There was full support in the Council chamber to a motion brought forward by John Coyle of the SDLP surrounding animal abuse.

The motion condemned animal cruelty in all forms and proposed the introduction of an all-island register for animal abusers.

It also noted the effective framework currently in place for punishing offenders and imposing appropriate sentences which serve as a deterrent to others, recognises the work of the USPCA and animal welfare staff within Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC) in challenging cruel behaviour toward animals as well as supporting rehoming initiatives for those animals that have suffered abuse or neglect. During his speech Councillor Coyle spoke about recent incidents of animal cruelty both in Fermanagh but across Ireland and the UK.

“With all these incidents some of you may be thinking so what, you always hear these stories, why this motion now. The more I researched the more I heard a repeated phrase, suspended sentence. Only 8 per cent of animal abuse crimes end with someone in prison. More often than not the people that harm these animals get away with little to no consequences for their actions. More frustrating is that even though they may be banned from keeping animals, there is nothing in place to stop them simply going to another part of the country, or across the Border, to pick up another animal and bring it home.

“There is simply no system in place for rehoming charities or animal shelters to check the background of those who come in to get a pet and won’t ever know if that person has a history of animal abuse. The police also do not have the resources to check on those who have been banned from keeping animals are sticking to that ban,” said the councillor.

He added: “That’s why over the last number of weeks and months I and my party have been working with the USPCA, listening to what they want to see happening to prevent this and the first step is UK/Ireland cross Border Animal Abuse Register. The register would see those convicted of animal abuse make a declaration which will be made available to the police and re-homing shelters, similar to that of the sex offenders register. Those that go on the register should also have to make a declaration to future employers. We need a stronger deterrent for those involved in cruelty to animals. While I support stronger punishments for those convicted, the first place to start is make sure that these people can never be allowed to own an animal again, this register will go a long way to prevent that.

“We are all happy to condemn violence against animals, it’s past time we started doing something to prevent it happening. In 2015 there were moves to make this register a reality and it had cross-party support in Stormont, sadly the collapse of that institution meant the collapse in the legislation. This motion is my attempt to kick-start this debate and put pressure on both the UK and Irish Governments to do more than pay lip service to our animals.”

Councillors across the floor spoke in support of the motion with Alliance’s Stephen Donnelly saying the motion touched on something that everyone in society wants, promoting a safe environment for animals. He added that Councillor Coyle was right to highlight the individual and specific acts of violence against animals.

DUP Councillor Deborah Armstrong said it was good to see the FODC “taking a lead” in these issues and seen to be a Council coming out and “condemning all forms of cruelty”. Thomas O’Reilly of Sinn Féin commented that peoples’ drive for money was making an animal a “commodity” which is seen in terms of “pounds and pence”.

Independent Councillor Josephine Deehan said sentences currently imposed are not harsh enough to be a real deterrent and said a register should be compiled of those convicted of abuse offences and be accessible on both sides of the border to make it difficult for offenders to obtain animals.

Councillor John McClaughry (UUP) commended Councillor Coyle for starting this discussion but said there is a long journey ahead and felt that enforcing a register akin to the sex offenders register may pose problems to introducing any legislation in the future.