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Animal Welfare Bill welcomed… with reservations

SEVERAL ORGANISATIONS have welcomed the publication of the Animal Welfare Bill, but have drawn attention to specific clauses, some of which they have expressed reservations about:

Dogs Trust ‘frustrated’ by inspection plans

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity cautiously welcomes the long awaited publication of the new Animal Welfare Bill announced today. It is encouraging that the government has taken the lead to introduce animal welfare legislation and the bill heralds a new dawn in animal protection.

The Duty of Care is key to the legislation and will make responsible dog ownership a legal entity, something that the Dogs Trust has been pressing for, for decades.

Dogs Trust is encouraged to see the government raising the competency level required for managers of pet shops; something that is long overdue.

However, Dogs Trust recognises that there is still much to be done to ensure that secondary legislation and the Codes of Practice, on vital elements of the Bill, will properly ensure the protection of dogs.

Dogs Trust fails to be convinced that standards of inspection will be improved by moving the timeframe for inspections from 12 to 18 months but are pleased that quality rather than quantity will head this agenda. There is also concern about the potential licensing of pet fairs, which could revert to seeing the legal sale of animals at these events, something Dogs Trust remains firmly against.

The charity is also frustrated that the regulations on breeding and, in particular puppy farms have fallen into the second tranch of legislation. Dogs Trust has long campaigned to Stop Puppy Farming; an illegal multi-million pound industry in the UK where dogs are bred purely for profit with no regard for the welfare of the puppies or their mothers. To delay this to potentially 2010 will mean thousands more puppies will suffer.

Dogs Trust finds the rather ambiguous statement on the future regulation of greyhounds unacceptable, the Industry bodies signed up to the Greyhound Charter three years ago and regulation of this industry is well overdue.

Dogs Trust Chief Executive, Clarissa Baldwin, comments: "We have high hopes that the long awaited Animal Welfare Bill, once enacted, will provide a much greater protection to the 6.5 million dogs in the UK. Nevertheless we are disappointed that a number of issues of great importance to dog welfare are not being tackled within a much tighter timeframe."

Countryside Alliance urges ‘cautious approach’

The Countryside Alliance has welcomed the concept of the duty of care to animals in the Animal Welfare Bill, published today, but urges a cautious approach from the Government to its secondary codes of practice.

The Animal Welfare Bill is enabling legislation, and secondary legislation will be brought forward at the behest of the Secretary of State.

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Simon Hart commented: "We welcome the principle of improved animal welfare introduced in the Animal Welfare Bill. We are also pleased to see that there is a specific exemption for all normal fishing practices, including the use of live bait and catch and release.

"While the Government has stated that this Bill will not affect shooting or field sports, we will be seeking to hold it to its commitment for a game-rearing Code of Practice based on research and evidence. It must also stick to its commitment to support the docking of tails of dogs of working type for animal welfare reasons.

"However, the real affects of the legislation cannot be determined until secondary Codes of Practice have been published. These could have far-reaching consequences if badly drafted."

Pet Care Trust welcomes ‘end to home boarding’

The Pet Care Trust welcomes the publication of the Animal Welfare Bill for England and Wales.
"For the vast majority of Britain’s 28 million pet owners, who already take excellent care of the animals they love, this legislation won’t make any difference," said Janet Nunn, Chief Executive of the Trust. "But in the small number of exceptional cases where harm is being caused by negligent owners, this is a welcome step to enable enforcement officers to take action before it’s too late."

The Trust also:

Welcomed the decision to increase from 12 to 16 the minimum age at which a child may buy an animal. Pet shops who are members of the Trust do not sell pets to the under-16s, and this is a measure the Trust has long campaigned for.

Welcomed the proposal under secondary legislation (see: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/welfare/bill/secondary.htm) to license pet shops, boarding kennels and catteries for up to 3 years on a risk-managed basis. "For too long local authorities have relied on a "one size fits all" approach to licensing inspections," said Ms Nunn. "Basing inspections on a sensible risk assessment will be much more effective and brings the licensing regime into the 21st century."

Welcomed the proposal under secondary legislation to license commercial pet fairs, and the decision not to license private/member-only events run by hobbyists and exhibition shows where there is no commercial trading. "When like-minded enthusiasts with a shared interest and love of their pets come together, they can only improve animal welfare standards," said Ms Nunn.

Called for local authorities only to recognise national qualifications such as the City & Guilds 7760 Pet Store Management when licensing pet shops. "Until the Model Licence Conditions are adopted across the country, some local authorities will continue to accept Mickey-Mouse qualifications," said Ms Nunn.

Called for boarding kennel and cattery owners to have to prove competency, as now happens with pet shops, either through experience or relevant qualification. "This is a missed opportunity to raise the bar," said Ms Nunn.

Called for the government to ban home boarding for dogs under secondary legislation. "The proposed secondary legislation will ban home boarding for cats, but not dogs," said Ms Nunn. "We consider the animal health and welfare risks involved in commercial home boarding of dogs to be unacceptable."