Animal welfare prosecutions in Northern Ireland double in 2018, figures reveal
The number of prosecutions for animal welfare-related offences in Northern Ireland doubled last year, new figures have revealed.
A total of 42 prosecutions were completed by councils in 2018, up from 21 in 2017, according to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs' (DAERA) latest Animal Welfare Report.
These prosecutions resulted in 41 convictions.
The enforcement of animal welfare laws in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of DAERA's veterinary services division, local councils and the PSNI.
Veterinary service inspectors, who investigate cases involving farmed animals, carried out 1,239 inspections for animal welfare compliance across Northern Ireland in 2018, with an overall compliance rate of 95%.
Where animal welfare rules are found to have been broken, inspectors have a range of options to deal with such cases, including: providing advice, issuing warnings and taking prosecution action.
Local councils, which are responsible for cases involving domestic pets and horses, received 6,480 animal welfare complaints in 2018 and carried out 9,553 inspections.
These cases resulted in 334 animals being voluntarily signed over to animal welfare officers, while 152 animals were seized - a significant decrease from the 518 animals seized in 2017.
The PSNI deals with cases involving wild animals, animal fighting and other animal welfare-related criminal activities.
Police seized 106 animals in 2018, almost double the number seized in 2017.
A total 19 animal welfare offences were prosecuted, resulting in 19 convictions.
Catherine Fisher, health of animal health and welfare policy at DAERA, said: "The report highlights the work carried out in 2018 by the three bodies responsible for enforcing animal health and welfare in Northern Ireland: DAERA, local councils and the PSNI.
"It shows that Northern Ireland maintains an extensive and effective animal welfare enforcement regime and provides clear comparisons with previous years in relation to the number of animal welfare complaints received by each enforcement body and the subsequent follow up action taken.
“The report demonstrates that all three enforcement bodies utilised the full range of options available to them under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 to progress animal welfare cases or to take action to deal with alleged offences. Actions taken remain commensurate with the severity of welfare offences."
Belfast Telegraph Digital