Northern Ireland unveils new action plan to improve animal welfare

Northern Ireland 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.

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen said: “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.”