A leading charity has called for tougher legislation in Northern Ireland to crack down on illegal puppy farms and other animal abuses.
The USPCA launched a manifesto setting out the need for new laws as a new Assembly group focused on animal welfare issues met for the first time.
The charity’s Addressing The Deficit manifesto contends that Northern Ireland lags behind the rest of the UK and the Irish Republic in legislative protections for animals.
The all-party group on animal welfare has been set up to examine these concerns and raise the profile of the issues within the Assembly.
The USPCA said fresh laws are required to address a range of issues, including:
– The sale of puppies online;
– The need for greater regulation and setting of minimum standards for animal businesses facilities, such as mobile exhibits and shelters;
– The lack of a register of offenders banned from keeping animals.
USPCA chief executive Brendan Mullan said the laws in Northern Ireland were not fit for purpose.
“The USPCA manifesto sets the scene of animal welfare in Northern Ireland and unfortunately demonstrates the shortfall in our current legislation,” he said.
“The manifesto provides a roadmap of urgent issues which could help bring Northern Ireland in line with our neighbours and drive real change to protect vulnerable animals within our society.”
At the inaugural meeting of the all-party group on Thursday afternoon, Alliance MLA John Blair was elected chair with DUP MLA Jim Wells as vice chair.
“I’m delighted to have been elected chair of the all-party group on animal welfare, and to see widespread support across the political parties for introducing the group to prioritise a range of animal welfare issues,” Mr Blair said.
“I look forward to working with colleagues over the coming months to progress legislation which will further enhance those protections.”
Mr Mullan added: “We are delighted to see strong support from our MLAs with their membership of the APG as we need immediate action to bridge the gap in our legislation.
“Alongside the engagement of our MLAs, there is an incredible appetite for animal welfare improvement in Northern Ireland from the general public.
“The launch of our manifesto and the establishment of the animal welfare APG marks a really significant milestone for animal welfare and, we hope, the beginning of a new era with real change.”
To mark the launch of the USPCA manifesto and the formation of the all-party group, Belfast City Hall will be lit up in the charity’s colours on Friday.