Animal Welfare Policies

Explore ISPCA's commitment to promoting responsible care for the earth and its creatures.

Learn more about our policies on evaluating the purposes for which animals are used.

Ethical basis for ISPCA policies

We believe that man has a responsibility to care for the earth and all creatures on it, and that each creature has an intrinsic value, entirely independent of its value to man, and should be respected and protected.

We believe that animals have the right to live their lives free from avoidable suffering at the hands of man and that man has a duty to provide for their welfare.

We believe that all animals kept by, or under the control of, humans must be kept in circumstances appropriate to their species and where the physiological and behavioural needs of a species cannot be met, the species must not be kept by man.

We believe that the different purposes for which animals are used must be regularly re-evaluated.

ISPCA Policies

ISPCA Policy on Euthanasia
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The ISPCA along with its affiliated members is working towards a world in which no rehomable animal is put to sleep.

However, the ISPCA accepts, with great reluctance, that there might be circumstances when euthanasia of an animal might be unavoidable.

Euthanasia might be necessary on welfare grounds to prevent further suffering due to the animal being severely sick, injured or with a very poor prognosis for recovery or due to severe behaviour issues (which would make it unsafe to rehome).


Animals with severe behavioural issues may be referred to behavioural experts for advice and guidance.

The decision to euthanise any animal is never made easily or taken lightly.

The decision to euthanise an animal is made by experienced staff in conjunction with veterinary practitioners.

Where euthanasia is required it is carried out only by a registered veterinary practitioner using approved humane methods.

ISPCA Policy on Animals in Sport and Entertainment
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The ISPCA. is opposed to the use of animals in sport or for entertainment when such use is contrary to the animals’ nature, or may involve suffering or may adversely affect the animals’ welfare.*


The ISPCA opposes any “activity” that involves pitting animals or humans against animals in hunts or fights.


The ISPCA is totally opposed to exhibitions or presentations of wild animals in circuses and travelling menageries.


The ISPCA believes that wherever they are used in the making of films or television programmes or in the theatre, animals must not be caused any suffering, nor be portrayed in a manner demeaning of their species.


The ISPCA is in general opposed to the giving of live animals as prizes.


The ISPCA is concerned that certain sports require the breeding of large numbers of animals in order to select the fastest, strongest etc., thereby giving rise to a large surplus population that is perceived as valueless, and either killed or disposed of with little or no consideration for their welfare, and believes that there is a strong duty of responsibility on the regulatory authorities of such sports to (1) control the size of this surplus and (2) ensure that it is disposed of humanely.


Accepting the findings of the Medway Report that fish can feel pain, the ISPCA has reservations about many practices common in angling and recommends: “every angler should review his appreciation of the sport in the light of evidence presented on the perception of pain.”


The ISPCA is opposed to the use of live fish or any other live vertebrate as bait in angling.


The ISPCA is opposed to Donkey Derbies.


The ISPCA opposes foxhunting, live hare coursing, stag hunting and otter hunting. The Society particularly opposes “sports” which involve the blocking of earths or the digging out of animals that have gone to ground as part of their natural defence mechanism.

ISPCA Policy on Genetic Engineering
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The ISPCA is opposed to all forms of genetic manipulation, whether by breeding or genetic engineering that result in abnormalities, excessive developments of certain bodily features, a reduction in animal health or welfare, or are for trivial or cosmetic purposes.*


The ISPCA is opposed to the patenting of animals.


Note to (*): Animals resulting from such manipulative practices should not be released into the environment until several generations have been evaluated to ensure that no harmful side effects arise.

ISPCA Policy on Animals in Education
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The ISPCA is generally opposed to the practice of dissection of animals in schools, believing that it can lead to desensitisation and a lessening of respect for life. This opposition includes dissection of invertebrate as well as vertebrate animals.


The ISPCA is opposed to any pupils being compelled to either perform or watch dissection of animals.


The ISPCA is opposed to any form of animal experimentation, apart from simple observation and behavioural studios in schools, and believes that this ban should apply to both vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

ISPCA Policy on Laboratory Procedures
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The ISPCA is opposed to all experiments and scientific Procedures which cause pain, distress or suffering to living animals.*


The ISPCA advocates that all institutions using animals for research have an Ethics Committee to scrutinise and either approve or reject project applications and to monitor and control the conduct of subsequent experiments. The members of this -committee must include animal welfare representatives.


The ISPCA is opposed to all experiments on animals which involve unnecessary repetition, which involve techniques for which satisfactory and humane alternatives have already been developed, which are for scientifically trivial ends or which are for testing substances not essential to the health or welfare of humans.**


The ISPCA is opposed to the taking of animals from the wild for use in research. Where the animals are still used in research they must be obtained only from specialist breeding establishments.


The ISPCA considers that laboratory animals and those in breeding establishments must be provided with shelter, care, food and water in a manner appropriate to their physiological and behavioural needs.


The ISPCA particularly opposes the use of animals for testing cosmetics, the Draize Test and the LD 50 Test.

ISPCA Policy on Companion Animals
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The ISPCA approves of the keeping of companion animals only when there is full personal commitment to the welfare of the animals. The animals must be provided with shelter, exercise, care, food and water appropriate to their physiological and behavioural needs.


The regulations governing companion animals must include the licensing and control of breeders to ensure humane breeding and rearing conditions.


The ISPCA advocates the compulsory registration and identification of dogs.


The ISPCA is opposed to all mutilations on companion animals carried out for non-therapeutic reasons. It also condemns selective breeding in the search for certain external features, which adversely affect the health and welfare of the animals.*


The ISPCA considers the neutering of companion animals an essential part of responsible pet ownership unless there are veterinary or other valid reasons to the contrary.


The ISPCA reluctantly accepts that the humane destruction of healthy animals may sometimes be unavoidable and advocates that these animals be killed by a method which is both painless and effective, administered by responsible and properly trained individuals, in accordance with the latest researches of the Society.**


The ISPCA advocates legislation for the welfare of animals offered for sale in pet shops and elsewhere.


On sites where the welfare of colonies of feral cats is ensured and their presence is welcome by the owners of the sites, the ISPCA advocates the sterilisation of these cats, provided humane procedures are followed.

Note*: The Society considers neutering to be therapeutic.


Note: ** Sometimes there are cases In which an animal should be put down as quickly as possible and it would cause more suffering and distress for the animal if it had to wait until it could be taken to a vet or a vet could be brought to it.

ISPCA Policy on Farm Animals
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Farmed animals must be provided with shelter, freedom to exercise, food, water, rest and care appropriate to their physiological and behavioural needs.*


The ISPCA is opposed to mutilations carried out for commercial or non-therapeutic reasons, especially those carried out in an attempt to “adapt” animals to an inappropriate husbandry system; in such cases it is the system that should be modified, not the animal.


The ISPCA advocates that humane slaughter be undertaken as near as possible to the place of rearing or residence.


Every animal for slaughter should be instantaneously killed or rendered instantaneously unconscious and insensible to pain until death occurs.


The ISPCA advocates the proper training of slaughtermen and the introduction of a licensing system based on the successful completion of a course of instruction together with the necessary practical experience.


The ISPCA is opposed to ritual slaughter where prestunning does not take place.


The ISPCA is opposed to the use of yield and growth promoters in Animals believing that such use is against their welfare interests.


The ISPCA is opposed to any system of husbandry, which denies the animal freedom to exhibit natural behaviour.


The ISPCA is opposed to breeding or breeding programmes, which cause, or are likely to cause, suffering or damage to either animals or their offspring.


The ISPCA opposes the farming of exotic species adaptable to our climate, or to Irish farm conditions.


Accepting the findings Of the Medway Report that fish are capable of experiencing pain, the I.S.P.C.A. believes that the welfare of individual fish must be provided for in fish- farming; in particular the handling, transport and slaughter of fish must comply with general humane principles, including attention to water quality and stocking density.


The ISPCA supports schemes for the conservation of fish stocks and research into more humane and environmentally responsible methods of commercial fishing.


Mindful of the many welfare problems associated with horses and donkeys the ISPCA urges compulsory registration and identification of all equines.



The ISPCA supports the proper training of farmers and the Introduction of a licensing system based on the successful completion of a recognised course of instruction together with the necessary practical experience.


Note to (*): The ISPCA recognises that there are cases were such mutilations are necessary to prevent likely injury to or suffering of either humans or other animals. In such cases it is essential that the mutilation does not in any way jeopardise the long-term health or well being of the animal.

ISPCA Policy on Marine Animals
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Acknowledging that there is no humane method of killing whales, the ISPCA is opposed to the killing of whales for any purpose except to eliminate pain and suffering.


The ISPCA opposes, on both ethical and humane grounds, the harassment, capture or killing of marine mammals for commercial and sport purposes.

ISPCA Policy on Open Farms
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The ISPCA is concerned at the development of “zoo-type” open farms and advocates the introduction of a licensing system for such farms.


Note: The ISPCA offers the following guidelines for farms open to the public


Animals should be on view in their natural surroundings, not in zoo-type enclosures.


No exotic or native wild animals should be on display.


Where young animals are available to be handled by children, this should be done only under supervision and for strictly limited periods.


No animals should be on offer for sale to visitors.

ISPCA Policy on Pet Shops
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The ISPCA advocates a system of licensing and inspection of pet shops.


The ISPCA opposes the offering for sale in pet shops, of native wild animals, or of exotic animals which are not adaptable to Irish climate or conditions or which have been caught in the wild.

ISPCA Policy on the Transportation of Animals
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The ISPCA believes that all food animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to the point of rearing or residence.


No animals should be transported in a manner, or for a length of time, which is likely to cause suffering.

ISPCA Policy on Wild Animals
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The ISPCA is, in principle, opposed to the taking or killing of wild animals, or the infliction of any suffering on them. This includes the hunting, taking and killing of wild animals for the purposes of sport, or for the taking of skins, furs, plumage, ivory and horn.


In circumstances where it is deemed necessary to control wild or stray populations, or animals considered to be pests, then this should be done without inflicting avoidable suffering. Effective methods (e.g. fertility control or other non-lethal methods) should be used to avoid the need continually to remove or kill animals.


The ISPCA is opposed to the use, confinement, exhibition or performances of wild animals, including marine mammals, (either taken directly from the wild or bred in captivity) for commercial gain and/or human entertainment.


The ISPCA believes that animals should not be kept in zoological collections unless they form part of a valid programme of conservation, the objection of which is their eventual rehabilitation and release into the wild and the animals can be kept in a semi-natural environment which fully meets their physiological, behavioural, environmental and social needs.


The ISPCA is opposed to all snares and traps which cause suffering.


The ISPCA is opposed to the use of poisons that cause suffering.


The ISPCA is opposed to the import of wild animals and to the import of products derived from wild animals.


The ISPCA is opposed to inhumane methods used for killing lobsters, crabs and crayfish for food.*


The ISPCA advocates the management of colonies of feral goats to ensure that numbers are kept to a sustainable level.


The ISPCA opposes the taking or keeping of wild animals as pets.


The ISPCA introduces and advocates the humane control of non-native species, whether domesticated or wild, where the release of members of such species into the environment, whether by accident or design, may damage indigenous species.


Mindful of the interdependence of all animal life, both human and non-human, and the environment, the ISPCA supports the principle of nature conservation.


Note to (*): inhumane methods include the technique of plunging the living animal into boiling water.

SPCA Policy on Working Animals
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Working animals should be provided with food, water, shelter and rest appropriate to their needs.


In the case of equines, particular attention should be given to foot care and properly fitted and maintained harness.


During rest periods, working equines should have access to shelter and water.

ISPCA Policy Definitions
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* The term “animals” means all sentient non-human creatures.


* The term “suffering” includes stress, fear, pain, discomfort, injury, disease and behavioural and mental distress.


* The term “mutilation” includes any procedure carried out with or without instrument, which involves unnecessary interference with the sensitive tissue or bone structure of an animal.


* The term “cruelty” means having, or showing indifference to, or pleasures in, animal suffering; unnecessarily causing mental or physical pain or suffering.

ISPCA Policy on the use of Negative Reinforcement Training Methods
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The ISPCA is opposed to the use of any negative reinforcement (aversive) training methods to control companion animals and believes that positive reinforcement (reward-based) methods should be used instead.


Negative reinforcement methods are based on the principle of applying an unpleasant stimulus to eliminate or prevent an unwanted behaviour.


Such methods or training techniques include:


  • Electric shock collars, including:
    – Those activated remotely to stop an unwanted behaviour
    – Those used in fencing systems and which are activated when the animal reaches a boundary*
    – Those used as anti-barking devices, activated when a dog barks
  • Choke chains
  • Prong collars
  • Physical force / Coercion (e.g. hitting/forcing into a position)
  • Use of citrus sprays which may cause distress in dogs
  • Use of high-pitched sonic devices which may cause distress to dogs

These techniques can cause pain, fear or distress and may result in poor welfare. Behavioural problems can be made worse and other behavioural problems emerge as a result of such techniques which have no place in modern companion animal training.


The ISPCA supports and advocates for positive (reward-based) training and strongly encourages all dog owners to properly train their pets using reward-based techniques.

*These may be acceptable in circumstances where all other methods have been tried but have been unsuccessful and where the dog’s welfare is at risk if not used.