Belfast City Council wants to blacklist people for animal cruelty
Belfast City Council wants people convicted of animal cruelty placed on a central register, in the same way that sex offenders currently are.
There is currently no single list of those banned by courts from keeping animals.
But that could change after councillors in City Hall agreed to work with Stormont's Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture and other local authorities on a new register.
The lack of an animal cruelty register has led campaigners to brand court bans on people keeping animals as useless.
Twenty people were banned from keeping animals in 2012, nine in 2013 and 26 last year.
Just four were permanent bans.
Yet there is still no way for sanctuaries that rehome animals to check whether someone offering to care for an animal has been banned from doing so.
USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott has queried why those convicted of the abuse and exploitation of children are placed on a register, but not those who cause needless suffering to animals. Lyn Friel, manager of Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Antrim, said a central register would be helpful for charities which rehome animals.
Nine animal welfare officers based across the 11 councils in Northern Ireland currently have the power to confiscate an animal from someone who is barred from owning an animal.
If City Hall plans are adopted, it would make it compulsory that those convicted of animal cruelty are prohibited from owning animals for a minimum period of time, identify and place those convicted of animal cruelty on a central register and outlaw the transfer of any animals to anyone on this register.
Green Party councillor Ross Brown proposed the motion, which was seconded by DUP councillor Brian Kingston and backed by every party in Belfast City Hall.
Mr Brown gave examples of severe cruelty, including Norman the greyhound who was dumped by the side of the road with his ears cut off, Cody the border collie who was doused in petrol and set alight, and Oscar, a 10-month-old mixed Labrador left for dead a few weeks ago outside a house after being used as bait in dog fighting.
Mr Brown described animal cruelty as a "despicable crime".
"With our role as a council in enforcing against animal cruelty, I believe that it is important that we send out a strong message that we support an animal cruelty register to enable us to undertake better enforcement," he said.