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Major welfare law changes planned

The government is calling on welfare groups to submit proposals for new legislation on animal welfare

The British Horse Society is calling for legislation for powers to remove animals from circumstances likely to cause unnecessary suffering rather than wait for an animal’s condition to deteriorate sufficiently before they can act.

The proposal is expected to form part of the societys response to a government invitation to welfare groups to put forward new ideas to review, modernise and simplify outdated laws on animals welfare.

Unveiling the plans, Animal Welfare Minister, Elliot Morley, said: “The Protection of Animals Act dates back to 1911. It has been amended over the past 90 years, but its roots go back to the 19th Century. We need to have in place legislation that not only protects animals against physical abuse, but also recognises quality of life and physiological needs.”

Another issue, which it also expects to be addressed, is the raising of the age at which children can buy pets from pet shops – now just 12 years old.

Other issues which the BHS would like to be addressed are:

  • regulation of livery yards

  • indiscriminate breeding and the overproduction of poor quality, unsaleable animals

  • tethering

  • abandonment.

    The ILPH and RSPCA have also welcomed the welfare initiative by the government.

    David Mountford, ILPH Operations Director, said: “We look forward to commenting on the consultation document and wholeheartedly welcome any moves to update current animal welfare legislation, which is hopelessly outdate.”

    Proposals from welfare groups and others such as the police and local authorities are due in by the end of April.

    The RSPCA’s chief veterinary officer, Chris Laurence, said: ” We urge the government to be bold, seize this opportunity and act quickly to close the many loopholes in the lawwhich still allow animals to suffer unnecessarily in the 21st century. “Among improvements the RSPCA wants to see are :

  • laws to allow intervention before suffering takes place

  • disqualification from keeping animals of anyone convicted of animal cruelty

  • increasing the powers of the police to access premises where they believe animal welfare laws are being breached.

    A spokeswoman for DEFRA said she hoped proposals would then be drafted for further consultation by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2003.

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