Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen has unveiled an action plan aimed at improving animal welfare enforcement and at protecting animals from neglect and abuse.
The plan sets out how 68 recommendations, made in the Review of the Implementation of the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011, will be brought in. It will enable the animal welfare enforcement bodies to work together to ensure that the recommendations are fully implemented.
Miss McIlveen said: “I am pleased to say that a number of the recommendations in the Action Plan have already been implemented. For example, legislation has been amended to substantially increase the maximum penalties available to the courts for the most serious animal welfare offences to five years imprisonment.
“In addition, serious animal welfare offences have been added to the Unduly Lenient Sentencing Scheme. This allows the Director of Public Prosecutions to refer sentences for animal welfare offences, tried in the Crown Court, to the Court of Appeal if he considers them to be unduly lenient. We have also secured access to conviction data for DAERA inspectors, to help with animal welfare investigations. These are important steps in ensuring that the welfare needs of animals are met.”
The Minister went on to say: “Another important recommendation that I am pleased to say is already completed is the establishment of a single animal welfare presence on the nidirect website. This provides information on buying and caring for animals, and is a single source of information on animal welfare enforcement.”