Councillor Patrick Brown, the Alliance Party Animal Welfare Spokesperson, has tabled a motion calling for action on illegal puppy farming.
The motion, brought at the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Meeting last week, reads:
‘This council notes the increasing and worrying prevalence of puppy farming and pet abandonment in recent years, and the high levels of public interest in addressing this and all instances of animal cruelty. Recognising council’s responsibility for animal welfare and the importance of inter-agency and partnership working to address this issue, council will establish an Animal Welfare Forum. This Forum will meet regularly (at least quarterly) and provide strategic direction and oversight to officers involved in animal welfare, reporting back to the AHC committee. It will also seek representation from elected members, dog wardens, kennelling providers, DAERA, animal shelters, charities and the PSNI.’
Cllr. Brown expressed his concern over the rise in illegal puppy farming during the pandemic, especially after a report last year from the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showed Northern Ireland has become a key centre of puppy trading, with thousands of abused and ill dogs being shipped through Belfast’s port. He said: ‘It is incredibly saddening to think of dogs being mercilessly bred to reach the increased demand for puppies arising from lockdowns. No animal should be subject to cruelty, and as a dog owner myself, it is heart-breaking to see images like those from the horrific case recently uncovered at Forkhill. I believe councillors can play a vital role in animal welfare, preventing undue harm to defenceless animals.’
He added: ‘Asides from the horrible animal abuse, puppy farming is fast becoming a serious criminal network worth millions of pounds. It is essential that we recognise the scale of the problem here in Northern Ireland so we can take necessary steps to address illegal breeding. I believe it is council’s responsibility to lead this from a local level, involving major agencies who can take action, such as the PSNI and DAERA, as well as animal shelters and charities. This is an opportunity for cross-departmental partnership to protect animal welfare and prevent future abuse.’
Cllr. Brown’s motion calls for an Animal Welfare Forum to be established as a strategic working group, and will go on to be discussed at council’s Active and Healthy Communities committee meeting.