The Department of Agriculture has investigated 30 cases of animal cruelty in 2014 and has prosecuted three cases to date.

It says that under the Animal Health and Welfare Act, 2013, and under related EU animal welfare legislation, fines of up to €250,000 can be imposed on anyone convicted of animal cruelty.

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said that in terms of cases initiated by and on behalf of his Department, there is in the order of 30 cases being progressed with three prosecutions to date.

With regard to the three cases, in one case sanction will be administered by the Courts at a later date, in another the individual was prohibited from keeping animals of the type in question and in the third case the individual was ordered to sell his animals.

The Animal Health and Welfare Act, 2013 substantially increased the penalties for cases of animal cruelty.

Under the Act, on summary conviction a person can receive a fine of up to €10,000 and on indictment €250,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years. There are fixed penalty payments for lesser offences. There are no plans to further increase the penalties.

Last week, Cork pig farmer Rory O’Brien was found guilty of  animal cruelty in Cork Circuit Criminal Court and faces fines of up to €100,000 and a prison sentence.