Review of the England-wide dog strategy – an update
Tuesday 20 November 2018 16:00-17:30
Committee Room G, House of Lords
Attendees: Angela Smith MP (Chair), Lord Trees (Co-Chair), Giles Watling MP (Vice-Chair), Theresa Villiers MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Chris Laurence (CFSG), Dave Allen (North Wales Police), Tim Morris (AHWB), David Bowles (RSPCA), Ed Hayes (Kennel Club), Issy Cooke (Kennel Club), Morgan Brobyn (Battersea Dogs & Cats Home), Michael Webb (Battersea Dogs & Cats Home), Becky Thwaites (Blue Cross), Richard Woodward (Blue Cross), Anoushka Luboff (Cruelty Free International), Mandy Ryan (BVA), Daniella Dos Santos (BVA), Cordelia Britton (Four Paws), Irene Rizzo (Four Paws), Kerry Postlewhite (Cruelty Free International), Gemma Chaters (Lord Trees’s Office), Elizabeth Forbes (Vet), Nicole Paley (PfMA), Claire Calder (Dogs Trust), Arthur Thomas (IFAW), Sonul Badiani-Hamment (World Animal Protection), James Legge, (Countryside Alliance), Tanya Madden (Mayhew), Caroline Yates (Mayhew), Andrew Gillet (CLA), Charlie Napier (World Dog Alliance)
Apologies: Kerry McCarthy MP, Dominic Whitmee (OATA), Vicki Betton (PDSA), Caroline Spence, Kevin Flack (IFAW), Alison Glennon (NOAH), Nigel Baker (PiF)
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare held a meeting on 20th November 2018 to discuss an update to the Group’s England-wide dog strategy (produced in 2015). Angela Smith chaired the meeting, and proposed a focus on responsible dog ownership, before requesting an update from the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG).
Responsible dog ownership
Chris Laurence from the CFSG gave an update presentation on how to get the principles of responsible dog ownership over to dog owners, saying:
- A working group on responsible dog ownership has been set up, with 6 basic principles of being a responsible dog owner: microchipping and having up to date details, the protection of dogs’ health, happy dogs with suitable diets, sufficient socialisation and training, ensuring the dog is under control, not a threat or nuisance, and respectful dog owners so communities welcome them and their dog.
- The CFSG is now looking at how to get those principles over to dog owners, but there is a resistant group. The CFSG is now looking at using behavioural insights techniques, possibly with funds from Defra but there will also be a reliance on other sources of income which CFSG are looking into.
Representatives from Dog’s Trust, RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and Giles Watling MP discussed the behavioural change campaign and the Scottish Government’s work on responsible dog ownership, and it was agreed that the campaign was a good example of best practice, as well as how Government and organisations can work together, but that such a campaign would require a significant amount of funding.
There was also a discussion of how to measure the outcomes of such a campaign, with suggestions including keeping a record of those who have bought puppies and cross referencing that where there is later a reported issue, vets asking questions on how puppies were procured, tracking puppy contracts, and local authorities keeping better records of complaints, which could allow better indicative numbers and trends.
The CFSG acknowledged these suggestions and stated that an outside agency looking into the behavioural change project would be able to offer different ways to measure outcomes. On timelines, the CFSG said that the working group has had 3 meetings on this and a steering group update takes place this week, with the full group approached in early December.
The Chair noted that there was general interest in this topic and that the CFSG should look at the data, the baseline and the measurement of progress, with a further update to be given to the APPG in 6-8 months.
The Chair updated the Group on progress in relation to livestock worrying, stating that a meeting with the Minister had taken place over the summer, and a commitment secured to explore issues relating to data and making livestock worrying a recordable crime, as well as an exploration of whether the Dangerous Dogs Act is applicable to livestock worrying incidents and if cases could be brought against individuals.
The APPG then heard from Dave Allen from North Wales Police:
- A working group has been set up between Government, police and interested parties to look at livestock worrying and livestock attacks.
- It has been suggested that section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 could be used to help prosecute owners in the case of livestock worrying (with reference to s10 defining the term ‘dangerously out of control’).
The Chair stated that the recordability of the crime is key in this regard, and that the Dangerous Dogs Act may need amending via statutory instrument in order to become applicable to livestock worrying. Representatives from AHWB and CFSG suggested that what was needed was a holistic view of dog control legislation, with prevention being much better than cure, but sufficient punishments being in place to dissuade irresponsible dog ownership.
The Chair agreed that clarifications to the law would need to come from Ministers, and that the Group should write to the relevant Minister seeking that clarification.
The Chair then turned the discussion to the rapid disappearance of small and medium-sized abattoirs, and its knock on effects on animal welfare. Co-Chair Lord Trees provided an update:
- This discussion was brought about by the recent requirement for CCTV in abattoirs, with a suggestion it might cost money and lead to closures.
- There are also wider issues of financial sustainability of niche abattoirs, with the process being a costly one.
- There is scope for the procedure to face changes after Brexit, for example over who needs to be present.
The APPG agreed that they needed a specific working group to provide data across this subject area, evidence that SME abattoirs are good for animal welfare, and some evidence on the impact of CCTV legislation on the broader viability of abattoirs. It was also agreed that a letter reminding the Minister of the APPG’s communications on this issue should be drafted, as well as a probing amendment being tabled for the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords, to get on record a Ministerial response to possibly having money paid out as a public good for animal welfare in abattoirs.
The Chair asked for an update from the Dog’s Trust on the issue of puppy smuggling, with the Trust stating:
- The Dog’s Trust’s 4th report on puppy smuggling included reports from Serbia, a country outside of the EU with different disease control regulations.
- Similar issues of falsifying vet passports and declaring puppies older than they are in reality, as well as a variety of other tactics from transporters.
- Seizures have plummeted, and Brexit should be used as an opportunity to review the legislation, although domestic legislation, for example on penalties, is also important.
Sir Roger Gale MP asked a question about domestic puppy farming, raising the issue of the plight of the bitches, and suggesting this often takes a backseat to puppies, but that more needs to be done to address the issue of the poor conditions that bitches are kept in in the UK. It was agreed by the Chair, Lord Trees and representatives from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home that standards must be enforced considering the high demand for puppies in this country, but that puppy farming with good standards of health and welfare should be worked towards, in particular telling the story so that the public know where their puppies are from.
The Chair also referenced a recommendation from the EFRA Committee that there should be a central register for training, inspection and licensing.
- CFSG to give APPG an update on responsible dog ownership work in 6-8 months.
- The APPG to write to the Minister to ask for clarification on where amendments to the law should be made so that s3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act can be applied to livestock worrying.
- An APPG working group should be set up to gather evidence on the financial viability of abattoirs, their benefits for animal welfare and the regulatory burden they face.
- The APPG to write to the Minister reminding him of an earlier letter on abattoirs and asking for a response.
- A probing amendment to be tabled in the House of Lords to look at money being available for abattoirs as a public good under the Agriculture Bill.
- Date and topic of next meeting to be agreed and distributed in January.
I’ve amended these two as I think this is what was meant. Am I right?