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No immediate bans planned for ‘pet fairs’

ANIMAL FANCIERS and animal welfare charities have welcomed new measures that will be introduced under the new Animal Welfare Bill allowing ‘pet fairs’ to continue without licensing.

DEFRA has announced that whilst commercial sales of animals will be banned, pet shows – which the department insist on referring to as ‘pet fairs’ - that do not involve the sale of animals, or that do involve the sale of animals but not in the course of a business, can continue without the need for a licence. The move follows a judicial review earlier this year on the legality of pet fairs.

The Pet Care Trust was one of the organisations that welcomed the news. Meriel France, Education and Animal Care Manager for the Trust, herself an avid dog exhibitor commented: "The bulk of the 10,000 pet events that take place often in village halls, at county shows or schools, are attended by thousands of animal lovers who use them to show animals as a leisure activity. Breeders and pet enthusiasts use them to compare stock and improve husbandry techniques."

Janet Nunn, Chief Executive of the Pet Care Trust added: This is great news for pet lovers. Fairs can now continue without the addition of red tape and costly bureaucracy.

The RSPCA were also quick to comment. David Bowles, RSPCA Head of External Affairs said: ‘We are delighted that the Government is going to follow the judicial review on pet fairs that concluded that such events are currently illegal under existing legislation and to ensure that new legislation maintains the position that it is illegal to sell animals at temporary commercial events, under the Animal Welfare Bill. The RSPCA has attended many commercial pet fairs and has had long standing concerns about the welfare of the animals which are bought and sold in such circumstances.

Mr Bowles continued: ‘Today's announcement heralds an important decision on welfare grounds to continue to ban commercial pet fairs in England, and that is very good news for the welfare of the diverse variety of animals now kept in captivity. We would urge the Assembly of Wales to do the same. The consultation will also provide the opportunity to clarify what is meant by permitted fairs where animals are not sold in the course of a business. All animals that are bought and sold at temporary fairs are subject to the same welfare needs, and the RSPCA will be seeking to ensure that those needs are recognised in law.’

DEFRA announced that they would ban commercial pet fairs after previously resisting calls from Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson, Baroness Miller, to do so.

Responding to the news, Baroness Miller said: ‘Animal lovers should be pleased with the Government’s announcement, only animal abusers will be unhappy. The risks to animal welfare at commercial pet fairs is clear, as is the risks to public health. Many animal welfare groups have campaigned for this for a long time. However, it took a judicial ruling to bring the Government around. I welcome the Government’s positive commitment to this issue, but the Animal Welfare Bill risks being an empty shell unless the Government is more responsive to welfare concerns. It is vital for DEFRA to deliver on the measures they have proposed.’

l In the Judicial Review - R (Haynes) v Stafford Borough Council - Mr. Justice Walker ruled that under the Pet Animals Act 1951 the commercial sale of pets at fairs has been illegal since a 1983 amendment that prohibited the ‘business of selling animals as pets in any part of a street or public place, or at a stall or barrow in a market’.