Northern Ireland

Michelle O'Neill: Dog breeding sentences could increase

Puppies
Image caption Puppies were shown huddled together in trailers in secretly recorded film

The agriculture minister has said jail terms and fines for dog breeding offences could be increased.

Her comments follow a BBC investigation that looked into so-called "puppy farming".

Under current legislation, those found guilty of dog breeding offences can be jailed for six months and fined up to £5,000.

Michelle O'Neill said increased penalties alone were not enough.

Last year, the minister launched a review of animal welfare legislation to see if it should be improved.

"I think there's possibly room for increasing the custodial sentences, the maximum penalties you would face if you were convicted of any sort of animal cruelty," she said on Thursday.

"We could, in fact, increase the sentencing and increase the financial penalties that are there. For me that's a very strong deterrent in itself.

"But the one thing I would definitely say is that legislation alone won't solve the issue of puppy farming or other deliberate organised animal cruelty activities.

"It's about individuals, when buying pups, that they're aware of being alert to the circumstances in which they're buying the pups."

BBC Scotland Investigates: The Dog Factory, included secretly filmed footage of Furnish Kennels in Fivemiletown, which claims to be the largest licensed dog breeding establishment in the UK.

Sheila Voas, chief veterinary surgeon with the Scottish government, tells the programme: "It was barbaric. It was a production line. It was using animals as a commodity."

However, the firm's solicitor said the premises are run in accordance with the law and Fermanagh District Council said the premises complied with legislation.

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