Leading veterinary organisations the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) have submitted a joint response to Defra’s landmark consultation on animal establishment licensing in the UK to ensure the veterinary professions voice and view is heard.
The 12 week consultation, which closed on Saturday (11 March), is the biggest review the Government has ever undertaken on animal establishment licensing and takes into consideration a range of animal welfare issues.
In their joint response, BVA, BSAVA and BVZS agree that much of the current animal licensing legislation is out of date and needs to be revised to take account of the changes that have occurred since it was originally introduced (Pet Animals Act 1951, Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963), while supporting the proposal to bring existing licensing schemes under the Animal Welfare Act in order to ensure that the focus of inspection is on animal welfare and the five welfare needs.
One key recommendation in BVA, BSAVA and BVZSs consultation response is that anyone breeding from a dog should be required to register, preferably online, with their local authority – in line with the Data Protection Act 1998. This would mean that the local authority has a list of contact details for all dog breeders in their area, aiding enforcement bodies and ensuring that dog breeders were aware of the legal requirements. The veterinary organisations continued that, if possible, there should be a publicly available national list of dog breeders to provide intelligence for enforcers and allow the public to check the list. Then, should the threshold of three or more litters per year be met, this would trigger a dog breeding licensing inspection.
BVA President Sean Wensley said: “Animal welfare is always the top priority for vets, and we believe that starts right at the beginning of a pets life. If people are regularly breeding puppies then it is necessary and right that measures are in place to protect the health and welfare of the mother and her puppies. Anyone breeding from a dog should be required to register with their local authority and quote their registration number in any advert for puppy sales.”
He continued, “This is not about targeting individual dog owners, but about best breeding practices and, moreover, the health and welfare of animals across the UK, which is why we are proposing that the licence and inspection criteria applies to the establishment rather than individuals.”
BVA, BSAVA and BVZS also noted that this review is an appropriate opportunity for Defra to consider whether any other activities or animal establishments should be licensed in order to ensure that they meet appropriate animal welfare standards, from animal rescue and rehoming centres to falconry displays and dog training businesses.
In the consultation response, BVA, BSAVA and BVZS acknowledge that while there is a need for change there is no point in introducing new legislation if it is not properly enforced, and this will need appropriate resources to be made available especially given the current resource constraints of Defra and local authorities.