292. Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the unit to train attack dogs is gone from Wheatfield prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3422/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I wish to advise the Deputy that the Canine Unit remains in place at Wheatfield Prison and is fully staffed. Training of drug detection teams is ongoing with one course just completed and another course to be commenced in February. We envisage to have all training complete and to have passive teams fully operational by the end of May 2015.
Having assessed the position in relation to the use of and the need for conflict resolution dogs, the Irish Prison Service made a decision to remove these animals from service. This decision was based on animal welfare issues associated with this specific type of dog and also due to the fact that these dogs had not been deployed at any prison in the previous four years. The Irish Prison Service has highly trained Control & Restraint teams in place across the prison estate to deal with serious incidents. The use of conflict resolution dogs were deemed unnecessary and they were removed from duty.