MPs’ focus on RSPCA a ‘disappointing distraction’ from animal welfare improvements, say vets

Posted On: 
16th November 2016

Responding to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRACom) report on ‘Animal welfare in England: domestic pets’, which makes a number of recommendations to improve the implementation of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but also calls for RSPCA to ‘step back’ from bringing prosecutions under the Act, Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the UK’s leading body for vets, said:

“Calls to reduce the RSPCA’s prosecution powers received scant support from the organisations and individuals submitting evidence during the EFRACom inquiry so it is surprising that MPs are not only progressing, but shining a spotlight on this recommendation. The RSPCA is currently responsible for over 90% of prosecution activity on animal welfare issues and it is unclear who else would have the resources to take on this vital role. EFRACom’s focus on the RSPCA’s prosecution powers is a disappointing distraction from a report that, otherwise, makes many positive recommendations towards improving UK pet welfare.

“The full EFRACom report outlines recommendations that BVA has long called for, such as scheduling secondary legislation to address specific animal welfare issues given that, 10 years on from its launch, the full effectiveness of the Act in improving the five welfare needs of all animals has not yet been realised.”

BVA and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) responded to the EFRACom’s inquiry calling for evidence earlier this year: https://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Get_involved/Consultation_archive/bva-bsava-response-efra-domestic-animal-welfare-inquiry.pdf

In the joint consultation response, the two veterinary organisations recognised that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 has been effective in its aim of bringing the majority of animal welfare legislation under one umbrella, but expressed concern that too few pet owners are aware of their legal duty of care to their pet, as evidenced by the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report which shows that only one in three pet owners are familiar with their responsibilities.

British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz continued:

“Enforcement is essential to effective legislation, but prosecuting wrong-doers is not the only solution to ensuring the welfare of millions of pets.  We welcome the report’s recognition that education and other measures to tackle the root causes of poor animal welfare have a key role to play.

“It is encouraging that the report includes not only pragmatic measures around online pet sales, such as making it mandatory for websites to adhere to the Pet Advertising Advisory Group’s minimum standards, but that it also proposes the Government seize opportunities around Brexit to review the Pet Travel Scheme to ensure this non-commercial transport route does not continue to be exploited for criminal puppy smuggling.”

BVA and BSAVA calls that were met by EFRACom report recommendations include:

  • Updating dog breeding legislation to improve animal welfare

  • Ensuring that dog breeders whose dogs have three or more litters are licenced; with the EFRACom report going further, recommending that dogs with two or more litters are licensed

  • Ensuring dog owners whose dogs have one litter a year are registered with the local authority

  • Including the registration or licence number of the breeder in all online adverts

  • Establishing a centralised equine database

The BVA/BSAVA consultation response was supported by oral evidence to EFRACom provided by veterinary surgeons Heather Bacon and John Chitty: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-subcommittee/animal-welfare-domestic-pets/oral/32221.html