02 Jul 2022

Action urged to end Laois sulky racing over animal welfare concerns

Action urged to end Laois sulky racing over animal welfare concerns

Sulky racing file shot.

Sulky racing is happening in Laois and must be stopped with stronger laws, a Laois councillor and solicitor has said.

The practice of illegally racing single horse carriages on public roads is taking place in Graiguecullen and Clonad, according to Cllr Thomasina Connell.

She claimed that horses are abused and have died during races, calling it an animal welfare issue, speaking at the May meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District.

"These races involve very young horses and ponies on very busy roads. It is happening in Graiguecullen and Clonad where the roads are wide. I've been involved with horses all my life. It is an animal welfare issue. There is abuse and an animal died in the course of a race," she said.

"A lot of them happen early in the morning, you only see them on YouTube later when it's too late for the Gardaí to get there," Cllr Connell claimed.

She tabled a motion to the meeting asking for an update on her request made a year ago to review the bye laws under the Control of Horses Act, 12996 which is underway.

In response Laois County Council's senior social worker Fionnuala Daly said that the publication of the review has been delayed over "contractual issues" between two Government departments, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, and local authorities.

"That's a bit watery. It's tied up with three departments, it's not good enough," Cllr Connell said.

Portlaoise Town Manager Simon Walton said that there are already laws in place that make sulky racing illegal.

He said that the contractual issues are about which body engages the vet fees when an animal has to be examined. The council is currently paid by the Food Safety Authority to contract vet services. This is planned to be transferred to the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley, supported by Cllr Willie Aird, said that the responsibility for horse welfare should not lie with the council's housing section.

"The cost is only one part. It's resources, trying to get people to come and pick up the horses," she said.

Mr Walton clarified that the job of rounding up stray horses will remain with the council's housing department.

Travelling by sulky or a pony and trap on a public road is not against the law, but every type of race on a public road needs a licence.

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