involved is not prohibited by animal health and welfare regulations.
A person may not carry out or permit another to carry out, an operation or procedure which
- interferes with, or that removes sensitive tissue or bone structure of the animal for cosmetic reasons,
- in a manner that obliterates or obscures marks identifying the animal, or
- for purposes other than veterinary treatment.
The treatment must be carried out in accordance with animal health and welfare regulations and in accordance with regulations under the Veterinary Practice Act.
A person shall not show an animal at an event to which members of the public have access if the above operations or procedures have been carried out other than in accordance with animal health and welfare regulations or the regulations under the Veterinary Practice Act. Contravention is an offence.
A person may not, except in accordance with animal health or welfare regulations, perform an operation or procedure with or without instruments involving interference with the sensitive tissue or bone structure of an animal without an appropriate anaesthetic or analgesic administered to prevent or relieve pain during the operation or procedure. Contravention is an offence.
A person may not poison a protected animal, (i.e. any domestic or farming animal) or lay poison by a method or in a manner that a protected animal has or would have access to the same. The owner or occupier of land shall not lay cause or lay a substance containing poison on land unless, before doing so, he erects or maintains, a notice on the land so that at least one notice is clearly visible from every public place adjoining or being on the land.
An owner, occupier or person in charge of land must give at least 7 days’ notice in writing of the laying of the poison or substance. If the poison or substance is part of a program for the control of vermin in crops, at least 7 days’ notice in writing in advance of the commencement of the program is required. The notice must be given to the local authority.
Contravention is an offence subject to a B class fine. It is a defence to show the accused took all reasonable precautions to prevent access to the poison by protected animals. A person contravening this above provision is guilty of an offence subject on summary conviction to a class B fine.