McIlveen warns illegal movement of dogs will not be tolerated

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Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen has warned that the illegal movement of dogs through Northern Ireland’s ports will not be tolerated.

The minister was speaking ahead of a meeting to review a joint initiative between her department, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Belfast City Council that resulted in more than 30 pups being prevented from travelling to Great Britain illegally.

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen

The joint operation was mounted at Larne and Belfast ports before Christmas following concerns regarding potential illegal movements of commercial consignments of dogs and focussed on the welfare of animals during transport, the identification of animals and the licensing and registration of dog breeding establishments. In the case of dogs moving from the Republic of Ireland, checks were also made on compliance with the Pet Travel Scheme and relevant trade requirements.

Miss McIlveen commended the joined-up working between councils and DAERA enforcement bodies at the ports to address the issue of puppy trade.

She said: “The very productive joint working initiative between council animal welfare officers and my department’s portal inspectors at Belfast and Larne ports over the past two weeks resulted in several hundred vehicles being checked and over 30 pups being either prevented from travelling or surrendered at the ports.

“This sends out a clear message that enforcement bodies will take whatever action necessary to ensure that the welfare of animals is protected, that illegal movement will not be tolerated and that legislative requirements are met.”

The very productive joint working initiative between council animal welfare officers and my department’s portal inspectors at Belfast and Larne ports over the past two weeks resulted in several hundred vehicles being checked and over 30 pups being either prevented from travelling or surrendered at the ports.

Michelle McIlveen, Agriculture Minister

The operation involved joint working between council animal welfare officers and portal inspectors from DAERA. Checks were enhanced from early December in Belfast Port where approximately 460 cars and 106 commercial vehicles were inspected using a risk based random approach. In Larne Harbour 145 cars and 49 vans were inspected. Where non-compliances relating to animal welfare or identification were detected, the consignments were either required to return to their premises of origin, or voluntarily surrendered to animal welfare officers for rehoming. Departmental officials are due to meet with the councils next week to review of the joint operation.

The minister added: “I understand that a number of investigations are underway and information gathered will be shared with enforcement bodies in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, to provide ongoing intelligence across all enforcement bodies and agencies to tackle illegal puppy trade.

“Legislation alone will not stop illegal puppy farming. This will take a concerted effort by members of the public and enforcement agencies working together to identify breeders who put financial gain before the welfare needs of their dogs and pups. I would encourage anyone with specific evidence of an illegal breeding establishment to provide this to councils to allow enforcement action to be taken.”

Anyone who may have information on the illegal movement of puppies or an illegal breeding establishment can contact relevant authorities via contact details on the DAERA website at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/introduction-animal-welfare