Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence


Evidence before the Committee (Questions 580-599)

WEDNESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2003

580.  Does the London Borough of Wandsworth have expertise in the issue of dog-walking?

(Mr Stratton) Well, I believe we do, yes.

581.  The question was put to you, I think, by the Committee of what if a professional dog-walker is refused a licence. Are you with me?

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

582.  Is there a right of appeal?

(Mr Stratton) There is a right of appeal. They could go to the magistrates' court, they could apply to their local councillor or they could approach a committee formally with a petition.

583.  Is there anything to stop him walking four dogs?

(Mr Stratton) No.

584.  MR CLARKSON: Those are all the questions I have, thank you very much.

585.  CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I think this is a convenient time to break for lunch and we will re-assemble at 1.30.

The witness withdrew

After a short adjournment

586.  MR CLARKSON: Can I make one point which is that Mr Stratton was asked this morning whether he could produce anything from files. It is going to take a very long time to do that is his advice to us and there is absolutely no chance of getting anything here today, so can I ask the Committee's indulgence and should he stop or go on or would the Committee take an overview as to what may or may not happen with a dog running wild on a common?

587.  CHAIRMAN: I am sure that Mr Stratton would not have advanced his argument if he had not the evidence to back it up, so we can leave that.

588.  MR CLARKSON: I am very grateful.

589.  MR MUNDY: I hope to be brief. I have two witnesses this afternoon, Mr David Cavill and Mrs Caroline Kisko, and I propose to take Mr Cavill now, if that is convenient.

MR DAVID CHARLES CAVILL, Sworn

Examined by MR MUNDY

590.  MR MUNDY: You are David Charles Cavill?

(Mr Cavill) I am.

591.  Could you explain please your role at the Pet Care Trust.

(Mr Cavill) Yes, I was elected to the committee of the Pet Care Trust in 1993. Trustees are those people who are prominent in the world of animal care and who have a professional interest in the animal care and the world of pet animals, small companion animals, that is. I have actually been involved in the pet care industry for over 30 years and have experience of many different aspects. While on the Pet Care Trust, I have been chairman of the Kennels and Catteries Sub-Committee and worked on the model licence conditions with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the veterinary profession to develop codes of practice and guidance for environmental health officers while they are licensing kennels and catteries. I am also the co-ordinator of the Animal Care College and I am delighted to say that some of Mr Stratton's staff have taken some of our courses, I think.

592.  You represent the Pet Care Trust today, so can you please give a brief explanation of the role of the Trust.

(Mr Cavill) Well, the Trust is a charity and its objective is to promote the keeping of pet animals by those who want to own them on the grounds that there is very clear evidence that owning pets is good for people, and there is a great deal of evidence to that effect. It is the only charity with this objective. Most charities and organisations within the animal care world are protective and welfare charities, which is fine. We work very, very closely with them, but the Pet Care Trust is committed to ensuring the health and welfare of animals kept as pets throughout their lives and we have a whole series of codes of practice and educational programmes for all those individuals and organisations in the sector. We also work very closely with other groups in the industry which include the Dog Legislation Advisory Group, the NCDL, the Blue Cross and the Kennel Club of course.

593.  Could you explain to the Committee precisely what the Dog Legislation Advisory Group does? It is called DLAG?

(Mr Cavill) Yes, that is right. Some years ago because there was so much concern about the Dangerous Dogs Act and it was felt that it was perhaps too rigid in the way in which it was being used by various organisations, virtually all the educational and welfare charities got together, and the Pet Care Trust was one, to form the Dangerous Dogs Act Reform Group. It was led by a peer and over a period of six years some small amendments were made to the Dangerous Dogs Act which means that it now works not perfectly, but much more effectively than it did. When that amendment was passed it was felt by many members that the group had been so useful and so successful in the way it had enabled us all to work very closely together, enabled us all to face the same direction, as it were, that we agreed that we should try and continue it. In fact at that stage the Kennel Club picked up the secretariat and we became the Dog Legislation Advisory Group which monitors things like this.

594.  Could you just repeat the current membership of it?

(Mr Cavill) I have not got the list with me, but off the top of my head, the Blue Cross, the RSPCA, the Kennel Club, the Pet Care Trust, the NCDL and the Dog Wardens Association.

595.  And in relation to this Bill, could you just briefly summarise the position of those bodies with respect to your and the Kennel Club's Petition against it?

(Mr Cavill) Of course. The Pet Care Trust was originally alerted to this legislation which was being proposed through the Private Bill and brought it to the attention of DLAG. The Kennel Club were also extremely concerned about its impact on pet owners and it was brought to DLAG and it was agreed by DLAG that the Pet Care Trust and the Kennel Club would be the organisations that would actually underwrite the Petition.

596.  And DLAG now continues to work closely on general issues with DEFRA?

(Mr Cavill) With many. DLAG works with many. It works closely with the Metropolitan Police on the way in which dogs are seized, for instance. It is working with DEFRA on the development of a number of issues within the pet animal area and we monitor the European Convention on Pet Animals and DEFRA's Bill that they are currently preparing on animal welfare.

597.  And you have good relations and contacts with them?

(Mr Cavill) Excellent, I have to say, excellent.

598.  As a brief summary, can you explain the principal points of concern that the Trust has with clause 14 and the provisions within it?

(Mr Cavill) Well, we are mainly concerned with the effects that this legislation will have on private citizens who own more than four dogs. We are concerned that Wandsworth Council, whom we respect greatly, I should say, and they have done a great deal of very good work in terms of the way in which dogs are looked after within their borough, but we are very concerned that they have perhaps not provided enough evidence that this particular situation is a serious problem. We recognise that there may be a problem, but we do not think that it needs this particular sledgehammer to crack what is a relatively small nut. We think that the Bill's provisions, because of the way in which it is phrased, will be applied inconsistently across the different boroughs because the different boroughs will have a great deal of latitude in the way in which they use that legislation, particularly in terms of the licensing fees, for instance, and the areas, the numbers. It is a very loose piece, if you will forgive me for saying so. We do not think the approach is sensible and we do not think that it will work, to be honest, given the fact that Wandsworth does have excellent provision. They have not cracked it, but I do not think that this will crack it if it is the problem that they say it is. There has been no public or industry-based consultation. We were alerted to this by our parliamentary agents and there was no involvement with other interest groups who are likely to be affected across London and, if this legislation is enacted, possibly picked up by other private bills going through in the other cities.

599.  Is that unusual, that lack of consultation?

(Mr Cavill) Well, I have to say that the whole world of animal care and welfare has not been well served by government over many years, but there is no doubt that in recent years, in the last ten, I think probably since the Dangerous Dogs Act came into force and that was seen to be perhaps a knee-jerk reaction, a great deal of consultation now takes place between DEFRA and the veterinary profession and the vast majority of organisations that might be involved in any legislation or regulation.


 
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