Úna Doogue: Animal Welfare Concerns Point to Wider Political Failings
Úna Doogue from Aontú Laois has said her experience of trying to report a stray dog she found wandering on a dangerous stretch of road on the Tullamore Road outside Mountmellick on Sunday 27 September raises concerns about animal welfare provisions in Laois and the issue of animal theft in general.
Ms. Doogue from Portlaoise who works with the Aontú Leader, Peadar Tóibín as his Parliamentary Assistant said “I found myself in a bizarre situation on the side of the N80 in the Graigue area of Mountmellick where I had to debate with a Garda at Portlaoise Garda Station after my call was diverted from Mountmellick Garda station as to which legislation applied in trying to persuade the Gardaí to take responsibility for the dog under their statutory obligations for the welfare of an animal found running by itself on the road. I was informed by the Gardaí that the Dog Warden in Laois was not available on Sundays. He said they had no facilities at the Garda Station to keep a dog even though the law states that where a stray dog is found it must be reported to the Dog Warden or brought to a Garda station.”
She says she had to persuade the Gardaí to collect the dog. She stressed to the Gardaí that given the widespread reports of dog theft there was a possibility the dog may have been stolen and escaped. The Garda advised her to take the dog instead and elaborated that he had to take a dog home with him in the past, and it would be put to sleep if not claimed after 5 days.”
“I had to insist that the Gardaí come to collect the dog by implying that I would release it back on to the road, which clearly I wasn’t going to do, and then report it again as a stray animal causing a road hazard. It was a highly unusual situation where once I had my hand on a dog I found to try to keep him safe being concerned about his welfare, one piece of legislation applied. Had I released my grip from the dog to let him loose another law applied. The laws clearly need to be codified to reflect this type of situation so ultimately animal welfare is placed at the centre of the legislation. The Gardaí who collected the dog informed me that dog theft is misinformation spread on social media and the reported figures are much lower in the past few years. I informed them I was somewhat sceptical where I have been made aware of dog theft which is not being reported and we need to understand the reasons why”.
Ms. Doogue continued “I was delighted to discover the dog had been returned to the owner and the Laois Garda Crime Prevention Officer featured on RTE’s Crimecall the following night advising people how to keep your dog secure from going missing or being stolen. Individual members of An Garda Siochána should not be placed in a position where they feel they have to be personally responsible for having to take a dog home where a dog could be put to sleep, and due to lack of resources and proper facilities where a Dog Warden is not available. Under-resourcing can lead to the Gardaí being unable to fulfil their responsibility for animal welfare by which they are statutory bound and can act as a deterrent in officially reporting a dog which has gone missing”.
“To try address the issue of dog theft, Aontú has submitted a bill bringing in mandatory minimum sentences for theft of animals, and aims to target more professional dog theft operations. There needs to also be codification of the existing legislation to ensure clarity and certainty as to what legislation applies in a particular instance. Aontú has been leading the line on this front with both this legislation, local campaigns and extensive Parliamentary Questions submitted to tackle the issue head on.”
“It’s important to remember that animal-related crime isn’t just confined to county boundaries, it doesn’t just happen in isolation and is linked to other criminal activities. I am regularly contacted by frustrated community leaders from various parts of the country making me aware that vigilante groups are mobilising to tackle such crimes and other anti-social behaviour in areas of socio-economic disadvantage where local authorities have been sitting on funding allocated for community facilities and social housing. Any Minister for Justice and any government has lost complete confidence when vigilante groups form usually as a measure of last resort where Gardaí had already been requesting extra resources”, Ms. Doogue concluded.