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(Updated 24/8/01)

Government is reviewing EU convention

THE GOVERNMENT is currently reviewing whether or not the UK should sign the European Convention of Pet Animals.

The Convention, originally adopted in 1987 contains a number of clauses which are causing great concern to dog breeders, as well as fanciers from many other livestock fancies. The Council of Docked Breeds has previously stated that, if ratified, the Convention could see the banning of up to 100 breeds of dog and many breds of cat.

The Convention is being considered by the Minister for Animal Health and Welfare, Elliott Morley. Quoted last week, Mr Morley said that while he was "sensitive" to the concerns of animal breeders that some breeds were under threat, he considered parts of the Convention to be "logical". "If the breeding of some animals is causing suffering it is an issue to consider," said Mr Morley.

The Kennel Club has written to Mr Morley to express its concerns over the issue and to seek clarification on his and the Government's standpoint on the signing of the Convention.

As well as several dog and cat breeds being at risk due to "abnormalities" of their physique, another clause would seek to ban 'surgical operations for the purpose of modifying the appearance of a pet animal or for other non-curative purpose', which would see an end to tail docking and the removal of dew claws.

Mr Morley said he was seeking clarification on some aspects of the Convention and attempted to give breeders some reassurance, saying: "We are well aware of the implications to some breeds and are obviously sensitive to that issue," he said. "The majority of the Convention is fine and we have no objections to it but we do want to be sure that we are not prohibiting certain established breeds by signing it."

The Minister added that he will "consult widely" on the Convention and seek the views of the KC and "all mainstream groups" who were "welcome to contact him"

Pressured

"I would like to get it sorted out as quickly as possible so we know where we stand on it. I am not being pressured to do so but there are animal welfare groups who are keen for us to sign it. Formal consultation will take place later, but I have no time scale I can give you," added Mr Morley.

The issue of the Convention was raised early last year when the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons took it upon themselves to "seek views" on the issue of signing the Convention from a large number of animal fancies, groups and welfare organisations and to bring pressure on the Government to ratify the Convention. However, they were inundated with responses from many groups who totally opposed the Convention and the RCVS' interference in the matter. Evebtualy, the RCVS was forced into a humiliating climb-down on the issue, and were aided out of their self-inflicted entrenchment by the KC.

Already news of the latest 'review' of the Convention has sparked concern amongst many animal fanciers, and the Internet has been buzzing with messages to oppose the signing of the Convention. Moves are already afoot for officials from all of the mainstream animal fancies - which would also include Rabbits, Fancy Rats, Hamsters and other rodent species - to stage a meeting along with the Kennel Club and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and present a united front to the Government on the issue.

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the KC told OUR DOGS: "All dog owners, and owners of cats, rats and other small rodents should be concerned regarding this issue, as it will have wide - ranging implications for many. When the RCVS raised the matter in consultation in 2000, we received a huge postbag, predominantly from Breed Clubs, representing potentially over 70,000 dissatisified parties! We await a response from Mr Morley regarding our letter to him, and have enlisted the assistance of Theresa Villiers MEP and her colleagues in an attempt to obtain clarification of the Government's position."

OUR DOGS will continue to report furrther news on this important issue.

• KC Secretary Caroline Kisko's letter to Animal Health and Welfare Minister Elliot Morley said:-

Dear Mr Morley
I am writing to you as The Kennel Club has recently received correspondence from Theresa Villiers MEP, who has contacted us on behalf of one of her constituents, concerned about the possible implementation of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.

On the 9 July The Kennel Club wrote to the Animal Welfare Section at the Home Office as a Mr S A Winch, previously a Section employee, wrote on the 13 December 2000 to the Pekingese Breed Council in reply to a letter from them. Mr Winch's response included the following paragraph: "Although the UK is a member of the Council of Europe it is not a signatory to the Pet Convention. However, the Government is committed to start a review of the question of whether the UK should sign and ratify the Convention. The Government has not formed a view on the matter, though it is fully aware that a number of complex and wide-ranging issues are involved on which there is considerable divergence of opinion. The review is due to start shortly, and at this stage, it is not known when the review will be complete."

In light of Mr Winch's comments, it would appear that the Government is thinking of reviewing the position of whether the UK should sign and ratify the European Convention for Pet Animals promulgated by the Council of Europe. We are aware that the ratification of such a convention would be highly controversial amongst many dog owners.

The Kennel Club has recently been made aware of Sir Sydney Chapman's written question and your subsequent response on the 17th July in which you confirmed that responsibility for the European Convention was passed from the Home Office to your department on the 8th June. You also confirmed that you would be happy to receive representations about this new element in responsibilities for animal welfare.

The Kennel Club hopes therefore that we will have the opportunity to put forward to Government our views on this matter, as we speak for many of the 15 million or so dog owners in this country. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with Government at some stage in the hope that various points of view can be communicated before any formal positions begin to be taken. We welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Yours sincerely
Caroline Kisko
Secretary