Irish lawmakers have passed a new animal health and welfare bill, replacing laws that are more than a century old.
The Irish SPCA welcomed the passing of the legislation, saying it had been calling for regulation of this nature for some time.
It has also lobbied for better regulations around identification and traceability, which the new law delivers.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the Animal Health & Welfare Bill had now been passed by both houses of the Oireachtas and would be sent to the president for signing in coming days.
Coveney said the bill represented a significant step forward in the area of animal health and welfare law.
“It is a major piece of legislation, containing 78 sections, updating and replacing a wide range of existing legislation, some which, such as the Protection of Animals Act 1911, are over a century old.”
The bill includes provisions which will lead to greater protection of animals. It will allow the courts to bar individuals convicted of serious animal welfare offences from keeping animals.
It also strengthens laws on animal baiting and dog fighting so that for the first time those attending dogfights will be liable for prosecution.
More generally, there are a range of specific requirements being placed upon animal keepers requiring that animals be fed, watered, given suitable housing and checked regularly.
New provisions in the bill provided more effective tools to ensure that the minority who do not care for their animals properly can be dealt with appropriately and quickly before animal welfare problems escalated, Coveney said.
A provision to enable the microchipping of dogs has also been included in the bill.
Coveney said the risks of animal disease had grown significantly since the Diseases of Animals Act 1966.
“There is far greater movement of animals, animal products and people. Therefore Ireland needs to ensure it has robust biosecurity procedures and that the state can act not just when there is a disease outbreak but in a preventative way, focused on reducing risk.
“Nevertheless, the Animal Health & Welfare Bill also foresees strong action, where necessary, with fines and imprisonment being prescribed where disease is spread intentionally.”
He continued: “It should be remembered that this bill will apply across the board, both to rural and urban areas and to all animals whether they be commercial, domestic or other.
“Existing lawful activity is not interfered with, but the duty of care owed to animals is made much clearer.”