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Dog owners back in the spotlight again

The Council for Companion Animal Welfare (CAWC) has published a report this week which could result in a massive extra intrusion into the lives of pet owners, if implemented by the government, with dog owners the most likely to be targeted by what are referred to in the report as ‘organisations which are enthusiastic’ to develop such a scheme.

The report states in its conclusions that that there are not only very good reasons to try to develop a system for companion animal welfare surveillance (the most important point, they say, being that it is likely to help improve companion animal welfare) but that although developing a scheme would present ‘significant challenges’, a great deal of enthusiasm and support has been expressed by representatives of many of the key organisations likely to be involved.

It also suggests that efforts should be made to begin a pilot scheme and recommends that organisations representing the keepers of various species should liaise and try to find a way of working with ‘experts’ to set up and initiate a programme of welfare surveillance.

Section 7 of the report develops the methodology of such a surveillance scheme. Although the section begins by recommending that one organisation (described as a ‘lead body’) related to each species should be responsible for identifying the most important welfare problems of the animals within their expertise, it goes on to say that any such system is likely to be ‘challenging’. Therefore it is suggesting that there is ‘a strong case for developing a coordinated approach’ , in other words someone overseeing the development of the scheme.

Pilot study

CACW wants to see a ‘pilot study’ using ‘one or two’ species before rolling out the programme more widely. The report does not specifically say who these ‘lead bodies’ might be or which might be responsible for the ‘co-ordinated’ approach but among those who created the report or participated in the ‘Workshop’ meeting back in September of 2007 at the House of Lords were the Animal Health Trust, the BSAVA, the Feline Advisory Bureau, the University of Bristol, the England Implementation Group (responsible for developing an animal welfare ‘strategy’ in the UK, the National Equine Welfare Council, RSPCA, Intervet (the animal vaccination company and as far as Our Dogs can ascertain, the only commercial organisation involved), the PDSA, the Kennel Club, Dogs Trust and Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Council for Companion Animal Welfare (CAWC) was founded in 1999 and was set up to conduct independent studies into the welfare, care and treatment of companion animals and their role within society. It was based on the long established Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWK) which is a Defra funded group designed to improve the conditions under which food animals are cared for.

The Council offers specialist advice to organisations, institutions and Government primarily by publishing the results of their studies and its principal objectives are: the provision of advice on the welfare of companion animals and the publication of its findings; the furtherance of the fuller understanding of companion animal welfare and of the role of companion animals in society; the assessment of existing legislation affecting the welfare of companion animals, and the making of recommendations for the improved health and welfare of companion animals.

Objective studies

To do this the Council: undertake independent and objective studies of companion animal welfare issues and identify where further information is required; prepare and publish reports; make available information and research data which it has obtained, in order to enable Parliamentary legislation on companion animal welfare issues to be drafted and debated on an informal basis and is committed to being open to requests for objective views, advice and the carrying out of independent studies on issues concerned with the welfare of companion animals.

CAWC has done a great deal of work in its eight years of existence and has published reports on: Identification and Registration of Companion Animals; Welfare of non-domesticated animals kept for companionship; Companion Animal Welfare Establishments: Sanctuaries, Shelters and Rehoming Centres; Welfare Aspects of Modifications, through Selective Breeding and a response to the DEFRA Mutilations and Tail Docking consultation. This latest report on Companion Animal Welfare Surveillance is published along with another on the regulation of companion animal services in relation to training dogs one which we will report fully in the next week or so.

Our Dogs asked the Kennel Club for their comments on the report but a copy had not received at the time of going to press. We have been told they will be sending out a press release in the next few days.