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Armagh-based animal welfare service fighting back against cruelty and neglect

Animal welfare officers investigating complaints of suspected cruelty and neglect had to seize animals on 19 occasions during the past financial year.

And a total of seven prosecutions were brought as a result.

The information has been provided to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

Since April 1, 2012, enforcement of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 for non-farmed animals has fallen to council and is delivered on a collaborative basis through a five-centre, sub-regional model.

The Southern Region is made up of the ABC Council and neighbouring Newry, Mourne and Down, with the service based out of Armagh.

During the past financial year – April 1, 2015 until March 31, 2016 – a total of 583 animal welfare cases were investigated in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough.

This resulted in a total of 972 officer visits and, in 19 of these cases, animals were seized. Seven prosecutions were brought.

A review of the implementation of the Welfare of Animals Legislation has recently been completed and it is planned to carry out an annual update and report on progress with recommendations being made to council in September.

Officers have ruled out an initiative introduced in Belfast, however, because of cost.

Last October, Belfast City Council agreed to provide animal welfare information stickers for black wheelie bins, providing details of who to contact if residents suspect cruelty or neglect to animals.

These were distributed in April in Belfast Council’s ‘City Matters’ magazine.

There has been no formal evaluation of the initiative to date, so no information is available yet on how many residents noted the information and how many placed the sticker on their bin.

Council has been told there were 37 more animal welfare cases reported to Belfast City Council since the stickers appeared, compared to the same period the previous year.

But officers say the increase cannot be wholly linked to the distribution of the stickers, as the total of animal welfare calls has increased year on year for the whole of Northern Ireland since its launch in 2012.

It would cost £7,500 to introduce the same sticker system across the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon borough, and this is money which has not been budgeted for.

But other initiatives are in place and being used locally to raise awareness.

There have been articles in council magazines, and another due to appear in the summer 2016 ‘Borough Link’ publication, providing details of how to report animal welfare cases.

Press releases are also now being ussed after every animal welfare prosecution, and all information on how to report available on the ABC Council, NI direct and USPCA websites.

Leaflets are also distributed to public buildings and veterinary surgeries, and out-of-hours call arrangements provided on telephone messaging services.

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