The following report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare meeting on 2nd December was written by Dr Andre Menache for the Dog Rescue Federation, of which he is Chair (reproduced here with permission):-
All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare
Tuesday 2nd December 2014. 1700hrs – 1900hrs
Dr Fiona Cooke – Local government’s ability to enforce their critical animal welfare duties.
Dr Cooke from the University of Aberdeen’s Law School conducted a survey of local government, with a similar high response rate to the DRF survey (around 90% responded). The survey focused on specific issues, such as licensing of dogs, pet shop premises, and the like. Two main weaknesses were highlighted in the survey: the lack of sufficient resources and the inconsistencies in the level of performance between different local governments. An example given was a local authority in which 20 different departments may be responsible for applying dog welfare legislation. Another example was the lack of Animal Welfare Officers, and in the cases where a local authority did have such a person, that person was often under used.
Dr Cooke also raised the issue of inconsistency in licensing fees between different local authorities. Finally, she mentioned the fact that the RSPCA takes on the role of animal welfare tasks for many local authorities.
Mark Berry (Chairman of the National Companion Animal Forum): Local government and dog control
Mr Berry made the point that enforcement is absolutely key to resolving most of the issues relating to dog control. He stressed the point that local government has statutory and non statutory duties and that the way to increase the likelihood of enforcement of non statutory duties was to make them statutory. In other words, local government will only act on a dog welfare issue if the duty is statutory. Mr Berry noted that up to 30% of dog owners were “irresponsible” (for example, they do not update microchip details). He also stressed the importance of being pro-active, rather than simply reactive (the Dangerous Dogs Act being an example of the latter).
Ian McParland (The Good Dog Partnership): Responsible dog ownership.
The Good Dog Partnership was set up in 2014 by Tina Hay and Ian McParland – two very experienced practitioners in dog control issues. They are keen to help create responsible dog owners for happier and safer communities. Mr McParland is an ex police prosecutor and Tina Hay is a lawyer.
Mr McParland stressed the need for early intervention (dealing with, and solving problems, before people get to court). Since 20th October 2014, the use of the Anti social Behaviour Policing Act makes it possible to order an owner to neuter, train, or muzzle their dog. Local government should be made aware to make as much use as possible of this option.
Mr McParland believes that we need to change the dog owner’s behaviour (similar to a speed awareness course). For example, owners need to be trained to recognise signs that their dog is giving early warning signals that it may attack a person or another dog.
Presentation by the Greyhound Forum, the League against cruel sports and the Dogs Trust.
There are 25 licensed dog racing tracks in Britain, in addition to several “independent” tracks (no doping checks take place at these unlicensed tracks).
Around 8 000 greyhounds enter racing every year, while a similar number leave.
The Greyhound Forum accounts for taking in about 4 000 of the retired greyhounds. Some of the remainder are taken in by dog rescues and others are unaccounted for,
presumably put to sleep.
There are 800 trainers in the greyhound industry. The fact that trainers had to invest
£ 3 million of their own money last year is an indication that the greyhound industry is in slow decline.
70% of all UK greyhounds come from Ireland. The Irish government recently increased its subsidy for greyhound racing.
Since 2010, the UK government allows self-regulation of the greyhound industry. A major concern and shortcoming of this scheme has been a lack of transparency, for example in not reporting injuries to racing dogs. When the betting public is made aware of dog injuries and animal suffering, their support for dog racing declines.
- A suggestion was made that animal welfare should be included as part of the school curriculum as a way of preventing animal cruelty and ignorance about animal welfare.
- On the subject of dog trainers and dog training, the comment was made that dog training schemes in the UK are “chaotic” and that a dog owner does not need a degree in dog training in order to understand basic concepts, such as dog socialisation.
- The point was made that some licensing officers in local authorities spend 90% of their time licensing taxis.
- Research on Trade in Illegal Puppies (Laura Vallance, Dogs Trust)
The Dogs Trust have produced a very well researched report entitled “The Puppy Smuggling Scandal” which investigates the illegal entry of dogs into Great Britain under the Pet Travel Scheme (hard copies of the report can be obtained from the Dogs Trust).
From 29th December 2014 changes to the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) will come into force. However, these changes will make very little difference to the current situation.
Ideally, there should be a ban on the importation of puppies younger than 6 months old in order to better enforce rabies vaccinations and to avoid under-age puppies being brought into the UK, either with false documentation about their real age, or simply being smuggled in illegally. The PETS regulation has in fact become a cover to illegally import puppies, according to the Dogs Trust report.
It is estimated that 130 000 dogs entered the UK last year, mainly from Lithuania and Hungary. Unscrupulous vets provide false documents and port entry checks are not effective. Another major weakness of the PETS regulation is the lack of traceability since there is no central database for microchips. For example, a dog entering the UK from Poland with a microchip inserted in that country will not be traceable in the UK.
There is a major disconnect between DEFRA and local government when it comes to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. DEFRA is not capable of effectively enforcing the Animal Welfare Act and yet they do not give the local government the green light and resources they need to do the job.
by Dr Andre Menache.