One of the major issues for the Kennel Club over the last few years has been Government’s plans to consolidate existing animal welfare legislation into a single Animal Welfare Bill.
The existing legislation was drafted in the nineteenth century and although there have been amendments over the years, current legislation fails to provide adequate protection for the welfare of ‘kept’ animals in line with modern day standards.
The proposed Bill will, for the first time in nearly 100 years, introduce a duty of care on owners of pet animals as well as modernise the laws surrounding welfare.
As part of the consultation process, the Kennel Club initially wrote to DEFRA requesting that the Department consider including issues in the legislation such as the breeding and sale of dogs, the sale of dogs from pet shops, electronic shock collars and the overall obligation to ensure good welfare and a duty of care for owners and breeders. Furthermore, in the case of tail docking, it requested that the current status quo be maintained, allowing the practice to continue.
KC representatives met with DEFRA on numerous occasions, prior to the publication of the Bill, as part of the docking and breeding and boarding workstreams to discuss these issues in more depth with the civil servants responsible for drafting the Bill. On every occasion the right of breeders to continue to have their puppies docked was defended.
Following the publication of the Bill, the Kennel Club submitted its comments on the clauses and the proposed secondary legislation that is contained within it. On the basis of this written submission the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee invited representatives of the Club to give oral evidence to its members in early September.
KC evidence majored on the docking issue, making it clear to the Committee that it continues to support the case for choice in docking no matter what the breed - it is up to the individual whether or not they have the tails of pups docked, as indicated by the current Kennel Club Breed Standards. It was also made very clear that the Kennel Club believes that docking should remain legal.
Kennel Club representatives were questioned about the electronic shock collar campaign and their evidence centred on the belief that these products are cruel as they train the dog out of fear rather than a natural willingness to obey. The Kennel Club requested that electronic shock collars be banned and urged the Committee members to recommend this course of action in their final report.
The Kennel Club was encouraged by the response to its evidence and awaits the publication of the final report once the Committee has taken evidence from other interested parties.
Said Caroline Kisko, Secretary to the Kennel Club, "The Bill, in its draft form, extends a duty to promote animal welfare to all animal keepers, introduces into law a clear definition of cruelty against an animal and provides those responsible for enforcing the law with the powers needed to deal effectively with people who neglect or ill treat animals in their care. For this, Government is to be applauded."
Caroline concluded, "However, on issues such as tail docking and the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, we have found ourselves largely at odds with other organisations sat around the table, and sometimes politicians and Ministers themselves. We have had to defend our position vigorously."
It is expected that the Bill will form part of the Queen’s speech in November and be introduced to Parliament before next year’s general election. However, it is likely that various issues included in the legislation will be far from resolved on publication, therefore the Kennel Club will continue to lobby to ensure that the Bill provides the necessary protection for all dogs and their owners.