Mid & East Antrim Councillors have confirmed their support for a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the “despicable crime” of animal cruelty.
The introduction of an animal ownership ban on convicted offenders and their listing on a new central register are among proposals contained in a notice of motion unanimously backed by councillors at their December monthly meeting in Ballymena, last week.
The motion also called on the Ministers of Justice and Agriculture to work with councils in the province to protect animals, enhance animals welfare and raise awareness of animal abuse.
The motion, which was put forward by Cllr Mark McKinty, seconded by Cllr Lindsay Millar, read that: “This Council regards cruelty against animals as a despicable crime; believes that more could be done to protect animals from cruelty and prevent re-offending, including the exploration of stricter punishments and raising awareness of animal cruelty and proper reporting methods. Therefore, this Council calls on the Minister for Justice to work with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development and local Councils to make it compulsory that those convicted of animals cruelty be prohibited from owning animals for a minimum period of time, establish and place those convicted of animal cruelty on a central register and outlaw the transferring of any animals to anyone on this register”.
Currently, in Northern Ireland there is no single list or offenders’ register of those who have been handed bans by the court for keeping animals.
Cllr McKinty said his motion was timely given that Christmas was the traditional time for pets to be bought as gifts with many resulting in being abandoned or unwanted in the New Year and said he hoped the motion would go some way towards raising awareness.
However, Cllr Noel Jordan said he felt the motion “did not go far enough” stating “anybody found guilty (of animal cruelty) should automatically receive a custodial sentence and banned from having any animal for life”.
Calling for support from all members as she seconded the motion, Cllr Lindsay Millar highlighted the case back in August of a Ballymena cat owner whose pet narrowly escaped death after its body was peppered with shotgun pellets, prompting police to launch an investigation.
Cllr Paul Reid said his party was in full support of the motion and “that those caught being cruel to animals are brought before the courts and punished”.
Also confirming support on behalf of their respective parties were Robert Logan and Paul Sinclair (Alliance), Declan O’Loan (SDLP), Timothy Gaston (TUV)and James McKeown (Sinn Fein).
From April, 2012, District Councils have had responsibility for enforcement of the powers in the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011, and have adopted a collaborative regional approach to the new legislation, appointing Animal Welfare Officers to enforce animal welfare in respect of non-farmed animals.