A new joined-up approach would improve enforcement of animal welfare law and licensing activities, it is believed.
Representatives from the British Horse Society (BHS), World Horse Welfare, the RSPCA, the National Equine Welfare Council, and vets, police and MPs, were among those to attend a round-table discussion at the House of Commons, organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) on 28 March. The organisations discussed how to improve the current enforcement system, including licensing of activities involving animals.
It was agreed that legislation can do “little to improve welfare for animals without effective enforcement”, and although there are some “excellent examples of positive results for animal welfare”, it is not always protected in the “most efficient or effective way”. The APGAW’s report, Improving the Effectiveness of Animal Welfare Enforcement, identified concerns with the current enforcement system and suggested that a “new model” is needed.
“There is not much evidence of joint working, and there are limited resources, inconsistent expertise and lack of training,” said APGAW policy advisor Marisa Heath, who called for the government to make it a legal requirement for local authorities to use “dedicated animal welfare officers”, who could be shared regionally.
“We think there should be – at least – regional intelligence sharing and an annual national animal welfare meeting, with two to three regional meetings a year, so all officers are using the most up-to-date information and approaches.”
World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said “valuable intelligence from the ground is being missed”, as people do not know who to report welfare concerns to, as there is no single point of contact.
“We need to make best use of what we already have, and this includes the authorities acting upon informed intelligence provided by welfare organisations as this will help join the dots between animal welfare failings and linked criminal activities,” he said.
“Local authorities, the police and animal welfare organisations must work more closely together, and we believe this can only happen in areas where there are dedicated, well-trained regional animal welfare officers.”
On licensing, BHS chief operating officer Sarah Phillips told H&H that “while in the main the legislation in place is comprehensive”, the way local authorities implement it can cause “frustration and confusion”.
“This is because the implementation can be inconsistent or misinterpreted. The BHS supports the proposed new model as it will enable more robust enforcement and ultimately better animal welfare,” she said.
“To represent riding schools and to inform the council of the challenges the BHS has formed a primary authority partnership. The advice will set out how the guidance should be applied, and the local authorities should then follow it. This has been a positive step and we hope that these conversations will continue to develop and improve the legislation and processes in place.”
Following this round table the APGAW is expected to review the information discussed to pull together a plan for the way forward.
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