Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust cautiously welcomes the publication of the new Dog Breeding Establishment Guidelines

Dogs Trust, Ireland’s largest dog welfare charity, today reacted to the publication of amendments made to the Dog Breeding Establishment (DBE) Guidelines, to which they submitted strong recommendations to the consultation process.

Significant improvements have been made to the former Guidelines including more robust language and provision for increased health and welfare requirements for all dogs and puppies in DBEs. The charity welcomes changing ‘shalls’ to ‘musts’ which will clarify any ambiguity and avoid incorrect interpretation of the wording.

Another welcome improvement to the Guidelines is the introduction of written programmes for exercise, socialisation, enhancement and enrichment at DBEs. Under the new Guidelines the DBE must provide an environment that allows all dogs to express normal behaviour and in particular to provide adequate socialisation, habituation and exercise for all dogs. Early socialisation means giving young puppies the best chance of coping well with various people and circumstances they encounter, as well as their interaction with other dogs, and should be introduced before they are homed to a domestic environment. If a puppy is not socialised and habituated properly from a very young age and for the first year of his life, this can lead to serious fear and aggression problems in later life.

There are still certain areas of concern, in particular the staff to dog ratio which has been reduced from 1:30 to 1:25. While this reduction is a positive step, it is simply unacceptable to suggest that one staff member could properly manage 25 breeding bitches and their puppies, each litter of which could have 6 amounting to over 150 pups, adhering to acceptable welfare standards. In essence, the staff to dog ratio in Ireland must be sufficient to provide the level of care set out in the DBE Guidelines and establishing the number of staff required will necessitate an assessment of the conditions at the establishment.

The charity welcomes that inspections of DBE’s are now no longer pre-arranged, however to ensure that inspections are as effective as possible, they must also be risk-based and undertaken by a fully trained and qualified National Inspectorate between neighbouring local authorities to ensure impartiality when inspecting and greater efficiencies from a resource perspective.

Commenting on the publication of the new Dog Breeding Establishment Guidelines, Suzie Carley, Executive Director at Dogs Trust said:
“We are very pleased to see significant improvements to the Dog Breeding Establishment Guidelines, including the provision for a written programme showing exercise, socialisation, enhancement and enrichment to be implemented by the DBE operator. We cannot stress how important it is that these dogs get daily exercise and social interaction to greatly improve their welfare and help enrich their lives. However there are important areas that still require urgent attention such as staff to dog ratio, where the number of staff to dogs is now 1:25. We feel this remains unacceptable and does not provide for their basic needs, as well as the implementation of the required exercise and socialisations programmes."

Suzie continues: “Inspection and enforcement is vital to improving the lives of these dogs, so we are very pleased to see that inspections are no longer pre-arranged. To this end and ahead of Budget 2019, we hope that the necessary resources will be afforded to Local Authorities, in terms of the number and frequency of inspections being carried out, to ensure that the new Guidelines will be adequately enforced.”

“We welcome Minister Kyne’s commitment to undertake a wider review of the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2011. We hope that this review will strengthen the Act and ensure better enforcement. We believe that there are key areas of improvement in order for the welfare of dogs to be placed at the forefront of this legislation, including the definition of a DBE to be amended so that the registered number of breeding bitches is reduced from six to three. We would also like to see amendments to the Act making it an offence for failing to comply with the conditions of the operator’s license and failing to comply with an improvement notice issued by the local authority. We strongly believe a review of the Act following the completion of the Guidelines is required and look forward to engaging with the Minister and his department to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare in Dog Breeding Establishments across Ireland.”