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Animal sanctuary licensing bill gets second reading

The Animal Sanctuaries (Licensing) Bill put forward late last year by Labour MP Ian Cawsey, (Brigg and Goole) gets its Second Reading in the House of Commons today (Friday, January 11th 2002).

The Bill is aimed at ending the scandal of badly-run private sanctuaries where rescued animals do not receive proper care and attention, sometimes ending up with worse welfare problems than before they came into rescue.

At present only larger-scale breeders and boarding kennels need to be licensed by their local authorities, whilst rescue sanctuaries require no license of supervision.

If the Bill becomes law, all such sanctuaries and rescues would have to be licensed and receive regular inspections.

"There is already a requirement for kennels and catteries to be licensed but there is none for people who call themselves sanctuaries or a pet rescue centre," said Mr Cawsey, who is chairman of the All-Party Animal Welfare Group. "Because there is no law to protect these animals, even if concerns are raised about their welfare, there is no right for local authorities to inspect conditions in the sanctuaries.

"I'm aware that there are people who are opening sanctuaries just to avoid being inspected."

Mr Cawsey added that there had also been problems with people who may have had the best of intentions when they opened their rescue centres, but had taken in too many animals to cope with and thus run into difficulties.

No guarantee

"It also happens that sometimes they take on species and breeds of animals which they have no experience in looking after," added Mr Cawsey. "Under my Bill, every sanctuary would have to be licensed by the local authority and would have to be inspected every time it is re-licensed. If people have concerns about the welfare of animals in a rescue centre, they can then contact their local authority about it and an inspection can take place."

The Bill is due to be consider third in line when debating starts this Friday between the hours of 9.30 am and 2.30 pm. If the Bill runs out of time to be considered, it will be re-scheduled for a later date.

"Of course, there's never any guarantee with Private Members' Bills," said Mr Cawsey. "Someone might object to the Bill and it would be halted. However, since I published by draft Bill, the Government since published proposals for its own Animal Welfare Bill which will include a section on the licensing of animal sanctuaries and rescue centres. The DEFRA committee dealing with the proposed Bill have made it clear to me that all the work I've done so far on my own Bill will be used to help frame the legislation in their own Bill, should mine fail.

"However, I'm hopeful, naturally, that one way or another, that sanctuaries are licensed, as this is an animal welfare consideration which has been neglected for too long."