Animal Rights and Wrongs.com, along with my other blog: animalrightsandwrongs.uk. are predominately animal welfare focused websites and have over 150 articles on pet-keeping, animal welfare, rights and law issues. Read more articles on the main site by using this link: Animal Rights & Wrongs UK


Showing posts with label UK animal law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK animal law. Show all posts

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

The urgent need to inspect and licence private animal rescues

Dogs looking out at camera from behind wire enclosure

Amazingly anyone without prior proven experience or capability can operate an animal rescue.

Over the last couple of decades there has been a proliferation of smaller charities and private organisations operating rescue re-homing centres and sanctuaries all working to their own agendas, often founded by well-meaning people, disappointed by the perceived ineffectiveness of the long-established larger national charities which they accuse of squandering money on staffing and administration costs. This is happening all over the world.

Most have an ethos of accepting any animal offered to them to ‘save’ as many as possible regardless of whether they have the proper facilities, staffing or finance to look after them adequately.

Many of these charities often go under through lack of volunteers or finance and the owners fail to seek help soon enough causing horrendous suffering, starvation and death by their “saviours”. It is a common problem the world over. Recent examples include a rescue on the island of Malaga where a hundred starving dogs were found and a horse rescue in Queensland, Australia was raided by Police who found dozens of starving horses.

In the UK, alarmingly and amazingly, anyone, regardless of experience or ability, can set up such an enterprise. They are totally unregulated with no controls, inspections or licensing involved and this can and does result in animals that are supposedly being saved from substandard care and euthanasia being kept in similar or worse conditions. 

These rescues often become overrun with animals.

They are often one-man-bands operating on a shoe-string from the backyards or premises of the founders with few volunteers and back-up. Some begin through a form of hoarding whereby a person starts by rescuing a few dogs or cats and then decides it would be fun to turn it into a rescue or sanctuary not realising the implications, cost and responsibilities involved.

These centres are often in a position of becoming overrun with breeds that are the craze of the moment and of having to find homes for them as quickly as possible. This can lead to less stringent rules and policies on the suitability of new owners and animals can sometimes be given to owners that are questionable.

When we give money and support these smaller independently run animal charities we do not seem to investigate how well operated the charity is, what its aims are, its achievements and its expertise. Unless we are a volunteer or live locally to the charity we do not even make a visit. We are normally satisfied by the cute pictures they publish and the literature they produce. If they say they are saving animals, we are happy.

Many who trumpet that all their donated money goes to the animals often struggle to survive as they have no reserves to weather periods when donations dry up and find themselves unable to provide adequately for those in their care. This is particularly so with sanctuaries which keep them for life without attempting to find them new owners. The numbers build up to a point where the premises become overloaded and out of control with the helpers unable to give suitable housing and adequate care.

The Charity Commission has no remit to concern itself with welfare.

It often reaches a state where visitors or volunteers find themselves forced to report them to the authorities, which if they are a registered charity, is the Charity Commission. Unfortunately, the Commission are neither interested or have the powers to intervene when it involves welfare issues, only in monetary and trustee contraventions. Although local authorities and the police can intervene on welfare matters, the Commission is quick to pass the buck to the RSPCA.

This is highlighted by a recent case in 2017 involving the Capricorn Animal rescue where the Commission investigation report states:

“The [Charity] Commission is aware that the charity has been the subject of concerns from members of the public relating to the welfare of animals in the charity’s care; this does not fall within the Commission’s remit and concerns on this matter should be directed to the RSPCA.”

Placing the burden on yet another charity to investigate a similar charity is not an acceptable course of action particularly when the RSPCA is constantly accused of misuse of power and involving itself in legal matters which are perceived beyond their remit.

When other charities fail it is difficult to find other facilities for the animals. This burden normally falls on the major charities who are the only ones who have the means and logistics to step in, but this obviously places a burden onto them.

The new “Lucy” Law could encourage illicit animal rescues.

The new “Lucy law” which will ban the breeding and sale of puppies and kittens except from licensed breeders and animal charities could still leave an opening for unscrupulous traders.   The clamp down may cause a ‘shortage’ of available puppies and kittens which could increase the number of imported animals from foreign lands and encourage the setting up of pseudo rescue organisations.This has happened in the USA with imported rescue dogs.

With so many animal re-homing charities springing up, the control, regulation and inspection of these premises is an issue which urgently requires Government action before it gets totally out of control. Benefactors should also take a long hard look before donating and always be extremely careful to satisfy themselves of the soundness of the organisation.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Reporting animal cruelty in the UK. Who should you call?


Ask most people who they first think of to report animal cruelty and you can almost guarantee they will answer RSPCA or SSPCA. Ask them who they think is legally responsible for investigating and prosecuting animal abuse and you will probably get the same answer. But this is not the case as they have only become the default agency because those who should be responsible are unable or unwilling to cope.
Many people do not realise that there are other authorities who should be doing the job including including the police, local authorities and DEFRA, who are often happy to decry the RSPCA but have little interest themselves, as it is an expensive and specialist area of law enforcement.

When the government introduced the all-encompassing new Animal Welfare Act 2006 they failed to appoint anyone to enforce it.

There is also a misplaced conviction that the Society has mythical powers of arrest, forced entry and seizure when the sad truth is that they have no powers at all. Their is little appetite amongst the other authorities who get involved such as the Police and local authorities as they feel they do not have a statutory duty to bother. With no one else apparently capable of doing the job it is lucky the RSPCA has stepped into the breach. But not everyone sees it that way and police authorities, judges, the media and legal profession regularly condemn the RSPCA and state that there is a conflict of interest and they have muscled their way into becoming the default agency.
Ironically there would be little or no investigation or prevention of animal cruelty without their input as they prosecute over 90% of cases taken under the Animal Welfare Act, 2006 and they are the only organisation that collects statistics on cruelty, so without them we would not even know the level of animal abuse in the country. Basically the Police, our local authorities and the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) should be playing a bigger role. Recently there has been a lot of hand wringing at suggestions of giving legal powers to the RSPCA even though most other countries have gone down this route successfully.
The National Police Chiefs Authority have stated that: ‘Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 there is no one agency that is held responsible or accountable for enforcement of animal welfare. This means there are inconsistencies, however the Police, local authorities and animal welfare charities do seek to work together to deal with serious cruelty to animals.’ 

So what is the real situation and who should you contact.

Reporting animal cruelty to to the Police.

If you call a Police call centre they will usually automatically refer you to the RSPCA, but you should insist they attend if it is an emergency situation. The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) stated they are happy to: signpost reports of animal welfare to the RSPCA and only provide a police response in emergency cases’.
In all fairness the Police are overstretched and in reality are out of their depth or comfort zone when it comes to animal cruelty issues. Many officers no doubt have the attitude that they have better things to do. They also admit that their front-line officers rarely use or even know about the Act and many forces rely on a few ‘specialist’ dog and wildlife crime officers to deal with animals.

Reporting Animal Cruelty to DEFRA.

You can report many aspects of cruelty to the local Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who are tasked with most aspects of the care, welfare and transport of livestock, slaughterhouses and animals in general, but the number of inspectors and inspections is woefully inadequate.
In 2016 they only managed to visit  1,676  farms out of  362,151 that were due inspection for animal welfare  just 0.46%. The potential for missed cases of suffering is huge.

Reporting animal cruelty to local authorities.

Local government authorities, usually the environmental health department inspectors, are responsible for licensing animal premises and welfare in dog breeding, pet shops, riding stables and most places where animal are kept. Like the Police they have no statutory duty to enforce the Animal Welfare Act.
But the Animal Welfare Act has discretionary powers for national and local authorities to appoint ‘inspectors’, but because of the cost and training required only 60% did so when the law was introduced, with many withdrawing them over the last decade due to the costs involved, and of these only 17% had inspectors dealing with companion animals.

Other Animal Charities.

Straying into areas involving campaigning against and prosecuting animal cruelty is contentious as well as expensive and risks alienating donors so most animal charities steer well clear and prefer instead to concentrate on the aftermath of irresponsible ownership and ill-treatment of animals.
Different in Scotland
Scotland approaches the subject differently and the Scottish SPCA (SSPCA) is designated a ‘Specialist Reporting Agency’, who report the facts of a case of cruelty to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. And it is they who decide whether the evidence warrants a prosecution and is in the ‘public interest’. In this way it protects the SSPCA from any criticism or blame of victimisation or conflict of interest.
Many believe this is the way forward and ensures an independent and unbiased approach, but in reality, with all authorities already giving cruelty a low priority because of funding restraints and staffing, and having a differing viewpoint from those who deal with cruelty daily, it would undoubtedly result in very few prosecutions being taken or deterrent to those who harm animals.
The easy solution would be to give the RSPCA more powers, the road many other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA have gone down, but in our land of animal lovers we don’t seem to be able to get our head round the idea.