The RSPCA is urging the government to update animal welfare laws with the introduction of its Five Freedoms plan

Britain’s horses, dogs and cats look set to benefit from proposed new legislation, which will aim to define standards under which pets should be kept.

Environment minister Elliot Morley will make a speech in the Commons tomorrow (30 April) outlining the plans for more regulation on pet welfare.The proposed Bill of Rights means that under a new “duty of care”, all animal owners would have a legal responsibility to ensure that animals have adequate food and water, appropriate shelter and access to proper veterinary treatment when needed.

Pet owners breaching this duty of care would face prosecution.The legislation, which has been drawn up by the RSPCA, would be the biggest change in Britain’s animal welfare rules for almost a century.One of the most significant changes will be statutory rights for all pets.

These principles, known as the Five Freedoms, were first set out by the government’s Brambell Committee in 1964 in respect of farm animals and are now widely recognised for all animals.

The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort in cages, kennels and other resting areas
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease. Pets should be seen quickly by a vet
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour. Pets should be allowed to mix with other animals and have space
  • Freedom from fear and distress. Pets should not be subjected to mental cruelty

The RSPCA is also calling for other changes in animal welfare including:

  • Increased penalties for those involved in animal fighting and baiting
  • A tightening up of disqualification orders
  • A ban on the giving of live animals as prizes
  • A ban on animals in circuses
  • The introduction of licensing of animal sanctuaries
  • An increase in the time limit for bringing prosecutions

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