The government’s roll-out of its recently published animal welfare action plan continues at pace.
Yesterday, an Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons. The Bill aims to combat livestock worrying and puppy smuggling, restrict live animal exports, improve zoo regulations and licence keeping primates as pets .
On the face of it these proposals are positive for farming and shooting interests. However, BASC’s political and policy teams are reviewing the details for unintended consequences. And where concerns arise, we will be briefing MPs accordingly.
So, from an initial analysis, what proposals are of most relevance to shooting?
People venturing into the countryside with their semi-trained dogs, causing havoc for farmers and shoots, is nothing new for many of us. However, based on feedback from BASC members, Covid restrictions have seen more dogs and more people visiting the countryside and exacerbating the problem.
Since last year, most of us have seen a significant increase in first-time dog owners shouting ineffectively at their young dogs, as they rampage away from public rights of way across fields of livestock, through game cover and even disrupting shoot day preparations.
The Bill proposes to clamp down on livestock worrying by dogs in England and Wales by increasing the scope of livestock species and locations legally covered and increasing police enforcement powers. This includes enclosed deer and game birds.
UK consumer demand for dogs has fuelled puppy smuggling in recent years. The work from home requirements because of Covid has seen incidents of dog theft and puppy smuggling rise up the agenda. This has had a knock-on effect on gundog sales and ownership.
A recent BASC dog theft survey found that there was an overriding sense (81 per cent) that the police do not have enough, or the correct resources, to tackle dog theft.
So, will the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill tackle puppy smuggling and dog theft?
The Bill proposes limiting the number of pet animals that may enter Great Britain in a motor vehicle to five during a single non-commercial movement.
Restrictions are also proposed for pets below a specified age, more than a specified number of days pregnant, or if they have been ‘mutilated’. Exact details have yet to be given, including whether ‘mutilated’ could mean tail docking.
The above proposals may reduce puppy smuggling but will they unfairly penalise legitimate gundog breeders? That is an area we are looking into.
The Bill does not address the dog theft epidemic and there could well be space for it. We have been in discussion with Defra about its new dog theft task force. We will also be reviewing the Bill with amendments in mind to improve enforcement powers and resources for the police to tackle dog theft – drawing on the results of our recent dog theft survey.
On the face of it this proposal will not affect any BASC members, but as always, the devil is in the detail.
The Bill proposes a licensing system for anyone keeping the likes of chimpanzees and other primates as pets to ensure their welfare needs are being looked after. However, the Bill authorises the Secretary of State to extend this licensing system by regulations to other wild animals. There is no definition of ‘wild animal’ currently and we are looking into this.
Your views and feedback on the new Bill and its proposals are always welcome. We would especially like to hear of examples of gamebird worrying, as it will build the case for its inclusion within the Bill. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org