Mr Brown was speaking after attending a public rally held in Derry on 13 April to highlight animal cruelty following the case of Luna, an American bulldog who had to be put to sleep after suffering cruelty. He said: “Ownership of a dog is not a right, it’s a privilege, yet over the past few years in particular we have seen an explosion of dog ownership. This in turn has fuelled a huge growth in legal and illegal puppy farming, where many dogs are seen as nothing but cash machines, bred over and over again until they are discarded. Not enough is being done to regulate legal dog breeding enterprises, or clamp down on the illegal breeding trade. That is why I intend to introduce new Private Members’ legislation, which I will call Luna’s Law, as soon as Stormont is restored.
“Northern Ireland’s animal welfare laws were last updated in 2011, and at the time reflected a significant step forward. However, with a rise in pet ownership, particularly dogs, positive changes in public attitudes towards animal welfare, and continued cases of severe cruelty and neglect, these laws are no longer fit for purpose, and must be updated to safeguard and protect those who cannot speak for themselves.
“My proposed legislation will tackle unethical breeding by placing new restrictions on all types of breeder, ensuring proper socialisation of pups and minimum staffing ratios, and an enhanced licensing fee regime requiring anyone selling a dog to be licensed. This will build on the concept of Lucy’s Law, which is important legislation aiming to ban the third party sale of pups, but doesn’t go far enough. Luna’s Law will also empower animal welfare officers and animal welfare organisations to investigate and enforce laws around unlicensed, illegal breeding, and it will place new responsibilities on us, the public, as dog owners.
“We all, as a nation of dog lovers, have a responsibility to ensure the highest possible animal welfare standards are upheld. However, current legislation has many gaps, which as a result fail to deliver these high standards. Over recent months, I have met with numerous animal welfare organisations to discuss how fresh legislation can be brought through Stormont, as well as ways we can better educate the public on the responsibility of having a dog. It is also vital we look at ways to improve information sharing between government agencies and the welfare sector to ensure those who are banned from owning animals are kept from doing so. Most importantly, this new legislation will send a message that Northern Ireland opposes animal cruelty in the strongest possible terms, and values responsible dog ownership.
“It is my hope that through introducing Luna’s Law as soon as the Assembly is restored, we can ensure no dog suffers like Luna did, and every day the Assembly is down without fit-for-purpose legislation, the risk of this happening again is much greater than it needs to be.”
Councillor Rachael Ferguson, who represents the area in which Luna was found, said: “This was a horrific case which touched and saddened the whole community. It is time we had robust legislation in place to protect dogs and ensure everyone knows the legal consequences of not doing so.”