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Register for animal cruelty offenders is a step closer, says Poots

Politicians criticise delays after city council passed motion back in 2015


Victim of cruelty: A puppy dumped from a litter in 2019

Victim of cruelty: A puppy dumped from a litter in 2019

Victim of cruelty: A puppy dumped from a litter in 2019

The creation of a register of people convicted of animal cruelty offences has moved a step closer.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said “significant progress” has been made on the issue and expects to be able “consider a way forward” on a register in the coming months.

For years, animal welfare charities and other stakeholders have been calling for an animal abuse register to be set up so it is more difficult for offenders to obtain animals.

As far back as 2015, Belfast City Council passed a motion calling for those convicted of animal cruelty to be placed on a central register, much in the same way that sex offenders currently are.

In response to a recent Assembly question, Mr Poots said he wrote to Justice Minister Naomi Long outlining public concerns about sentencing in animal welfare cases and asked her to highlight to the Lady Chief Justice the breadth of penalties available to the courts.

“Significant progress has been made to identify the key issues that would need to be addressed if a register of animal welfare offenders were to be implemented and maintained,” he added.

“Officials have also been reviewing the effectiveness and impact of similar types of registers already operating elsewhere. I have requested that my officials further these efforts and develop proposals on potential next steps. I expect to be in a position to consider a way forward with respect to a register early in the New Year.”

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SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said, for the past year, her party has been has been working with the USPCA on the creation of an all-Ireland animal cruelty register and urged Mr Poots to ensure the proposals have an all-island dimension.

“Our proposal would work to combat the breach of bans on owning or keeping animals and prevent people with convictions from getting a licence to breed or sell animals. It would also prevent people with relevant convictions working in animal care,” she said, adding that she was pleased to hear about Mr Poots’ commitment to progressing a register soon.

“I have long been lobbying both he and Justice Minister Naomi Long after our campaign on this issue received a huge response. The end of the current Assembly mandate is looming and we need to see a register progressed as soon as possible, particularly given the repeated threats to the institutions from Mr Poots’ party leader.

“I would urge the ministers to ensure our proposals are included in any register and to work with the Irish Government to ensure it is created on an all-island basis.

“It is imperative that we do everything we can to keep animals out of the hands of abusers and any register that fails to cover the whole island could result in offenders crossing the border and continuing to subject animals to terrible ordeals.”

Green Party Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey hit out at the slow progress in creating an animal abuse register.

“In 2015, Belfast City Council unanimously passed a Green Party NI motion calling on Executive Ministers to introduce an animal welfare offenders register. Seven years later, the fact that Minister Poots is yet to even ‘consider a way forward’ on this policy demonstrates the five-party Executive’s failure to seriously address animal welfare issues,” she said.

“The Green Party NI has also called for the Minister to introduce Lucy’s Law, to tighten the regulation of dog breeding, and a ban on the use of animal snares. But despite widespread public support for these pieces of legislation, the department has failed to act.”

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