Derry & Strabane Council received almost daily calls about animal welfare issues locally last year, new figures have revealed.
The statistics show that the Council dealt with 329 reports from concerned local people over the past year.
A report brought before the Council’s Health and Community Committee on Thursday detailed the Council’s animal welfare enforcement powers for pets, horses, and other non-farmed animals.
A new draft action plan by the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development recommends tougher sentencing and new powers to challenge sentencing deemed unduly lenient.
Among the sanctions being looked at are increasing penalties for animal suffering and fighting to a year in jail, a fine of up to £20,000 or a both. Supplying or publishing images or videos of animals fighting are also part of the draft plan.
Sinn Fein Councillor Karina Carlin said outgoing DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill was to be commended on making this issue a priority. She said: “In terms of us, as a society, prior to this we have had a very chequered history in terms of how animals were seen and treated. There has developed a whole different ethos. Minister O’Neill has been a champion in this whole topic. I just hope the incoming Minister will continue this work going forward and retain this focus because where there has been a lot of achieved, there is an awful lot to be done.”