Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots MLA, has visited the Almost Home Animal Rescue (NI) in Moira, to see first-hand the work the charity does in rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming companion and other small animals across Northern Ireland.
During his visit, Minister Poots discussed the challenges involved in the important work carried out by Animal Rehoming Charities throughout Northern Ireland and paid tribute to their contribution towards supporting the welfare of companion animals here. Under the #Pawsforthought campaign, DAERA has formed a multi-agency group with representatives from District Councils, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Trading Standards to discuss and cultivate better ways of working in order to address the significant issues faced as a result of the illegal trade in dog breeding.
Welcoming the campaign, Minister Poots said: "The trafficking of low welfare pups is a prevalent problem in Northern Ireland, driven by the huge demand for pups mainly in Great Britain. It is vital that people perform due diligence before purchasing a puppy and are therefore confident that the seller is legitimate. The #Pawsforthought campaign will highlight some of the issues faced as a result of illegal dog trading, with increased public messaging in the run up to Christmas.
"I would encourage everyone who is thinking of buying a pet to thoroughly check the source to ensure that the animal has received the proper care and attention at the start of their young life. This is important in order to avoid any future health problems that may arise for the dog as a result of initial neglect by unscrupulous dealers."
The Minister concluded: "Animal Rehoming Charities do vital work in supporting the welfare of animals across Northern Ireland and I would encourage everyone who is thinking of buying a pet to consider giving a forever home to one of the many animals currently being looked after in one of Northern Ireland's rehoming centres."
PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith said: "Police powers in relation to dog breeding establishments are to offer breach of the peace and public safety support to partner agencies and to investigate where there are any possible links to serious organised crime and/or dog fighting offences. PSNI will also report any suspected breaches of the legislation to the council animal welfare officer or council Enforcement Officer."
Karen Mathews, Almost Home Animal Rescue (NI) centre said: "At Almost Home Animal Rescue, we have many dogs looking for their right home. It is our role to ensure that every animal is safe, well cared for both physically and emotionally and finally leaves to become not just almost home but forever home."
A spokesperson for all of the 11 Northern Ireland councils said, "This sends out a clear message that enforcement bodies will take whatever action necessary to ensure that the welfare of animals is protected, that illegal movement will not be tolerated and that legislative requirements are met.
"Councils will continue to work with our partner agencies to ensure the information gathered is shared with local enforcement bodies and those in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, in order to allow agencies to use their respective powers to tackle the illegal puppy trade. However, legislation alone will not stop illegal puppy farming. This will take a concerted effort by members of the public and relevant enforcement agencies working together to identify breeders who put financial gain before the welfare needs of their dogs and pups"