THE ANIMAL Welfare Act became law on April 6th and was widely welcomed by animal welfare charities and other animal organisations.
The Dogs Trust welcomed the new legislation calling it ‘The most significant companion animal welfare legislation for nearly a Century.’
Last year saw the passing into law of two new pieces of animal welfare legislation – the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which applies to England and Wales and the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, that came into effect in October 2006. While the welfare elements of the Acts are broadly similar, there are some significant differences. The Northern Ireland legislation has yet to be defined.
The Acts have been hailed as the most significant animal welfare legislation for nearly a century. They modernise welfare legislation and among other things introduce a duty of care on owners and keepers of vertebrate animals.
Thus people are legally obliged to ensure the welfare of the animals in their care. The Acts will reduce animal suffering by enabling preventative action to be taken, by those responsible for the enforcement of welfare laws, before suffering actually occurs.
The Acts will simplify legislation for enforcers and animal keepers by consolidating over 20 pieces of legislation into one. They will deter persistent offenders by strengthening penalties and eliminating many loopholes in the current system.
The RSPCA which had been closely involved with the drafting of the Act and, despite its claims to the contrary, will gain significant new powers under the new law.
Director General Jackie Ballard said: ‘For the first time in history we have a law which enables our inspectors to prevent animals suffering by taking effective action earlier in cases of ongoing neglect.’
The Kennel Club was generally in favour of the Act, although it had reservations in the area relating to a ban on tail docking.
A spokesman said: ‘Te Kennel Club website is a good source of information with regards to what difference the new Act will mean for dog owners in the UK. A helpful FAQ fact sheet has been produced for all those who would like more information on the particular aspect of the Act regarding the ban on the docking of dogs’ tails.
‘The docking ban brings to an end a practice that the Kennel Club has recognised since its inception 134 years ago. There is an exemption for working dogs, which are defined as Spaniel, Terrier and Hunt, Point and Retrieve types or any combination of types that will be used to work.
The Act bans even legally docked working dogs and dogs docked legally overseas from being shown at events where the public pay to enter if they are born after April 6th.