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updated 28/9/01
RSPCA welcomes overhaul of animal welfare law

THE RSPCA is delighted the government is to reform and modernise the most widely used piece of animal welfare legislation, the 1911 Protection of Animals Act.

The Act gives protection to domestic animals and is the law under which the RSPCA prosecutes offences of animal cruelty. But the RSPCA believes the Act is in urgent need of review. Much of its language is out of date, including references to animal pounds, dog-drawn vehicles and knackers.

Defra minister Elliot Morley MP announced the reform during a visit to RSPCA headquarters. He told RSPCA staff and volunteers he was very pleased to announce that Defra would begin a consultation process before the end of the year and that the RSPCA would be heavily involved.

Among the changes the RSPCA wants to see is the introduction of an offence of "likely to cause unnecessary suffering." Under the current law, RSPCA inspectors can only take action where animals are kept in unacceptable conditions once suffering has taken place.

The Society also wants to see a tightening up of disqualification orders. Courts are able to ban people convicted of animal cruelty from having future custody of animals, but the law does not prevent other members of the household from continuing to own those animals.

The RSPCA's chief officer of inspectorate, Tony Crittenden, said: "The 1911 Act has served us well, but the world has changed a lot in the last 90 years and so have our perceptions of cruelty. We now have the chance to frame legislation that will allow us not only to prosecute those who are cruel, but to use the law proactively to prevent cruelty, which after all is the RSPCA's reason for being. We look forward to playing a full role in the consultation process.