ANIMAL welfare has again come to the fore as Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has affirmed her support for full use of the tough penalties introduced by the Welfare of Animals Act 2011 for animal welfare abuses.
The 2011 Act has significantly increased the maximum penalties for animal welfare offences from three months’ imprisonment and / or a £5,000 fine to two years’ imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine. The Court can also disqualify any person convicted of an animal welfare offence from keeping an animal.
Responding to a motion in the Assembly requesting the full use of the new extended sentences for deliberate and severe animal cruelty, Minister O’Neill said: “I am totally committed to protecting and safeguarding animal welfare. I believe that the new tough penalties introduced by the 2011 Act will be a strong deterrent to thugs who would carry out such barbaric welfare abuses as the recent Cody case.
“I support the full use of the extended sentences available for serious animal welfare offences to include longer periods of imprisonment to ensure that perpetrators receive a punishment that fits the crime.
“I intend to meet the Minister of Justice to ensure that the Courts are encouraged to make full use of the range of penalties available for animal welfare offences and in horrific cases like the Cody case to apply the maximum penalties possible.
“Also, I am pleased to note that in one of the first cases the PSNI has recently secured a successful prosecution at Downpatrick Magistrates’ Court where a defendant was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog under the 2011 Act. The defendant was fined £250 and prohibited from keeping animals for five years.”
The Minister aded: “The public should be in no doubt that causing unnecessary suffering, including deliberate acts of cruelty to domestic pets, will not be tolerated and that the perpetrators will be punished.”
Anyone who has a concern about animal welfare should contact their local DARD Direct Office in respect of farmed animals or their local Council Animal Welfare Officer in respect of domestic pets and horses.