ISPCA case in Donegal: the first prosecution under Ireland’s new Animal Health and Welfare Act

Under the new law, dogs do not have to physically suffer for a crime to be committed

You may have seen the news today about a successful prosecution by the ISPCA based around a dog that was left in an empty house in Donegal.

This outcome may not sound like much, with costs of just €405 and sentencing deferred until July, but it is a landmark case. The significance is that this is the first successful prosecution under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 which came into force in March 2014. The offence took place on March 12 2014 and it has taken a year to reach the courts.

This is a very big deal in the animal welfare world. Under the old Irish animal welfare legislation (which had not been updated since the Protection of Animals Act 1911) this woman could not have been prosecuted because the dog was not emaciated or in actual pain. The new legislation gives owners a duty to care for their animal, so that even if they do not actually inflict physical injury on their pet, the simple fact that they are not providing for their pet correctly is a crime in itself. You are now obliged to provide the five freedoms for animals under your care – freedom from hunger/thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain/illness/suffering, freedom to behave normally and freedom from fear/distress.

Expect many more convictions like this – they are in the pipeline

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