I.W.T.F. Consultation in Northern Ireland.

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Committee Updates. (29th April 2015)

I.W.T.F. Consultation in Northern Ireland.

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Over the last year the Federation was invited by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARDNI) to consult on the implementation of Animal Welfare legislation in Northern Ireland. Committee members took part in this process and we can now report on progress to date.


The Department sought our views on the Interim Report of the Review of the Implementation of the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011 which is now available on the DARD and Department of Justice (DOJ) websites.


For almost 40 years, the main primary legislation regarding animal welfare was the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 1972. The legislation was replaced in 2011 by the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011 (the 2011 Act), which introduced a duty of care in respect of all protected animals and provided new enforcement powers to allow action to be taken to prevent animals from suffering, as opposed to the previous position whereby action could be taken only after suffering had occurred. It also increased penalties for animal welfare offences.

There has been considerable public, political, and media interest in the implementation of the 2011 Act, particularly with regard to non-farmed animals. The following Private Members’ Motion was agreed by the Assembly on 31 March 2014 –

That this Assembly notes with concern the number of cases of extreme animal cruelty that have occurred recently, the low number of convictions and the failure to impose the maximum sentence available; and calls on the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, in conjunction with the Minister for Justice, to initiate a review of the implementation of animal cruelty legislation, particularly sentencing guidelines and practices, to ensure that the maximum effectiveness is being brought to bear to combat these crimes. 

In response to that Motion, Minister Michelle O’Neill established a Review of the Implementation of the 2011 Act, which is chaired jointly by officials in DARD and DOJ.

This consultation is in its final stages and the professional approach by DARD and the DOJ chairs made it an inclusive and balanced process. The I.W.T.F. members who took part delivered a formal submission and made valuable contacts at every level, in particular with the formation of the super-councils in the North. Tom and Mark must be commended for their work and the outcome of the review has benefited from their input. We will update members with our submission and response at the conclusion of the report in May.

For now it would appear that minimum sentencing will not be implemented and concerns have been accepted regarding Animal Welfare officer “training”.

Common sense has prevailed.

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