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16 Aug 2022

County Derry MLA doubles down on animal welfare commitments

"We have much to do," said Ms Sugden.

County Derry MLA doubles down on animal welfare commitments

Claire Sugden has been reappointed treasurer of the All Party Group on Animal Welfare

East Derry MLA, Claire Sugden has been reappointed as treasurer of the recently reconstituted All Party Group (APG) on animal welfare.

Last week marked the first official meeting of the All Party Group (APG) on Animal Welfare in this mandate – a cross-party platform dedicated to the advancement of animal welfare in Northern Ireland.

Looking ahead to the next five years, new and existing APG members noted their commitment to addressing key deficits in current legislation, with the aim of creating a society where animals are respected and free from unnecessary suffering.

The first meeting of the APG on Animal Welfare in this mandate saw the re-election of Alliance MLA John Blair as Chair and welcomed Alliance MLA Patrick Brown as the new Vice Chair.

Members also outlined urgent APG priorities including the introduction of a Bill to ban hunting wild mammals with dogs, the need for enhanced regulation of the puppy trade, the updating of animal business licensing regulations, and advancement on the establishment of a banned offenders register.

MLA Claire Sugden said: “We have much to do in terms of improving animal welfare in Northern Ireland, so it is imperative we get back to work as soon as possible.

"The re-establishment of this All Party Group will be an important tool in progressing policy and legislation that is badly needed here, and I am proud to be a part of it.

“Lots of action needs to be taken simply to keep us in line with the rest of the UK and Ireland. We cannot afford to waste any more time and the entire Assembly needs to get behind the important business that this group will be spearheading.

“Despite the failure to establish an Assembly and Executive, I have maintained my commitment to progressing animal welfare issues in my individual work as an MLA – raising issues, questioning ministers and calling for action.

"But as part of a group, and with a functioning Assembly and Executive, we can combine our efforts and achieve real results.”

USPCA Chief Executive, Brendan Mullan, said: “The All Party Group has been instrumental in fostering increased levels of discussion on key animal welfare issues within the Assembly and we are greatly encouraged by the work carried out in the last year and a half.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that Northern Ireland is lagging significantly behind other regions in terms of the protections we afford to animals under law – shockingly, in some instances this is by as much as 20 years.

"In this mandate, our political representatives have a fresh opportunity to close this gap and the first crucial step will be making meaningful progress on the priorities as outlined by the APG.

“Northern Ireland is proudly the home to many animal lovers who share our passion in safeguarding some of the most vulnerable members of our communities and it’s important to note that the APG is a critical forum for MLAs to raise emerging issues that are important to both them and their constituents.

"We look forward to working with all members in the months ahead.”

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