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Government says no extra cash for 'historic' welfare bill
Posted 14 July 2004
Statement on the new Animal Welfare Bill
While the new Animal Welfare Bill contains a number of positive measures, there are several serious deficiencies. Not least of which, is that there will be no additional government funding or manpower to ensure monitoring and enforcement.
Most of the burden will fall upon already-stretched local authorities - while DEFRA acknowledges that the RSPCA will find its workload increased.
On the plus side are bans on the sale of pets to anyone under 16 years of age, the current age limit being 12. Offering pets as prizes is also prohibited. Penalties for cruelty to animals have been increased to a maximum of 51 weeks and £20,000. Powers of entry to premises where cruelty is suspected are also increased (although a warrant from a magistrate is required to enter private premises). Most positive of all is the so called 'duty of care' provision, which allows the authorities to take action where an animal is likely to come to harm, rather than having to wait until actual harm occurs.
The negative aspects of the bill are considerable. In addition to a failure to commit extra resources, the Bill will legalise one day fairs at which exotic animals, such as reptiles and wild birds, are put on sale by itinerant traders. Such fairs are currently illegal, although certain rogue councils permit them. The only protection afforded such animals under the proposed measures will be a Code of Practice modelled on the current, self-serving Guide drawn up by the traders themselves. Reptiles and birds are particularly unsuited to a life in captivity. On the basis of evidence gathered from bird and reptile markets, there is overwhelming scientific and veterinary opinion relating both to insurmountable animal welfare problems, and also to potential public health hazards.
Currently, the rearing of pheasants for sport shooting is governed only by a non-compulsory industry Code of Practice. The Bill intends that this thoroughly inadequate code will be the only 'protection' afforded the 20-30 million pheasants who are bred intensively every year, principally so that they may be shot down for sport.
Notes to Editors
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