This article examines the impact and legal effect of specific European Community (EC) stud-book legislation on the breeding sector of the Irish equine industry, in particular the law relating to the entry and registration of horses or ponies in stud-books.
EC stud-book legislation governs the approval of breeding organisations to maintain stud-books and also the entry and registration of horses or ponies in those stud-books. The Department of Agriculture and Food is responsible for the implementation of the legislation in Ireland. The Department approves breeding organisations for the purposes of maintaining stud-books and must ensure their compliance with relevant EC stud-book legislation. Approved breeding organisations who maintain stud-books (such as the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society and the Irish Horse Board) play a key role in breed preservation and breed improvement for Ireland’s native breeds such as the Connemara pony and the Irish Draught horse.
The main aim of the legislation is to ensure development of equine production and to increase productivity in the horse breeding sector. It identifies the breeding and rearing of horses as a viable source of income that should be safeguarded. Satisfactory results in the horse breeding sector depend on the use of horses and ponies registered in stud-books maintained by officially approved breeding organisations. At the time when the legislation was being drafted disparities regarding the entry and registration of horses in stud-books were identified. These disparities constituted barriers to trade within and between European countries. Therefore, complete liberalisation of trade required harmonisation between European countries regarding the entry of horses in stud-books Ireland transposed the stud-book legislation by way of a Statutory Instrument, the European Communities (Equine Stud-Book and Competitions) Regulations 2004. Regulation 4 provided for the direct application of Commission Decision 96/78/EC governing the entry and registration of horses in stud-books for breeding purposes. It is submitted that Commission Decision 96/78/EC had full legal effect in Ireland from the 10th of January, 1996. The Decision gives every pure-bred horse, the progeny of parents registered in the main section of the stud-book the legal right to be entered in the main section of the stud-book. It requires that approved breeding organisations must classify or grade all pure-bred horses within the main section of their breed stud-book. It is possible that an aggrieved horse breeder in Ireland can rely on provisions of the legislation in an Irish court to obtain compensation or an effective remedy if their pure-bred horse who meets the necessary criteria has been refused entry into the main section of their breed stud-book.
Prior to 2005, the Connemara Pony Breeder’s Society (CPBS) operated their stud-book rules in non-compliance with EC legislation as the rules did not permit all pure-bred ponies entry into the main section of the Connemara Pony stud-book. Such ponies who failed the inspection procedure were denied status as a registered Connemara pony. A situation existed whereby colts who failed the inspection procedure were excluded from entering the main section of the stud-book, possibly causing the owners financial loss. It is submitted that since 1996, all pure-bred Connemara ponies brought forward for inspection had a legal right to be entered into the main section of the stud-book and should have been given a passport as a registered Connemara pony. The Department of Agriculture and Food (who approved the CPBS to maintain a stud-book) should have intervened and revoked the CPBS’s official approval, as the CPBS stud-book rules permitted discriminatory practices and failed to comply with the EC legislation. Therefore, the Department failed to properly implement the provisions of the EC stud-book legislation and may be liable in damages if an aggrieved horse breeder initiated legal proceedings in an Irish court against them.
The failure of the Department of Agriculture and Food to properly implement the stud-book legislation has hindered the legislation from having an effective impact on the Irish equine industry. This is clearly contrary to the positive impact which the European Commission envisioned the legislation should have had. If implemented correctly, the legislation would have permitted all breeders to have had their pure-bred colts approved and registered in the main section of the stud-book. This would have facilitated greater diversification of the blood lines of the Connemara pony. Non-compliance with provisions of the legislation by approved breeding organisations infringes breeders’ rights and can result in damage to national breeds, which both the legislation and the breeding organisations sought to protect in the first place.
Thankfully, since 2005 the CPBS have considerably amended their stud-book rules and they now appear to be in compliance with the EC stud-book legislation. The CPBS now have a classification system which classifies all pure-bred ponies within the main section of the stud-book. At inspections, pure-bred ponies are classified according to their merits and entered in whichever class within the stud-book they qualify for. The EC stud-book legislation has not realised its full potential in Ireland. This is as a result of non-compliance by approved breeding organisations with provisions of the legislation. Non-compliance has arisen due to improper implementation of the legislation by the Department of Agriculture and Food. The Department has failed to adequately monitor compliance and enforce provisions of the legislation; this has stifled and hindered the effectiveness of the stud-book legislation in Ireland.
It is recommended that the Department should implement an appropriate monitoring mechanism to ensure approved breeding organisations consistently comply with provisions of the legislation. Regular consultations should take place between the Department, breeding organisations and the Irish equine industry in order to discuss difficulties that may arise with the interpretation of or compliance with EC legislation. Legal officers should be appointed within each approved breeding organisation. The legal officer should be given responsibility to ensure compliance with applicable EC and national legislation. The Department should amend the current requirements for breeding organisation approval so that the appointment of a legal officer is a pre-requisite to the organisation being granted approval. In the absence of a legal officer, the breeding organisation should be required to retain a firm of solicitors who would ensure compliance.
Shane Riordan is a trainee solicitor and recently completed a thesis entitled “The Impact and Legal Effect of EC Stud-Book Legislation on the Breeding Sector of the Irish Equine Industry” as part of his M.A. in Law at the Dublin Institute of Technology. The views and opinions contained within this article are solely those of the author.
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