'Drones could help us in war against illegal puppy farms'- ISPCA
The use of drones to find and provide surveillance on illegal puppy farms could prove a useful weapon in the fight against animal cruelty, Ireland's leading animal welfare organisation has said.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) said the devices could help them tackle illegal animal breeding.
The charity insisted drones would be only used in accordance with Irish aviation regulations and as part of a joint effort with gardai.
Figures released by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) show that in 2017, more than 7,000 drones and model aircraft had been registered since the introduction of the Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets Order of December 2015.
"We don't use drones at the moment, but they would be beneficial," said ISPCA chief inspector Conor Dowling.
However, he said the society would have reservations when it came to using them properly, adding that these would centre on privacy rights and landowners' permission.
"Drones would be helpful if we were trying to locate an animal or animals that may be caught in bogs or injured somewhere on vast tracts of land, or hidden away in cruelty situations," said Mr Dowling.
"They would especially be helpful in emergency situations, as the animals obviously need help as quickly as possible.
"In hindsight, drone use would have been beneficial in a recent large-scale prosecution when it came to puppy farming."
He was referring to the case against James Kavanagh (48), of Raheenleigh, Myshall, Co Carlow, who was jailed for three years after pleading guilty last October to 30 charges of animal cruelty, having initially faced 240.
Kavanagh was convicted under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 of causing or permitting animal cruelty contrary to section 12 of the act and failing to protect the welfare of an animal contrary to section 11 at Carlow Circuit Criminal Court last February.
The ISPCA worked to rescue 340 dogs and 11 horses from Kavanagh's premises with the help of its affiliated member organisations and other rescue organisations.