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Government announces ‘rights’ bill for dogs

AS WE went to press last Tuesday the government’s Environment Minister Mr Elliot Morley announced their latest attempt to give dogs, cats and other companion animals a ‘bill of rights’ that will guarantee them a good quality of life.

It is widely accepted that the ‘new’ rights will be part of the new and long awaited Animal Welfare Bill. The possible recommendations were announced to the House of Commons by the minister who said that it was time to update the legislation which dated back to the 1911 Dog Act.

Whilst not connected the announcement came several days after Elliot Morley met Kennel Club officials and senior staff to discuss a range of issues relating to dog legislation and in particular the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

Owners who failed to give their animals the minimum standards of freedom from hunger and thirst and enough good food to keep them healthy would face prosecution under the new proposed laws. The RSPCA is working with the ministry to help frame the laws.

Owners would also be obliged to provide a comfort cage, bed or area for pets; to ensure freedom from pain and suffering and correct veterinary care; freedom from mental stress and enough human company. In short a complete duty of care to reasonable modern standards.

The most imporant new law under the act will be one which tackles an area often ignored - that of treating dogs and other animals in a way ‘likely to cause suffering’.

Obligations

Enshrined in the new laws will be obligations for owners to consider when they keep dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, gerbils and horses.

Cat owners will have to allow their pets to roam or provide an adequate area for them to exercise.

Speaking for the RSPCA last weekend Ann Grain was quoted as saying, ‘We believe people who own animals have a duty to care for them properly. We are, however, proposing that people could be prosecuted under this duty of care only if they have been previously advised on the steps needed to meet it - and have failed’.

Critics have said that the government is taking the animals rights lobbyists too seriously whilst the notion that animals have rights has been challenged by philosophers and professors.

Although unable to comment on the story in the weekend press Phil Buckley of the KC Press Office said: ‘Regarding the DDA and other issues, I can confirm that the Kennel had a very positive meeting with Elliot Morley MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary at DEFRA HQ on Wednesday 24th April.

“The main topic of discussion was the European Convention for The Protection of Pet Animals, and Mr Morley seemed open to the Kennel Club views on this issue.

Problems

‘At the same time, the Kennel Club took the opportunity to raise ongoing problems still being experienced with regard to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and as a result, the Kennel Club will be making a formal application to Mr Morley regarding the possibility of further reform in due course.”