The Pet Care Trust, the national charity that promotes the benefits of pet ownership, has condemned MPs’ proposals for vets to accompany local authority inspectors on licensing visits to boarding kennels, catteries and pet shops.
In its report on the draft Animal Welfare Bill, published this morning, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee called for regular inspections with an obligatory veterinary presence, rather than basing inspections on a sensible risk assessment.
"This is unnecessary, a classic gold-plating overkill," said Janet Nunn, Chief Executive of the Trust. ""Pet shops, kennels and catteries house healthy animals. To routinely involve a vet is unjustifiable and costly red tape."
The Trust estimates that under the Select Committee’s proposals, vet-accompanied inspections could cost British pet shops and boarding kennels over £1.5 million annually. This is a significant amount which was not costed in the draft bill.
The EFRA report comes a week after the interim report of the Hampton Review, Reducing administrative burdens: effective inspection and enforcement. Commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this review highlighted the need for comprehensive risk assessment methodologies so that inspections are appropriate to the business.
"The Government commissioned the Hampton Review, but its advice is falling on deaf ears," "said Ms Nunn. "Modernisation of our inspection regimes to bring them into the 21st century is long overdue."
The Trust welcomed several of the Select Committee’s proposals, including:
i) establishing a database to ensure consistency of enforcement across licensing departments in England and Wales. However, this database should be in the public domain, and not just shared with the RSPCA as the Select Committee is proposing. The Government should then act on the information to ensure that inconsistencies are addressed. (For example, pet shop licences currently cost £42 in King’s Lynn. Just down the road in Norwich Hall Road, they can cost up to £362.)
ii) the Select Committee’s view that the RSPCA is "ultimately a charitable body and therefore should have a separate and distinct role from inspectors appointed to enforce the draft Bill." The Pet Care Trust believe the police, the State Veterinary Service and local authorities should remain the only organisations with prosecution powers under the new Bill. "For the RSPCA, a campaigning body with a policy against the sale of pets in pet shops, to have prosecution powers is completely unacceptable," said Ms Nunn.