Animal Health and Welfare Bill Public Consultation 2008 Part 1

I was delighted to find the original pdf of ANVIL‘s Animal Health and Welfare Bill Public Consultation Response from back in 2008. Over 30 Irish animal welfare organisations took part in the consultation about the pending animal welfare legislation, and the Report clearly gives a good representation of those experienced in the field. And I thought I’d have a wee looksee how much was taken on board in the 2013 Bill itself.

While the Submission is still available online, ANVIL’s pages, like the organisation, are no more, so I’ve uploaded the pdf to these pages to ensure it stays in circulation. It’s available for download here (98.2Kb).

You’ll remember the latest Irish Animal Health and Welfare Bill was originally due to come out in 2009? But changes in government and, to all appearances, little interest in animal welfare by the various parties meant that it took five years to appear. The Irish Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2013 (pdf) was published, or at least became publicly available, early in 2014. ANVIL’s report was feeding back from governmental consultation about the legislation with the animal welfare organisations. I’d expect their expert feedback to be considered and incorporated to a fair extent. I thought I’d have a wee look and see how much was taken on board. And I thought might be interested in sharing the journey with me. But I have to say I’ve struggled – I can feel my brains melting out my ears every time I try to interpret the legalese.

At the same time I can’t help but include my thoughts on issues relevant to stray and feral cats and TNR – just because that’s my thing – and there’s no way I’m going through this stuff twice.

Having said that, I realise after the first item I’ve looked at (European Convention for the Protection of Pets), that the legislation has so many issues and side alleys and there is much that’s unfamiliar to me. I’d be really interested in getting feedback from anyone who knows more about the particular issues. Please feel free to either comment at the end of this post or to email me.

So, let’s take it one thing at a time:

1. Introduction

Extracts from ANVIL’s Report:

The Treaty of Amsterdam recognises animals as sentient beings with needs and feelings. Our present legislation, as it pertains to companion animal, does not properly take account of this.

I’m not convinced the new legislation does either 🙁

There are too many Government departments dealing with animals, leading to a dearth of information and responsibility on the part of Ministers. This makes it almost impossible to get information or indeed to identify a Minister or Department responsible.

I’m not sure if this has been addressed but would be interested to find out.

The absence of Ministerial and Departmental responsibility is to blame for our failure to sign or ratify the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals which has been in existence since 1987.

The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals is still not ratified or signed by Ireland today.

While the offence of cruelty is defined, it is loose and open to interpretation and there is no provision for a duty of care for owners and carers. Present legislation is outdated, confusing, insufficient, and is very often not properly enforced.

Five Freedoms not all present and correct, ‘Duty of Care’ not explicitly mentioned, confusing? check, insufficient? check – enforcement remains to be seen. Don’t get me wrong though – there are definitely steps forward. Just not enough of them.

… lack of legislation aimed at owner responsibility and duty means there is no obligation on owners to change

It does look like owners are being held more accountable. I’ll have to finish going through the whole thing before I can reliably comment.

Response to the Consultation Document

Definition of an “Animal”

Extracts from ANVIL’s Report:

There is no suggested definition included in the proposal document however ANVIL suggests the following:

We believe the broad definition of ‘animal’ should include vertebrates other than man, as well as any invertebrates which are under the care of humans or kept as pets

The Act says

“animal” means a member of the kingdom animalae other than a human being;

I hate to be picky but I can only find the spelling ‘animalia’ in dictionaries etc – wondering if that could cause problems. Otherwise, great.

Definition of “Protected Animal”

Extracts from ANVIL’s Report:

Once again, the proposal document does not include a definition apart from the statement: “to provide for differentiated levels of welfare for farmed animals, protected animals and all animals with farm animals receiving the highest level”. … ANVIL is of the opinion that all animals are entitled to be protected from unnecessary suffering and all protected animals are entitled to equal duty of care.

In the Bill I can’t find anything about ‘differentiated levels of welfare’ so am assuming that has gone (but don’t quote me). And it says –

“protected animal” means an animal—

(a) kept for farming, recreational, domestic or sporting purposes
in the State,
(b) when it is in the possession or under the control of a
human being whether permanently or on a temporary
basis, or
(c) that is not living in a wild state;

Which is all well and good, but I’m not sure where that leaves animals living in a wild state – they are surely entitled to some sort of protection? And are certainly entitled to being protected from unnecessary suffering. It’s also cause for concern with regards to TNR and feral cats. I can find no definition of ‘wild’ nor ‘feral’ in the legislation.

Responsibility for an animal

Extracts from ANVIL’s Report:

In the absence of a proposed definition in the consultation document we recommend that responsibility for an animal should primarily rest with the owner. We believe that only persons who have achieved the age of simple majority (18 years) should be able to buy, own, or receive as a gift, any animal. Responsibility should also extend to temporary keepers or carers of an animal in the absence of the owner.

An owners or carers responsibility should not be relinquished by virtue of abandonment; indeed abandonment should be seen as an offence in itself.

The cut off point for ownership of an animal is 16 years in the Bill, not 18 as suggested by the Report.

It seems to me that the Bill leaves responsibility for an animal primarily with ‘A person who has a protected animal in his or her possession or under his or her control’, which seems fair enough – but the responsibility still (mostly) leads back to the owner:

(3) Where a person having possession or control of a protected
animal fails to comply with subsection (1) and the person is not the
owner of the protected animal, then the owner of the animal shall
also have committed an offence under subsection (2), unless the
owner shows that he or she took all reasonable steps to ensure that
all necessary measures in the circumstances were taken to comply
with subsection (1).

And provision is made for abandonment

14.—(1) A person who has in his or her possession or under his
or her control a protected animal shall not abandon the animal and
if he or she does abandon the animal he or she is not relieved of
responsibility for the animal.

But I’m left wondering who is responsible for the wild animals of Ireland, and the ferals.

Unnecessary Suffering

Extracts from ANVIL’s Report:

We believe ‘unnecessary suffering’ should form the basis of the offence of cruelty to any animal. The term ‘suffering’ should be defined and should include physical, psychological, and emotional suffering.

The Bill:

“unnecessary suffering” means, in relation to an animal, pain, distress
or suffering (whether physical or mental) that in its kind or
degree, or in its object, or in the circumstances in which it occurs, is
unreasonable or unnecessary;

So the Bill doesn’t include emotional suffering in it’s list.

Extracts from ANVIL’s Report:

We would favour the wording used in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act, 2006 (1), section 19, Unnecessary suffering, which includes, among others, the proviso “the person knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act or omission would have caused the suffering or be likely to do so”

This phrasing has not been used. Instead, the Prohibition on Animal Cruelty states:

12.—(1) A person shall not—

(a) do, or fail to do, anything or cause or permit anything to
be done to an animal that causes unnecessary suffering
to, or endanger the health or welfare of, an animal, or

(b) neglect, or be reckless, regarding the health or welfare of
an animal.

From ANVIL:

Unnecessary suffering caused through an act of omission can be a grey area and difficult to prove. The inclusion of the five freedoms of animal welfare (see section on ‘Duty of Care’) which establish, within reason, what is deemed to be an adequate standard of care for animals, would ensure that owners are aware of an animals needs under the law.

The Bill:

(4) The considerations to which regard may be had when
determining, for the purposes of this section, whether suffering is
unnecessary may, amongst any other considerations, include— blah blah

I find the Bill’s phrasing rather disturbing here – implying that animal suffering IS necessary and a need to determine when it is NOT. It seems more appropriate to me to assume any suffering is unnecessary – and highlight circumstances where it may be seen as necessary (eg. a cat carrier is not appropriate long term accommodation, but appropriate for a short trip to the vet). Do you get me? And the Five Freedoms, as ANVIL states, could really have helped with this.

For those who don’t know, the Five Freedoms are internationally accepted as the benchmark of animal welfare – see our write up for more information (and an excellent diagram depicting at which point cruelty is typically prosecuted). The Bill makes no explicit mention of the Five Freedoms. And it talks about what should be provided for an animal, rather than things an animal should be free from experiencing. A subtle difference that fails to address the complexities of difference situations and needs. And no mention is made of the words ‘discomfort’, ‘normal behaviour’, ‘fear’ – all aspects of the five freedoms and all related protections absent, effectively, from the Bill.

As ANVIL states in the next section:

It should be a requirement that a person responsible for a protected animal not only avoids the unnecessary suffering of that animal, but also takes reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the animal are met.

The absence of all Five Freedoms from the bill is a serious shortcoming for animal welfare. And, to a certain extent, illustrates that legislators are still thinking along the lines of animal control rather than animal welfare.

From ANVIL:

ANVIL would be against the introduction of any new terminology which could, lead to different levels of protection for animals, create loopholes in the law, or would allow for the continuation of cruel activities.

The Bill:

11) Nothing in this section [Ed’s Note: The Prohibition on animal cruelty section] applies in relation to anything which
occurs in the ordinary course of—

(a) fishing,
(b) lawfully hunting an animal, unless the animal is released
in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition, or
(c) lawfully coursing a hare, unless the hare is hunted or
coursed in a space from which it does not have a reasonable
chance of escape.

I’ve already written about this. Prohibition of animal cruelty – Oh! Except in blood sports. Basically, the Irish government are admitting that hunting, coursing and fishing are cruel. But they’re not going to do anything about it. Continuation of cruel activities. Check.

 Duty of Care of Owners or Persons Responsible for an Animal

From ANVIL:

ANVIL notes, and welcomes the proposal of a specific ‘duty of care’ by the department although in the absence of further clarification we recommend the following:

In order to avoid unnecessary suffering and to ensure the proper welfare of animals, owners, keepers, carers, or anyone who is responsible for an animal should have a duty of care to ensure the needs of that animal are properly met.

Okay, there’s no mention of the phrase ‘Duty of Care’ in the Bill that I can see.

And I’m going to stop there. It’s teatime and my brain’s melted. Don’t hold your breath for the next thrilling episode … if you really want me to carry on you’ll have to feed me choklit and firemen.

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