Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Welfare of Animals Bill

A bill whose aims included a ban on the docking of dogs' tails passed its consideration stage in the assembly, on 1 February 2011.

The Welfare of Animals Bill seeks to replace the current legislation, which is 40 years old.

It aims to offer a duty of care to all animals, to prevent suffering, and to create more effective powers against dog fighting and increase penalties for ill-treatment.

Agriculture committee chairperson Stephen Moutray said the committee did not support cosmetic docking of tails.

He proposed an amendment on behalf of the committee to exclude working dogs from the ban.

Mr Moutray highlighted evidence that he said proved working dogs had fewer injuries if their tails were docked.

Sinn Fein's Willie Clarke said the committee's amendment would exclude too many breeds and would be impossible to enforce.

His party colleague, Francie Molloy, expressed concerns that the bill would create problems owing to the existence of different legislation in the Republic of Ireland.

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew recognised that this was the most contentious aspect of the bill but said she was "horrified" that members were considering voting down the entire clause if the amendment was not passed.

Clause six as amended was passed on an oral vote.

If the bill passes its final stage, its powers will not be enforced until at least April 2012. The owners of show dogs docked before this date will be allowed to continue to show them.

Watch part two of the debate here

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