The SHG submission to the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

The SHG submission to the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill 


Authors: 

Anne Kasica & Ernest Vine 

Organisation: 

The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) 

e-mail / telephone number: 

anne.kasica@the-shg.org 

0744 99 89 411 

Address: 

Dan-Y-Graig, Cwmpengraig, Velindre, Llandysul, Carm’s 

SA44 5HT 

About The SHG 

The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) runs a national help line in England and Wales for people who have run into difficulties with animal related problems. 

Our national help line number is 0744 99 89 411 and our website can be found at 

http://the-shg.org 

Concerns with the proposed legislation 

  1. It is the position of The SHG that restrictive legislation that removes the right to work and the right to own property should only be imposed when there is evidence of a harm that needs alleviating.  The government has admitted that this is not the case.  There is absolutely no evidence that wild animals in circuses in the UK suffer purely as a result of being in the circus or as a result of travelling.
  1. Had there been any evidence of such suffering it is clear that the powerful and wealthy Animal Rights organisations such as the RSPCA would have prosecuted using the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA).  Any suffering, including mental suffering, is sufficient to found a prosecution under the AWA which does not specify a minimum degree of suffering.  The Act even allows for animals to be seized if their circumstances are such that the animals might suffer in future.
  1. The lack of any such prosecutions which, if successful, would have effectively ended the use of wild animals in circuses speaks for itself.
  1. If there is no harm to heal then the proposed legislation is an unwarranted interference in the lives and work of people in the UK.
  1. We note that the government is bringing this legislation on ethical grounds and that they admit there are no welfare issues created by the keeping of wild animals in circuses.  But ethics are a means of determining right and wrong for society, and what better way of so determining than to choose the path of least harm 
  1. If there is no harm inherent in the keeping of animals in travelling circuses then one has to ask what harm will be done by imposing a ban.
  1. The animals themselves will have to leave the homes and the lifestyle they have known from infanthood.  They will consider themselves to have been abandoned by the people they know and love.
  1. Their owners and keepers will lose contact with animals that have been members of their families.  They will lose their livelihoods.  
  1. The circuses will lose some of their main attractions and therefore audience figures will drop along with takings.  Some may go out of business.
  1. People who wish to take their children to see the circus animals will be denied the opportunity.  Watching them on television has no comparison.
  1. Never seeing these animals in real life will lead to a lack of empathy for them  and possibly a drop in support for conservation.  
  1. All of this in order to end an activity that government itself admits does no harm?  
  1. Worse, this legislation will reward those groups that have regularly presented misinformation to the public.  
  1. It will reward campaigners who have not always been peaceful and who have trespassed and generally caused distress, not only to circus staff, but to those who wish to visit the circus with their children without being publicly harangued for their choices.
  1. The message it will give is that anyone who disapproves of the actions of others is entitled to end their lifestyle irrespective of the fact that it does no harm.  
  1. The campaigners will simply move on to the next target, the next batch of businesses to destroy.  They do not care about the lives they will have ruined, both human and animal.
  1. This is not ethical legislation, it is harmful legislation and should not be enacted.

    Anne Kasics & Ernest Vine.

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The SHG response to the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses Bill (Wales) consultation

Consultation Response Form

The draft Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill

Please return this form to reach the Welsh Government no later than 28 November 2018. The email address for responses or queries is: 

WildAnimalsInTravellingCircusesBill@gov.wales 

Postal responses should be sent to:

Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill Team

Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer 

Welsh Government

Cathays Park

Cardiff

CF10 3NQ

This form can be downloaded from the Welsh Government consultation webpage here:

https://beta.gov.wales/consultations

Your name: Anne Kasica
Organisation 

(if applicable):

The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG)
Email Address: shg@the-shg.org
Your address: Dan-Y-Graig, Cwmpengraig, Velindre, Llandysul, Carm’s, SA44 5HT
Responses to consultations may be made public on the internet or in a report. If you would prefer your response to be anonymised, please tick here:
Question 1: Do you agree with our proposal to introduce legislation that would make it an offence for a wild animal to be used in a travelling circus?

NO

Comments: Governments should only institute a ban if there is clear evidence that the activity to be banned actually causes harm or suffering.  There is none. 

The only reason for this ban would be that it offends the morality of a small but vocal section of society.  We all have our own morals but are expected to obey the law as enacted.  If the laws of the land are seen to be used to impose a morality that people do not espouse then support, not only for those laws, but the entire legal system will be damaged.

Governments should only enact legislation if there is a clear need for that legislation that is not met by existing legislation.

If animals are suffering when in transit then why has the Animal Welfare Act 2006 not been used to prosecute those transporting them?

If animals are suffering when performing why has the Animal Welfare Åct 2006 not been used to prosecute those who are causing them to perform?

If animals are suffering by the very fact of being in a circus then why have their owners or trainers not been prosecuted for failing to provide for their animals’ needs?

This legislation exists and was claimed to be the flagship of animal welfare.  It even permits the prosecution of those who are keeping animals in such a way that they might suffer in future if their circumstances do not change, so why, if the RSPCA and others are so clear that animals in circuses are suffering, have they not prosecuted anyone for the mere acts above?

The answer is that their claims would not stand up in court and that they certainly should not drive legislation that would deprive animals of their homes, performers of their livelihoods and the public of their entertainment when there is no real evidence to support such a ban.

Question 2: Do you agree banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses will have a positive impact on the attitudes of children and young people towards animals? Do you have any evidence to support your view that you would like to share with us?

NO

Comments: How can children and young people have any empathy for an animal that they have never seen other than on television?  It might as well be a cartoon character.

Surely it is for those proposing the ban to show evidence that harm or negative impacts are caused by the activity rather than for those in favour of allowing the activity to show such evidence?  

By banning interactions with animals (and such interactions can come from seeing the animals perform with a trainer they love and who clearly cares for them through to seeing the grazing animals outside relaxing in the sun) we prevent children from learning that animals are an important part of life and should be respected.

If there is concern that what children see in a circus might affect their attitude towards animals then it would be sensible to act on what children see in the media and in news reports on a daily basis online, mainly as a result of RSPCA press releases designed to shock.  The RSPCA has somewhat hypocritically complained that young people see images shared on social media when failing to self regulate their own media releases.

  

Question 3:  Do you consider that a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses could have an impact on circuses, or on other related industries? What would the impact be and why?

YES

Comments: Where animals have been removed from circuses many of those circuses have closed.  The public vote with their wallets and purses despite the answers they give to surveys, and they do not really want to go to see circuses without animals.

In other countries, despite the claims from Animal Rights groups that they had places ready for the animals to go, once bans came into being those same AR groups were begging the public for funds so that they could save the animals’ lives.  In other words there was no plan in place. 

There is no reason why the impact in Wales should differ from that elsewhere.

Please see:

“Animal Rights Activists promised the world they had an exit plan for Mexico. They lied to their donors, to the circus, to the world. Now we have thousands of families in poverty, hundreds of beautiful animals, many endangered… Dead and probably more will die over the coming year. Animal Rights groups gained millions in donations for their Mexican Circus cause and once the ban was pushed through, Animal Rights groups were nowhere to be seen, none of them aiding to mend the catastrophe that they started. They left, simply placing another notch in their belts to another successful ban to gain more donations around the globe to push bans through in other places.”

https://www.facebook.com/mexicancircuscrisis/videos/1061068143962080/

Question 4: Do you agree with the proposed offence 

                                                                                               NO

Comments:
Question 5:  Do you agree that the offence should apply to the travelling circus operator even if the operator may not be the person using the wild animal?

 NO

Comments:
Question 6:  Do you agree with the definition of “operator”?

 NO 

Comments:
Question 7:  Do you agree with the definition of “wild animal”?

 NO  

Comments:  Both elephants and big cats have been captive bred and even worked for many generations.  Elephants have been used in logging operations in Asia and big cats kept as household pets. This definition is a fudge.  
Question 8:  Do you agree with the inclusion of section 3(3) which would allow for regulations to be made to specify kinds of animal that are, or are not, to be regarded as wild? Regulations would be made by Welsh Ministers (see section 7 of the draft Bill).

NO  

Comments: This opens the can of worms that will see campaign after campaign being run to extend the list of banned animals.  Those people who live and work with their animals do not have the time to spend the many hours that are spent by those whose ultimate aim is to end all human animal contact. We will see attempts to remove animal species one by one and attempts to extend the definition beyond anything imagined by the drafters – as always happens.
Question 9:  Do you agree with the definition of “travelling circus”?

 NO  

Comments: Every travelling animal display could be caught in this definition.  No more ferret or hawking displays for instance?
Question 10:  Do you agree with the inclusion of section 4(4) which would allow for regulations to be made to specify types of undertaking, act, entertainment or similar which is to be regarded as a travelling circus? Regulations are to be made by Welsh Ministers (see section 7 of the draft Bill).

 NO  

Comments: As before, regulations made by ministers will be subject to at least the amount of lobbying that is taking place over this draft bill.  The whole point of legislation is to provide certainty.   This will create fear and apprehension in the minds of those whose animal displays are next on the list for the campaigners.
Question 11:  Do you agree with the enforcement provisions detailed in the Schedule?

 NO  

Comments: These seem to have been lifted almost word for word from the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They are just as bad in this legislation.  People find all of their computers, phones, storage items removed.  Their businesses stall and some lose their livelihoods.  The biggest fear is that unqualified RSPCA employees will be appointed as ‘inspectors’.  Is there going to be extra money made available to councils in order to fund and train new council employed inspectors and their activities?  Remember that if all circuses have been driven out of Wales or out of business they will not be available to be milked for funds to run the enforcement regime.

Question 12:  We would like to know your views on the effects the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill would have on the Welsh language, specifically on opportunities for people to use Welsh and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than English. What effects do you think there would be?  How could positive effects be increased, or negative effects be mitigated?

Comments: Injustice and the destruction of yet another animal based activity is the same in any language.

Question 13:  Please also explain how you believe the proposed Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill could be formulated or changed so as to have positive effects or increased positive effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language, and no adverse effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.
Comments:
Question 14:  Any other general comments or observations?

We have asked a number of specific questions. If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please use this space to report them.

Comments: The SHG can only reiterate that it is wrong to legislate without clear benefits and obvious wrongs that need righting.  All that can be suggested across the board is that there might be issues which are already covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and that this is a moral issue down to ethics.  Morals and ethics are matters for individuals.  Wrongs are matters for government.  The Welsh Assembly is straying from its remit.  The proposed ban is wrong for all of the reasons we have mentioned above.

It is a given that if the ban goes ahead the campaigners will move on to other animals and other uses of animals.  

The SHG response to the Consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill

Response ID ANON-WQQA-UFD3-C

Submitted to Consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) BillSubmitted on 2018-01-30 20:01:23

Introduction

1 What is your name?

Name:

Anne Kasica & Ernest Vine

2 What is your email address?

Email:

anne.kasica@the-shg.org

3 Are you replying as an individual or an organisation?

An organisation

4 If you are responding on behalf of an organisation, please let us know which organisation.

Organisation:

The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners & Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG)

Defining ‘sentience’

5 Do you consider that the term ‘sentience’ should be defined explicitly?

Sentience definition – y/n:

Yes

6 If you answered ‘yes’, what definition should we use?

Definition of sentience – explanation:

There is no definition that does not have the potential to include virtually every living creature. The science does not yet agree on what animals are sentient whichever definition is used.

http://www.animal-ethics.org/criteria-for-recognizing-sentience/

Even consciousness is difficult to determine.

http://www.animal-ethics.org/sentience-section/animal-sentience/what-beings-are-conscious/

Failure to define the term will leave it open to interpretation by the courts at the behest of animal rights groups.

We consider the Draft Bill flawed in that it opens the floodgates to Judicial Challenge.

Even if Sentience is defined challenges will be made continually in order to try to add more creatures to the protected list.

Even a mosquito can learn which humans taste the best but modify their feeding according to whether the tastier humans are more likely to swat them. The dictionary definition could, conceivably, lead to a ban on mosquito control.

https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/01/012618-fralin-mosquitolearning.html

See also our submission to the EFRA consultation

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/draft-animal-welfare-sentencing-and-rec (uploaded)

Additional docs – ‘sentience’:

The SHG response to the EFRA Committee Inquiry on the draft Animal Welfare Bill .doc was uploaded

Defining ‘animal’

7 Do you consider that the term ‘animal’ should be defined explicitly?

Animal definition – y/n:

Yes

8 If you answered ‘yes’, what definition should we use?

Definition of animal – explanation:

The dictionary definition could be made to apply to all animals. Evolution ensures that animals react to adverse stimuli in a way designed to protect them from or cause them to avoid harm. Even an amoeba moves away from damaging situations.

If the definition is not exclusive as it always has been it will lead to situation where decisions have to be made whether to de-flea a dog in terms of the relative harm to dog and fleas.

See file already uploaded.

Additional docs – ‘animal’:

No file was uploaded

Defining ‘welfare needs of animals’

9 Do you consider that the term ‘welfare needs of animals’ should be defined explicitly in the clause?

Welfare needs definition – y/n:

Yes

10 If you answered ‘yes’, what definition should be used, and should the list of needs in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 be changed?

Welfare needs – explanation:

We should return to the older terminology ‘unnecessary suffering’.

The list of needs in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 should be abolished. It has led to perfectly healthy and well treated animals being removed and courts listening to hours of expert testimony aimed at proving a point and extending the demands on animal owners.

Even unnecessary suffering is difficult and emotive if those bringing the prosecution believe that the type of animal or activity involved should not be allowed.

An example of what can go wrong is a case we sat in on in Aberystwyth where an RSPCA inspector was talking the Magistrates through a video showing a healthy Staffordshire Bull Terrier wagging its tail and dancing around with its water bowl in its mouth. The Inspector claimed that this was proof that the animal was suffering because it didn’t have water right at that moment. (The water had clearly just been tipped up and was present on the floor). The Chair of the Bench stopped him and asked if that meant that if his dog tipped its water bowl up when he came out to court in the morning he would be committing an offence. The inspector said that yes it was and he would prosecute him unless he did exactly what he told him to. Obviously the Staffie had become excited at the sight of all the visitors and wanted to play and there was no evidence that it had been without water up until then or that it would have been left without water if there had been no raid that day.

Protections intended to cover all situations only work if those enforcing them are working to help those concerned. This is why animal welfare should be enforced by government agencies not campaigning charities.

The SHG believes that the welfare needs of animals should be satisfied if they live a longer and healthier life than their equivalent in the wild. As an extreme example, why should an individual be prosecuted for allowing a tame rat to live in a nest similar to the nest of a wild rat?

The welfare needs of an animal should be assessed as a whole, not whether there has been an infringement of a single technicality while the animal is generally well and happy.

In reality there is an urgent need for a full review of animal welfare legislation now that we are leaving the EU and free to do so. Knee jerk reactions to criticisms by animal rights groups such as the RSPCA leading to piecemeal legislation will only make animal welfare worse and subject to the whims of charity prosecutors.

See SHG submission to EFRA already uploaded.

Additional docs – ‘welfare needs’:

No file was uploaded

Policy scope

11 Do you agree that the draft Bill should apply to all policy areas?

Policy Areas – y/n:

No

12 If you answered ‘no’, why do you not agree with this?

Policy areas – explanation:

The first thing that people who wish to oppose planning permission do is look to see if they can find a protected animal or plant. The first thing that anyone wishing to oppose any government policy will do is try to find a way in which it impinges on protected animals. The Draft Bill creates an opposition charter to delay or destroy government policy.

it is a given that if any Government tries to impose policies that are damaging to animals or animal welfare they will be picked up on and opposed in the same way that Badger culling for TB control has been opposed so it is difficult to understand what extra actual protection this will provide.

Specifying the level of regard

13 Do you agree that the draft Bill should adopt the term ‘should have regard’?

All due regard – y/n:

No

14 If you answered ‘no’, how do you think the level of regard should be specified?

Level of regard:

May have regard would be better. Otherwise every unconnected facet of legislation or policy will have to trawl through the effects it could have on animals. If prison sentences for fraud are increased what will the effect be on the animals the person has care of? If planning permission is granted in open countryside what of the animals that live on the land? As already stated, no government will be given a free ride if they try to impose policies that damage animals or animal welfare so it is difficult to see what can be gained by this legislation.

Overall approach

15 Do you have any views or comments on the consequences of this new duty?

Consequences of new duty :

Disaster in terms of clogging up of court time as every opponent of any aspect of government policy uses it to delay or overturn it. The Victorian Farmers Federation had very strong words to say about a similar move in Victoria Australia:

“chaos in animal production farms and crippled supply chains as a result of a new Victorian laws.”

‘adverse welfare outcomes for animals as production systems are thrown into chaos’’.

‘‘It will render some farm businesses unviable, causing job losses and untold economic damage to regional communities and cripple the supply chains that rely on these businesses.

See http://www.sheppnews.com.au/rural/2018/01/09/126800/vff-slams-new-animal-welfare-laws and SHG response to EFRA already uploaded.

Government and Ministers already have regard for the welfare needs of animals. The public and those with vested interests ensure that anything they consider failure hits the headlines just as the media outrage created by the RSPCA and other animal rights groups promoted this legislation. What more protection is needed?

16 Do you have any views about whether a different formulation or approach might achieve the policy objectives? Views would also be welcome on how the approaches adopted in other countries might apply here.

Different approaches- explanation:

It is not possible to reflect sentience when no definition allows the current state of the science to be applied with certainty to different species.

It would be better if Ministers were to have regard to whether their policies might cause unnecessary suffering to animals in the real world where pest species are culled, commercial, farm and working animals are treated very differently to pet animals, and laboratory animals are regulated differently yet again.

A pet rat, a lab rat and a wild rat all have the same needs and feelings but are treated differently according to their interaction with, impact on and use by humans. If this situation is to continue then the measure has to be that of unnecessary suffering judged by the circumstances of each, not sentience which would demand the same treatment in each case even if a definition of sentience could be determined and applied scientifically.

Help instead of condemnation often produces better results. Surrender of animals rates in Australia have been cut by the simple introduction of a portal that provides help in dealing with problems.
http://www.campaignbrief.com/2018/01/how-rspcas-the-surrender-porta.html

Instead of automatically prosecuting those who find it difficult to afford pet food some jurisdictions are helping and hope to extend the programme to cheap vaccinations and veterinary care soon.
http://www.ajc.com/news/local/home-delivered-meal-clients-receive-food-for-pets/QSN36k7xPWTEkBoCrVWGQM/

And in Texas http://www.mystatesman.com/lifestyles/home–garden/pals-program-brings-veterinary-care-seniors-pets/39r1bVmAI4HihxjJ5WIEEP/

Most RSPCA prosecutions relate to people who are short of money, old or ill and who need help not prosecution. If the policy objective is to help improve the lives

of animals then helping their owners through their difficulties would be a better solution than increasing sentences.

Maximum sentences for animal cruelty

17 Do you agree with the new maximum sentence?

Approval for max. sentence – y/n:

No

18 If you answered ‘no’, can you explain why you do not agree with the new maximum sentence?

Maximum sentences – explanation:

The SHG is in favour of the choice of Crown Court trial in animal welfare cases. We are, however, surprised that, at a time when the prisons are already overcrowded and there is no evidence from those jurisdictions that have already increased the maximum sentence for animal welfare cases that it has done anything to reduce offending, consideration is currently being given to increasing sentences. We note that people still smuggle drugs in countries where the penalty is death or flogging.

Increased penalties were introduced in Queensland, Australia in 2013

http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2013-09-11/nrn-animal-cruelty/4951418

but by 2015 cruelty and neglect cases were at an all time high

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-23/animal-cruelty-cases-in-queensland-at-record-high/6330686

Four years in prison did not deter this incident in South Australia:

“RSPCA South Australia is treating this as a deliberate act of cruelty and is appalled by the incident,” she said.

“Under the Animal Welfare Act, anyone found guilty of aggravated animal ill-treatment could face up to four years in gaol or a $50,000 fine.

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/kitten-rescued-after-found-tied-to-makita-electric-circular-saw-in-river-torrens-at-fulham/news-story/84c08e40db080c5

Penalties for animal cruelty offences in Australia vary state by state http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-are-the-penalties-for-animal-cruelty-offences_271.html

It is interesting that there is no move towards conformity in Australia or evidence that higher sentences lead to lower levels of offending.

We should not be following other countries unless there is clear evidence that their policies have worked to substantially reduce offending rates.

RSPCA prosecutions in England and Wales appear to have decreased steadily over recent years, implying little need for greater deterrents.

If there is to be an increased sentence then it needs to be coupled with a proper government run prosecutions authority. Either animal welfare prosecutions are important or they are not. There is no point in increasing sentences if the organisation running the investigations and prosecutions can do so on a whim in order to further its political agenda or is restricted in the number it can bring by the rate at which donations rise or fall.

The RSPCA are complaining that so far in 2017 just 40 people have received custodial sentences for animal welfare offences.

What does that actually mean?

According to the RSPCA “in 2017 so far (up to 8 December), just 40 people have received immediate jail sentences – 6.5% of the 620 people convicted – having been convicted of an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.” (Quite a drop since in 2016 744 people were successfully prosecuted down by 6.55% on the figures for 2015).
https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/rspca-chiefs-welcome-plans-for-tougher-animal-cruelty-sentences-1-8905753

How does that compare to the percentage of people sent to prison in general? In 2016, 89,812 defendants were given a custodial sentence, representing 7 per cent of all sentences in 2016.
https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/about-sentencing/types-of-sentence/custodial-sentences/

Bear in mind that these figures include those who threw acid at people, committed murder and child abuse or terrorist acts, while the RSPCA prosecution figures include prosecutions of the elderly, disabled, children and poor , often for minor offences such as not killing an elderly much loved animal quickly enough. Overt cruelty cases represent a very small minority of RSPCA prosecutions. Also remember that in a country of nudging 70 million people who keep 8 million cats and 8 million dogs plus assorted other pets plus all of the farm animals etc for the RSPCA to successfully prosecute only 620 people and imprison 40 is either the height of incompetence or a reflection of the amazing care that the people of this country provide for their animals.

The SHG wishes to see animal welfare cases given the opportunity to access Jury trials but without having to face such a high sentence that intense pressure can be put on to a defendant in order to get them to plead guilty to a lesser offence rather than face the risk of attempting to prove their innocence and facing 5

years in jail.

We suggest that introducing a special case whereby animal welfare cases are all triable either way without an increase in sentence might be the way forward, or if sentences are to be increased then increase them to 12 months and see what happens. The statistics indicate that very few people will be affected (unless the RSPCA decides to go on a prosecution binge) and the many irregularities and abuses that are part and parcel of RSPCA prosecutions will be given the chance of proper investigation by the Crown Court.

There is one more thing we could learn from Australia. While the courts have great sentencing power they do not always use it. There is a provision for No Conviction to be recorded. This means that people are not hounded for life by a mistake. We should consider introducing it into our Animal Welfare Act.

For instance a girl who repeatedly kicked a dog was given a
two-year probation order with no conviction recorded unless her probation was breached. She must also take part in counselling and anger management sessions. http://clicklancashire.com/2018/01/15/rocky-dog-kicker-was-victim-of-cyber-bullying-court-hears.html

It should be noted that being involved in legal proceedings has been shown to lead to health problems https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/29/one-in-three-people-with-legal-problems-in-uk-develop-health-issues-report
and that people have been driven to suicide, lost their jobs because of stress or breakdowns, children have been bullied out of school, and some families have even fled the country as a result of RSPCA prosecutions.

As already said, helping people who have got into difficulties would do more for animal welfare than punitive measures.

The SHG submission to the consultation on the review of animal establishments licensing in England

1. The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) was set up over 25 years ago and provides support and legal advice to people who are being investigated or prosecuted for Animal Welfare related offences, including those relating to licensing issues.

Executive Summary

2. The SHG does not believe that licenses do anything to further animal welfare. What they achieve is a layer of bureaucracy that is imposed on all establishments, good or bad, which drains the resources of the licensing authority, be it local authority or UKAS accredited body and which drains the resources of the business on which they are imposed. The SHG believes that those resources will always be much better spent targeting poorly run establishments and responding to complaints than ticking boxes at good establishments.

3. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is clearly sufficient to ensure the welfare of all animals, whether pet or commercial. Licensing of any sort should not be imposed unnecessarily. The SHG therefore proposes that it is for government to show good reason why it is necessary to impose the burden of licensing and why the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA)is insufficient to ensure the welfare of animals in animal establishments without the added regulatory burden of licensing or belonging to a regulatory organisation.

4. Animal Welfare in the UK has suffered from successive governments attempting to obtain it ‘on the cheap’ leaving the regulation to non-governmental bodies whose activities and prosecutions have been severely criticised and the subject of recent and proposed reviews and investigations.

5. The SHG is gravely concerned that these proposals, if not properly policed by local authorities, could lead to yet another shambles as has occurred by government leaving the AWA to be run the way it is instead of properly funding local authorities to carry out the functions they were empowered to do under the Act. We do not wish to see these proposals, if implemented, turned into a political weapon.

6. It should be noted that all of the breach of licensing conditions cases that the SHG has been involved in have been complaint led. The real protectors of animal welfare in animal establishments are the customers of those establishments and members of the public who bring their concerns to the notice of the authorities.

7. The SHG believes that the AWA, if properly policed by adequately funded local authorities protects the welfare of all animals, in or out of establishments, and makes licensing requirements redundant.

Question 1: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to introduce a single Animal Establishment Licence? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

8. The SHG agrees that a single Animal Establishment Licence would cut down on cost and bureaucracy. We question the need for licensing of Animal Establishments. The AWA clearly provides protection for all animals in such establishments. We fail to see what licensing can achieve over and above the existing provisions of the AWA.

9. Most prosecutions that we are aware of relating to Animal Establishments are complaint driven. i.e. members of the public who are either customers of the establishment or people who have had access to the premises approach the authorities with complaints.

10. If there is to be a licence for animal establishments we would prefer to see an open or general licence downloadable from the internet and cost free, the presumption being that these businesses will cater for animal welfare and obey the law. Restrictions could then be imposed on an individual and undoubtedly complaint driven basis. We believe that this would leave good animal establishments free to get on with their businesses and would serve to target resources at those who fall below the expected welfare standards, with prosecution under the AWA as the ultimate sanction.

Question 2: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to promote or require use of the Model Conditions by local authorities, for activities where they have been agreed? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

11. If licensing is to be imposed then it is important that it is imposed equally and fairly across the country. Model Conditions should be introduced for all licensable activities. Local authorities should be required to use them unless they believe that a lighter burden should be placed on Animal Establishments in their area.

Question 3: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to prohibit the sale of puppies below the age of eight weeks? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

12. Blanket prohibitions invariably lead to injustice. What is the owner of a litter of puppies under the age of eight weeks to do if the bitch dies or loses her milk? Or if she rejects the puppies? Where is the benefit in prohibiting the sale of such puppies to prospective owners with the time and dedication to care for them? We would argue that it is far better for that owner to sell the puppies to someone who has the time and interest in raising them than to keep them on simply because of an age prohibition.

Question 4: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to make clear that the statutory licensing threshold for dog breeders is set at three or more litters per year? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

13. We are opposed to statutory licensing of dog breeding. Prosecutions and investigations are invariably complaint driven, be it into licensed or unlicensed breeders. Licensing has not prevented bad breeding .It has not prevented bad environmental conditions or bad animal welfare. What it had done is put up the cost of puppies and make dogs a scarce commodity in the UK. This is why so many dogs are imported for sale by businesses and charities and why they find it profitable to do so with prices for many dogs being hundreds or thousands of pounds.

14. We note that DEFRA does not differentiate between those dogs imported by businesses and those imported by charities, and that charities like the RSPCA regularly import dogs for sale despite their claims that there is a dog overpopulation problem.
https://theshg.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/does-the-irresponsible-importation-of-puppies-and-dogs-by-charities-like-the-rspca-endanger-every-dog-in-the-uk/

15. Three litters a year does not give those who breed for show sufficient leeway. Five litters per year was reasonable. Again the difficulty is in the attempt to force a one size fits all legislation onto breeds which differ so greatly in the number of puppies born in a litter.

16. How can it be fair or reasonable to expect a show breeder whose dogs produce one or two pups per litter to adhere to the same restrictions imposed on a breeder whose dogs produce twelve or more pups per litter? Especially when they are breeding in order to obtain show winning stock?

Question 5: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to legally require pet sales to provide written information when selling animals? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

17. Anyone buying an animal online and wishing to find information detailing how to keep that animal is spoilt for choice in the age of the internet. Most pet shops in the High Street already carry a range of informative literature and booklets available for people to buy. All of them are willing to offer advice and help. It seems draconian to force each sale to be accompanied by literature when the person buying the animal may well be an experienced keeper of that type of animal. We should be encouraging businesses to produce less printed paper, not more.

18. We suggest that there is no evidence that most people either do not know how to care for the animals they buy, or are unable to obtain that advice if needed.

19. It would be far more environmentally friendly for pet shops to be required to offer either written information or links to online sources of information rather than for each animal to be accompanied by a batch of unwanted and unnecessary paperwork that will find its way into the rubbish bin.

Question 6: What other proportionate measures could address concerns around the care of exotic animals?

20. We do not believe that exotic animals suffer more disproportionately than other types of animal simply because the people who go to buy them have either already done their homework or take advice from the seller.

21. Perhaps the biggest problem in all of this has been the move to drive pet sales from pet shops in the high street. A move promoted by the animal rights industry that was intended to cut the numbers of animals kept by people and which has had a detrimental effect on animal welfare. Physical pet shops selling animals should be encouraged and given special incentives. It is not when animals are in the eye of the ever-vigilant public that they suffer, it is when they are hidden away that things can get out of hand.

22. If there are concerns about the care of any type of animal perhaps those charities or organisations who express the concerns would obtain better results by running advertising campaigns detailing the proper care of those animals instead of campaigning to get the keeping of them banned.

Question 7: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to allow licences to be issued for a fixed term, set at any point in the year? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

23. Agreed. Licenses that run from fixed points in the year encourage people to wait for that point in order to get the full year. They penalise those who apply shortly before the start of the new licensing period.

24. If licenses are to be issued for fixed terms then it is only reasonable for them to run from the time of application rather than the beginning of the year regardless of when they are applied for. This is financially beneficial for all concerned.

Question 8: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to increase the maximum length of a licence that local authorities may issue to up to three years? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer

25. We agree with the move away from yearly licensing. We would prefer to see local authorities authorised to give much longer licenses than three years. Perhaps an automatic incremental increase from three years to five to seven unless there is good reason to suspend that process for any individual business.

26. Alternatively, if there is to be a licence for animal establishments, we would prefer to see an open or general licence downloadable from the internet and cost free, the presumption being that businesses will cater for animal welfare and obey the law. Restrictions could then be imposed on an individual and undoubtedly complaint driven basis. We believe that this would leave good animal establishments free to get on with their businesses and would serve to target resources at those who fall below the expected welfare standards, with prosecution under the AWA as the ultimate sanction.

27. Clearly the costs of our proposals would be far less for all concerned except for those animal establishments that failed to provide for adequate animal welfare

Question 9: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to allow licence holders to transfer licences to new owners of the same premises, subject to notification of and approval by the local authority? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

28. Agreed. This allows people who have built up thriving businesses more opportunity to cash in the equity they have built up.

Question 10: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to require licence holders to notify local authorities of major changes, such as a change of premises or scale of activities? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

29. The difficulty here is what constitutes a ‘major’ change in scale of activities? A doubling in turnover? Someone selling one dog a year could hardly be claimed to have created a major change in the scale of their activities by selling two dogs a year, but someone selling a hundred dogs a year moving on to sell two hundred dogs in a year might have done.

30. We would expect all successful businesses to grow in scale. The length of license should take that probability into account.

31. If an animal establishment is licensed then it is acceptable for it to notify the local authority of change of premises.

32. There should be a defining list of what is considered to constitute a ‘major’ notifiable change should this proposal be implemented, otherwise it will lead to uncertainty and inevitable appeals and challenges.

Question 11: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to maintain the registration requirement for performing animals? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

33. The SHG is opposed to registration on the grounds that the AWA is perfectly adequate to provide the correct protection for every animal. We note that no examples have been given as examples of situations in which registration or licensing would protect an animal but the AWA would not.

Question 12: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed changes to the registration system for performing animals? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

34. We do not see any reason for these animals to be registered. We do not see any gain from changing the regulations to refer to the welfare requirements in the AWA because the AWA already applies to these animals. If there is any reason to believe that these animals are either neglected or suffering in any way then the AWA provides adequate protections.

35. Again we would expect any investigation or enforcement to be complaint driven, more so because these animals are regularly exhibited in the public domain

36. If the registration requirement is to be kept then we hope that the same protections in terms of powers of entry are applied since many performing animals live in the homes of the performers who own and perform with them.

Question 13: To what extent do you agree or disagree with these proposals on powers of entry? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

37. We agree with the proposals but believe that they do not go far enough.

38. There should be restrictions on the identity of the four people allowed entry. They should not include politically campaigning organisations. Those allowed entry should be employees of the licensing authority with the exception of a veterinary surgeon if one is not available within the employ of the licensing authority. We would however prefer that DEFRA vets be used.

39. Warrants should not be obtained at the behest of third parties.

40. There should be a list of reasons deemed likely to defeat the purposes of entry that can be used to justify failing to provide notification of intention to apply for a warrant, and notification should be provided in writing with reasonable time given to volunteer access.

41. If a warrant is used without prior notification then it should be served in normal business hours and time given for a solicitor or vet of choice to be obtained by the person responsible for the premises, or the person in charge of the premises at the time.

Question 14: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposal to allow an exemption from licensing requirements for businesses affiliated to a body accredited by UKAS? Please provide any comments or evidence to support your answer.

42. Using the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) as an example of self regulation is, at best, misleading. The GBGB is essentially a continuation of the National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) whose remit had always been the regulation of those aspects of greyhound training and racing affiliated to it. Indeed, it would have been surprising if the GBGB had failed in any way, but the success of an existing regulatory body with many years experience is not indicative of the prospective success of newly formed regulatory bodies with aims that might range from empire building through a light animal welfare regulatory regime to keeping the local authority off their members backs.

43. We fail to see any benefit in the licensing of animal establishments in terms of animal welfare but we are concerned that the likely outcome of UKAS registered bodies set up to bypass local authority licensing will create safe havens for those businesses and organisations large and powerful enough to put together such self regulatory bodies. If initial complaints are to be dealt with by such bodies it is likely to be detrimental to animal welfare by preventing or delaying any oversight from the local authority in its capacity as an inspector under the AWA.

44. Even with licensing irregularities, the majority of cases we have been involved in have been complaint driven, either by customers of the organisation involved or by members of the public reporting something they have seen. The only achievement of licensing itself is to provide a range of regulatory offences to bring against the people concerned. Animal welfare issues and access are all capable of being dealt simply and efficiently via the AWA which begs the question of the need to over-egg the regulatory pudding if the aim is less burdensome regulation.

45. The main problem with report led investigations is that those organisations who prevent public access to their premises are able to hide any wrongdoing. For instance it is virtually impossible to see what happens to animals in RSPCA centres and yet animals in prosecution cases have been injured and died.

The chief concern about self regulation would be for any self run body providing protection for its own with the public excluded, and no opportunity for oversight whatsoever.

Question 15: Do you think sector-led UKAS-accredited certification schemes could improve animal welfare in unlicensed areas? If so, what would work best and how could this process be encouraged?

46. We do not believe that any such scheme can improve animal welfare in unlicensed areas. If anything it will only make it worse by leading to less scrutiny and a false veneer of respectability.

47. If regulation and licensing are too burdensome for unlicensed areas such as animal sanctuaries, whey are they not too burdensome for other areas such as small dog breeding operations? Some sanctuaries and rescues are essentially big businesses with larger turnover than many pet shops or dog breeding establishments. They import animals for sale. A minimum donation is nothing less than a sale fee. A genuine charity or rescue would be only too willing to see the animals in their care find a good home irrespective of sale price.

Anne Kasica & Ernest Vine
on behalf of The SHG