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19/11/01
MEPs urge pet owners to fight Convention

PLANS BY the Government to reconsider the ratification of the Council of Europe's Pet Convention has led to two British MEPs speaking out against the issue and urging dog owners to make their opposition known to the Government.

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 breeds of cat.

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.

The Convention is being considered by the Minister for Animal Health and Welfare, Elliott Morley. Mr Morley previously told OUR DOGS 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.

Conservative MEPs for London, Thereasa Villiers and Dr Charles Tannock have written to Mr Morley expressing their concerns and those of many of their constituents. Last week, the MEPs sent an open letter to the canine press urging dog owners to make their concerns known to Mr Morley as a matter of urgency.

"We have strongly urged Mr Morley to think again about the decision to repone this issue," wrote the MEPs. "We also urged him and the UK Government not to ratify anything which would ban long established breeds of such importance to many dog owners across the country."

Speaking to OUR DOGS at the beginning of this week, Ms Villiers said: "I feel it would be a disaster for many dog and cat breeds if this Convention was ratified. My biggest fear on this sort of thing is that this Government seems to look favourably on any sort of directive or legislation which comes out of Europe. They seem to think that if it's European, it must be good.

Concerns

"I hope that they wouldn't try to ratify this Convention and slip legislation through by stealth, thinking that we are distracted by concerns about the war against terrorism. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is for all dog and cat enthusiasts to make their views know to Mr Morley as a matter of urgency. If this Convention is ratified, then we could see a similar situation as now exists in Germany where breeds have been banned outright and Government inspectors lurk around at dog and cat shows to ensure that nobody attempts to show such animals."

Ms Villiers added that she felt fanciers were the best people to take charge of ensuring that hereditary defects in breeds could be contained or corrected, as they are being through the Kennel Club and Breed Clubs' own health screening programmes.

"I am a great believer in self-regulation wherevere possible," she said. "It mist be made clear to the Goverment that there are effective health screening programmes which are working towards eradicating the severe defects which the European Pet Convention is targetting. I would much ratyher see the Kennel Club, Breed Clubs and private individuals taking charge of this situation than having rules imposed on them by Government. The expertise lies with people who know their subjects, not with Government officials."

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

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."

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. To this end, the KC has established a working party which aims to inlcude representatives of all the animal fancies.

The Implications

The European Convention Study Group will hold its inagural meeting in January 2002. In the meantimne, the Dog Legislation Advisory Group is discussing the matter at its next meeting on 29th November.

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 have already enlisted the assistance of Theresa Villiers MEP and her colleagues in an attempt to obtain clarification of the Government's position, and are extremely grateful for their support in this matter.

"We have received a response from Mr Morley acknowledging our letter to him and assuring us that our views will be taken into consideration during the consultation process.

"We are exploring all avenues in our attempt to prevent this unwanted legislation from coming into effect."