Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 27 February, 2007

Written Answers. - Animal Welfare.

Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to ensure that the housing and care of animals and invertebrates used in scientific procedures conforms with the highest evidence based animal welfare standards; the number of inspection visits of establishments which use animals and invertebrates in scientific procedures that have been carried out with a view to ascertaining the degree of conformance with the relevant legislation of such establishments during each of the past five years by or on behalf of her Department. [7512/07]

  Ms Harney: The use of live animals in scientific research and other experimental activity is strictly controlled in accordance with the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, as amended by the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876) Regulations 2002 and 2005. These regulations transpose EU Directives on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes and ensure that Ireland is in line with international best practice.

[999] Under the Act, experiments on live animals can only be performed by persons licensed by the Authority (Minister for Health and Children) and in premises registered for that purpose. Each licence applicant must satisfy the Authority that they have the appropriate education and training (including instruction in a relevant scientific discipline) for the task, are competent to perform the task in accordance with the conditions specified in the licence and have the appropriate competence to handle and take care of the experimental animals specified in the application.

Section 5 of the Act deals with the general requirements for the care and accommodation of experimental animals and provides, inter alia, that: all experimental animals shall be provided with housing, an environment, at least some freedom of movement, food water and care that are appropriate to their health and well being; any restriction on the extent to which an experimental animal can satisfy its physiological and ethological needs shall be limited to the absolute minimum; the environmental conditions in which experimental animals are bred, kept or housed shall be checked daily; the well-being and state of health of experimental animals shall be observed by a veterinary surgeon or other suitably qualified person in order to prevent pain or avoidable suffering, distress or lasting harm; and arrangements shall be made to ensure that any defect or suffering discovered is eliminated as quickly as possible.

Inspections of registered user establishments are carried out in accordance with Section 10 of the Act. The Act provides for all registered establishments to be visited from time to time by inspectors for the purpose of securing compliance with the provisions of the Act. Veterinary staff of the Department of Agriculture and Food act as inspectors. Officials of my Department do not carry out these inspections. It is a function of the inspector to report to the Authority any case of non-compliance with the provisions of the Act and no such report has been received in the period referred to by the Deputy.