Tá cead iarrtha ag Dolores Kelly achainí phoiblí a chur faoi bhráid an Tionóil. Mrs Dolores Kelly has sought leave to present a public petition in accordance with Standing Order 22. The Member will have up to three minutes in which to speak.
I am grateful to the Speaker and my colleagues on the Business Committee for providing time in a busy schedule today to present this petition calling for an animal cruelty register. It is something that our party colleague Malachy Quinn has worked hard on over the last number of years and that has the support of all councils across the North. It is something that people obviously feel passionately about. Within a matter of days, the online petition acquired over 4,000 signatures. In many Members' constituencies — certainly, in mine — in the last couple of years, there have been some horrendous cases of animal cruelty towards domestic pets and farm animals.
The petition has widespread support. It is supported by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA), and I am grateful to it and to all those who signed the petition, which calls on the Agriculture Minister to work alongside the Minister of Justice — the Minister of Justice recently gave commitments to make her officials available — for the register to be established, because it is important that those convicted of such horrendous cruelty are disbarred from keeping animals.
The register, it is hoped, would be able to be accessed by shelters and charities so that people convicted would not be able to rehome animals and, indeed, by pet shop owners and others so that they could check the bona fides of people who wished to purchase animals from shops. Indeed, for those who have been convicted of illegal practices on puppy farms as well, that is very important.
We already have stiff sentences available to the courts, although some might argue that the sentences that have been imposed thus far do not go far enough in relation to what many see as a very sadistic form of behaviour. Many think that, in some cases, it is psychopathic, given the levels of cruelty. Therefore, it is timely that the register be established. I hope that the Minister works hard during the remainder of the mandate to have it established; indeed, I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you have had discussions on an ongoing basis with the Agriculture Minister in the South, Charlie McConalogue TD, in looking at an all-island register. We know that this border is far from — well, we know today, anyway. Certainly, the Committee meeting in a room nearby will know about the border.
Certainly, I think it is worth the effort —
I thank the Member. Normally, I would invite the Member to bring her petition to the Table and present it to me. However, in light of social distancing, I ask the Member to remain in her place and make arrangements to submit the petition to the Speaker's Office electronically, if that is possible. I thank her indeed for bringing the petition to the attention of the Assembly. Once the petition is received, the Speaker's Office will forward it to the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and send a copy to the Committee.