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DEFRA launches new Animal
Health and Welfare Strategy

THE ANIMAL Welfare Bill is due to be published in Spring 2004, according to DEFRA’s newly-published Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain. Although a large part of the document is concerned with farm livestock and horses, there are sections of relevance to pet owners, including Quarantine and the Pet Travel Scheme, with particular reference to the prevention of rabies and other diseases.

DEFRA’s statement says: "There is a need to facilitate and regulate the import of rabies susceptible animals in a way that gives protection against the importation and spread of disease. Until February 2000, all rabies susceptible animals entering the UK were required to spend six months in quarantine. In February 2000 the Pet Travel Scheme was introduced.

This allows cats and dogs which comply with certain conditions to enter the UK without going into quarantine….

authorised

The UK’s defences against rabies need to be maintained as far as possible within the parameters set by the EU Regulation on Pet Travel….on average, 4,000 dogs and cats enter the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme every month. Any other mammals must have a quarantine import licence and be collected by an authorised carrying agent. If they do not have this documentation, they will be seized by the Local Authority and detained in quarantine, re-exported or destroyed."

DEFRA plan to upgrade the PETS Scheme with a series of set ‘milestones’ which are listed within the document as:

Implementation of the EC Regulation on Pet Travel by July 2004

Review of the conditions applying to construction and management of
quarantine premises by July 2004

Review of quarantine requirements for rodents and lagomorphs used in
research by July 2004

There do not appear to be any plans to extend the PETS scheme further, now that the USA and Canada have been included since December 2002.

The Government’s planned Animal Welfare Bill is also mentioned, with details of some of the key areas to be addressed by the Bill. The document states:

"Government intervention in animal welfare also affects companion, sport and recreational animals. This work was taken on by Defra when the new Department was created in 2001. A large body of legislation has grown up over the years and is currently being brought up to date through the proposed new Animal Welfare Bill. This will form the statutory basis for implementing the legislative side of the animal health and welfare strategy as regards non-farm animals.

"The Veterinary Surgeons' Act of 1966 is also in need of modernisation to respond to the needs of consumers (and their animals) and improve the governance arrangements of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, including its arrangements for maintaining the discipline of the profession.

"The main mechanisms for enforcement of welfare regulations is through inspections. In 2002 the State Veterinary Service conducted 4,519 inspections on farms and 6,815 at markets. Slaughterhouses and transported consignments of animals are also inspected to ensure suitable welfare provisions take place.

Surveillance

Further surveillance is also carried out by DEFRA staff when visiting units in addition to the number of actual inspection visits. Local Authorities are the primary statutory enforcement agency for animal health and welfare, carrying out inspections and enforcement from farm to fork, including on farm, in transit, at market, at abattoirs and at points of entry and exit (ports and airports). In addition the RSPCA plays a significant role in the enforcement of animal welfare law, particularly in respect of non-farm animals."
Milestones planned include:

The draft Animal Welfare Bill is to be published Spring 2004 with Parliamentary approval when time allows.

The public consultation on a new Veterinary Surgeons Act is due to close in Spring 2004.
There is no mention of specific points relating to companion animals, particularly contentious issues such as body and facial ‘types’ and ‘cosmetic procedures’ such as tail docking, all of which have been planned for inclusion within the Bill, along with plans to license all animal charities and rescues.

Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club commented on the DEFRA document:
"The Kennel Club continues to work closely with DEFRA on various canine issues and we are very
pleased with their continued proactive approach to animal welfare consultation. We are in the process of reviewing the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy consultation document - with a view to producing a paper for their consideration - and particular areas of interest to the KC are the sections on Animal welfare and Quarantine and the Pet Travel Scheme."

The DEFRA Animal Welfare and Health Strategy can be viewed online at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/animalhwstrat/index.htm