Is government funding for animal welfare being well spent?

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In what has become an annual pre-Christmas tradition, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue announced more than €3.7 million in funding to 98 animal welfare organizations across the country.

In order to cement this long-term tradition, December 15 was given the title of the first “Animal Welfare Awareness Day”, as an animal welfare awareness initiative.

This announcement is still surprisingly controversial. There are different aspects that come up every year.

It’s very positive: per capita, it’s 78c per person living in this country given to animal welfare. In Britain that would be the equivalent of the government giving €52m to animal welfare groups, when to my knowledge they don’t give anything at all. There are very few countries in the world where the government directly funds independent animal welfare groups, and we need to be aware of that.

The funding is used as a way to raise standards among the many disparate and independent groups that work hard for animal welfare. In order to receive funding, you must complete application forms, following clearly defined standards of care. This bureaucracy can be cumbersome for animal rescue groups that are already overworked, but at the same time, it’s a way to ensure people are doing better on behalf of the animals they help.

One of several dogs found in substandard and overcrowded living conditions at a property in Co Limerick earlier this year. Photo: ISCA

There have been examples in the past of groups whose dedication caused them to take on too much work, resulting in too much pressure, leading to lower standards of care. It is not in the interests of the animals that they are trying to help. Gratis funding is therefore a means of exerting a little pressure to maintain standards.

There are always complaints that too much funding goes to the biggest charities, and not enough (or none) to the small, hard-working local ones. For example, the DSPCA receives €615,000 and the ISPCA €670,000, while the Cork Dog Action Welfare Group receives only €38,500, the West Cork Animal Welfare Group receives only €21,500 and Madra only receives €17. 000 €. And everyone knows that these small groups do a colossal job. I understand the concerns about this, but there are two points that are sometimes overlooked.

One of 53 dogs found by the ISPCA at the Co Offaly premises along with six litters of puppies.  In addition to not being registered, the conditions on the property were below required standards.
One of 53 dogs found by the ISPCA at the Co Offaly premises along with six litters of puppies. In addition to not being registered, the conditions on the property were below required standards.

First, the DSPCA and ISPCA have an additional duty that other groups do not have: they are responsible for enforcing animal welfare laws. The Gardaí don’t do that, in general: the work is delegated by our company to these two charities. It is therefore clear that they need additional funds to employ the agents authorized to do this work and to pay the legal costs and so on.

If they didn’t get that funding, the prosecution wouldn’t happen and the welfare of the animals would suffer.

In addition, the Irish Blue Cross receives a whopping €330,000, but you have to remember that they do another kind of extra work, not done by other charities: they provide subsidized veterinary care for pets in people who cannot afford to go there. at the vet, at its base in Inchicore as well as through their mobile clinics. So it needs more money to do it effectively.

The second point is that whenever funds are distributed, it will always be impossible to make everyone happy. Someone always gets more, someone always gets less, and it’s so easy for people to feel cheated.

There is always a comparison between this money (less than 4 million euros) and the money given to greyhound racing (in October, 17.6 million euros was announced as a grant to Greyhound Racing Ireland from the Horse & Greyhound Fund). I absolutely agree that this sounds outrageous, and there are only two points I would like to make about this that are often overlooked.

First, the funding for greyhounds does not come from general taxpayer money: it comes from the Horse and Greyhound Fund, which comes directly from betting taxes, so it is arguably greyhound money that funds greyhounds. That doesn’t mean it’s “good”, but it should be noted.

Second, this greyhound money won’t last forever: I’ve written about this before, but just to come back to it. In 2018, a report called “Strategic Plan 2018-2022” was released by the Irish Greyhound Board. This report discusses in detail the challenges and issues facing a declining industry. Basically, the report laid out a five-year plan for the takeover of the greyhound industry, which depended on government funding. The report indicated an annual sum agreed by the government to be allocated to the greyhound industry, and this included the 20 million euros which should be allocated in 2022 (“only” 17 million euros were finally granted).

But after that there is a big question mark. What will happen next? Should the government continue to support an industry that is in decline and struggling with animal welfare issues?

One of the dogs found at an illegal <a class=dog breeding establishment in Co Offaly earlier this year.” title=”One of the dogs found at an illegal dog breeding establishment in Co Offaly earlier this year.” class=”card-img”/>
One of the dogs found at an illegal dog breeding establishment in Co Offaly earlier this year.

This is the big question people should be asking today. To my knowledge, no decision has yet been made on future greyhound racing subsidies. There is no doubt that behind the scenes heavy lobbying will occur dishonestly attempting to link ‘greyhound racing’ to ‘rural Irish culture’ when in fact it is just a ruse. to try to gain political support for funding.

My point of view is clear: if greyhound racing is not self-sufficient, it should come to an end and a five-year plan for closure should be put in place.

Why should our government continue to support it when polls show that 80% of voters are against it? If greyhound racing is phased out, it must be done gradually, as many greyhounds will need to be rehomed. It couldn’t happen suddenly.

So today, rather than complaining that so-and-so got so much, and so-and-so got so little, let’s focus on this question: will 2022 be the year the Irish government decides finally that greyhound racing should no longer be a subsidized part of our culture?

Pete Wedderburn is the lifestyle columnist for the Irish Examiner Pete the Vet

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