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Swann urges DAERA Minister to reverse decision to axe animal welfare funding

Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann with DAERA logo


Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has called upon Stormont’s Agriculture and Environment Minister Andrew Muir to intervene and reverse a decision last year to axe all animal welfare funding to Northern Ireland’s 11 councils.


He has also hit out at the farce of DAERA preparing to fight the Councils in an upcoming judicial review on the matter, of which the likely significant legal fees for both are going to end up coming out of the public purse.

Robin Swann said:


“Last August, at a time when Northern Ireland had no functioning Executive or Ministers in post, there was totally short-sighted decision taken by DAERA to scrap funding that had become absolutely critical for protecting pets and other non-farmed animals.


“In the grand scheme of things, the total funding amounted to just £1.25m a year but it was vital in enabling Northern Ireland’s Councils to deliver a full service with employed animal welfare officers, as well as driving through prosecutions when necessary.

“Unfortunately, last summer with the stroke of a pen DAERA officials effectively cut the funding by 100% whilst at the very same time telling the Council’s that it still expected them to deliver the service. It’s an illogical position and as a direct result of the Department’s actions it is now facing a hugely expensive judicial review.


“That means not only will the Northern Ireland public purse be hit with paying DAERA’s legal fees, but as a double-whammy local ratepayers are going to be hit with paying the NI Council’s legal costs.


“It’s ridiculous that one part of the NI public sector is effectively taking another to court.


“At the heart of the matter however is one Department – DAERA – shirking responsibility for something it still to this day tries to publicly state that it is fully committed to. That is why this week in the Assembly I challenged Minister to intervene and to be a leader for animal welfare, instead of continuing to oversee a decision that the vast majority of people can see to be palpably wrong.

“In the Assembly I openly confronted the Minister on the matter, and whilst I will now await and see what his next steps are the reality is that the pets and other animals currently being abused and neglected simply don’t have the time to wait and see what the Minister decides to do.  


"In my view it seems that, for some, animal welfare is an issue only for social media and not for actual on the ground delivery.”


Mr Swann also went on to raise major concerns on the poor rate of prosecutions that had been achieved in animal cruelty cases in the past five years.

"Over the past five years, there have been only 18 convictions under NI’s Welfare of Animals Act passed in 2011, despite 240 cases having been commenced. That represents just a 7.5% rate of success from the point at which those cases were commenced to the point of being delivered. It poses the question of why the Department and the Minister will not revisit calls to establish an animal cruelty register.


“Instead of scrapping even the limited funding his Department previously provided to Councils to deliver an animal welfare service, as well as seemingly going-along with the nonsense of still supporting the decision now as it goes through the courts, I would urge the Minister Andrew Muir to step up and to step forward as a champion for tackling animal cruelty. If he doesn’t, the evidence is clear to see that even more animals will suffer as a result.”


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