2nd Year Anniversary of the Animal Welfare Bill – The Best Kept Secret

Awareness of the enforcement arrangements for the sweeping changes in Northern Ireland’s current animal welfare legislation is abysmally low at a mere 6% of those interviewed.

On 2nd April 2012 enforcement of the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) 2011 became the responsibility of the 26 local authorities. Five Animal Welfare Inspectors were recruited and tasked with enforcing the new law.

The Councils reported that in its first year the new arrangements saw 4292 welfare investigations take place. These resulted in 189 *Improvement Notices being dispensed and on 63 occasions an animal/s seized.

Only 2 prosecutions were successful and they related to the same person and the same dog.

There is no mention of any failed prosecutions or any breakdown of seized animals and information regarding their disposal. Whether humanely destroyed, rehomed, returned to owner etc.

With only 6% of the population of Northern Ireland aware any changes had taken place it is hardly surprising that a paltry 1.5% were familiar with the local authorities role and in enforcement.

A huge problem clearly exists; public awareness is negligible, public confusion commonplace. Whilst this prevails animals will suffer needlessly, a result of ignorance and inaction. A situation that is unacceptable to anyone with a compassion for animals and a concern for their welfare.

This charity commissioned MRNI to carry out an independent survey to quantify our concerns.

In 2010/2011, when the animal welfare bill and enforcement arrangements were on the agenda our local councils were reluctant to take on a responsibility that carries with it considerable costs.

To quell concerns a funding ‘sweetener’ was made available by DARD. This was given to cover setup costs and first year expenditure, when this ‘one off’ funding dries up the ratepayer picks up the tab.

A survey of all 26 local authority websites confirms our view.

Any reference to the new animal welfare legislation and your council’s responsibilities and powers of enforcement are, at best hidden, at worst, simply ignored.

We have concluded the lack, almost absence, of public awareness and consequent inaction by councils can only be attributed to funding concerns.