Dog Magazine

MP Claims Report Into Animal Welfare Says Banning of Third Party Puppy Sales Hard to Enforce & Key Messages Will Be Overlooked as a Result of RSPCA Headlines: Here’s What You Need to Know

Today (16 November) the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) has released its report into Animal welfare in England with a focus on domestic pets, which includes dogs, cats and horses.

A parliamentary enquiry was launched to examine the effectiveness and enforcement of animal welfare laws and the report includes these key recommendations and conclusions for the British government.

The committee feels these adaptations will improve the transparency, traceability and enforcement of regulations in the pet trade.

However with the headline of the Commons EFRA’s own press release shared with the report focusing on the RSPCA, it’s no wonder MP Angela Smith, who sat on the committee for this inquiry, and others within the pet industry feels the key message will be derailed.

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has commented on the report welcoming the recommendations to realise the full effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but goes on to say, “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.”

On the topic of the RSPCA, the press release which accompanied the report said:

“The RSPCA should withdraw from acting as a prosecutor of first resort where there are statutory bodies with a duty to carry out this role, MPs on the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee have said.

Followed by this quote on behalf of the chair of the Committee, Neil Parish MP:

“The RSPCA does important working investigating animal welfare cases. And I would like to see its dedicated and professional staff continue that vital work. The Committee is not convinced, however, that the RSPCA is in a better position than the Crown Prosecution Service when it comes to prosecuting animal welfare cases. It should step back from making prosecutions itself, continuing instead to work closely with the police and prosecution service to protect the welfare of animals.”

In a statement released by the office of Angela Smith MP, former Shadow Animal Welfare Minister and present member of the EFRA Select Committee, she said:

“Today’s report by the EFRA select Committee into domestic animal welfare in England is I believe a missed opportunity to effectively promote improvements in animal welfare standards.

“Unfortunately, the report’s very many sensible recommendations are in danger of being overlooked, thanks to the unwarranted attack on the RSPCA.

“This is deeply disappointing and surprising, as during evidence sessions this view gained very little support from those who submitted evidence.”

“Presently the RSPCA is responsible for over 90% of prosecution activity on animal welfare issues in England and the recommendations in the report are to some extent reckless, because there is no other body with the resources, the experience and the expertise necessary to take on this important role.”

Speaking about the report RSPCA chief executive, Jeremy Cooper, said: “Overall this is a very sensible report with lots of progressive measures to improve animal welfare. We do not agree with the recommendation that the RSPCA should no longer prosecute. We are extremely proud of our near 200 years of experience investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty and our 92% success rate – which is currently a higher percentage than the CPS.”

A further recommendation in the report, that a ban on 3rd party sales of puppies should be progressed, are also criticised by the MP because there is little said about how it could be enforced.

Her thoughts are echoed by pet experts who worry it is nothing short of lip service.

Puppy farming campaign group, Puppy Love Campaigns, whose work to investigate puppy farms has resulted in the closure and prosecution of more than 10 puppy farms shared these thoughts on Twitter:

On this Angela point commented; “I think everyone on committee agreed and most of those giving evidence concurred that they would like to see an end to the 3rd party sale of puppies. However, much expert evidence said just banning it would not work.

“Unfortunately, the report has very little to say about how enforcement of a ban would work, how this would be paid for, and who would enforce it, which is disappointing.

“I am also disappointed the Committee didn’t accept much of the expert evidence that a strong and effective licensing system for sales is more likely to have the desired effect of stopping 3rd party sales.”