Memorandum submitted by the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health
Founded in 1883, the Chartered Institute of
Environmental Health (CIEH) is a professional and education body,
dedicated to the promotion of environmental health and to encouraging
the highest possible standards in the training and the work of
environmental health professionals.
The Chartered Institute has approximately 9,000
members, most of whom work for local authorities in England, Wales
and Northern Ireland. As well as providing services and information
to its members, the Chartered Institute provides information to
government departments and evidence to them on proposed legislation
relevant to environmental health.
Members of the Chartered Institute working for
local authorities are responsible for a range of animal welfare
related issues and services including licensing of pet shops,
animal boarding establishments, riding establishments, dangerous
wild animals, dog breeding etc.
1.1 In responding to the Committee's consultation
document, CIEH is pleased to record its wholehearted support of
the need for legislative review.
1.2 Animal legislation is old and couched
in language of yesteryear, and often deals with the problems of
the day. Changes with time usually reflect a change in legal requirements.
Besides the considerable change in volumes and types of species
now kept by people in this country, there has also been a change
in the need for animal welfare. This is an increasing demand which
until now has not been met by legislation, and the CIEH welcomes
the Bill as a major step forward.
1.3 In our response we have outlined a number
of general statements, albeit with some reservations over the
detail of the Bill. These arise from comments made to us by our
members with a particular interest and expertise in animal welfare
issues, and are based on their experiences of dealing with the
existing legislation on a day-to-day basis.
1.4 The CIEH is willing to offer its assistance
to Government in furthering the aims of improving animal welfare
as part of the debate that lies ahead.
2. THE NEED
2.1 As we have previously stated in our
response to the Defra consultation paper on animal welfare reform
in May 2002, we feel that the current laws are fragmented and
unclear in their aims. They have been introduced over a long period
of time and in a piecemeal manner, often as a result of Private
Members Bills. As a result, particular problems are dealt with,
while the overall picture is lost. Prior to this draft Bill, there
has been no cohesive view about animal welfare, and inadequate
guidance to Local Authorities. We consider that the Bill will
afford local authority officers significantly greater powers to
prevent and alleviate animal suffering and bring sanctions against
those found guilty of abuse and cruelty.
2.2 Current deficiencies have resulted in
a wide variety of enforcement levels which are affected by the
vagaries of local conditions. By and large, the CIEH supports
less, but more effective and streamlined regulation and feel that
the Bill is consistent with this objective, although certain proposals
do give us cause for concern in this regard (see paragraph 3.6
2.3 Local authorities suffering competing
demands for scarce resources often view animal welfare as a low
priority. Demands on staff costs mean that part time officials
are asked to deal with a subject that may be new to them. Training
is inconsistent and is often not to an agreed standard. As a result,
these variations are seen as inconsistent by the trade, with different
standards applied in different areas.
2.4 The task of the Bill must surely therefore
be to address these inconsistencies and establish a more coherent
basis for the reform and enforcement of animal welfare law. We
believe that the draft Bill largely achieves this objective, although
we do have one or two practical reservations that we would wish
to draw to the Committee's attention.
3. COMMENTS ON
3.1 Clause 1. It is noted that the earlier
Defra consultation paper suggested that hunting with dogs would
be excluded from future legislation on animal welfare. There is
no specific exclusion of these activities in the draft Bill (nor
indeed of shooting and coursing) and we feel that clarification
of the Government's intentions in this regard is necessary. We
feel that this would be a particularly difficult and sensitive
area for local authority enforcement and it should be the subject
of separate and specific legislation.
3.2 The Bill will have the effect of adding
to existing local authority inspection and enforcement responsibilities
in animal welfare. We have previously noted that with all the
other competing demands on resources, local authorities do not,
by and large, prioritise animal welfare matters and in order that
the aims of the legislation are fully realised, local authorities
must be able to at least recoup their costs of inspection, licensing
and enforcement. We have interpreted the draft Bill in such a
way that the Government intends to allow local authorities to
set license fees locally, so as to allow for full cost recovery.
We believe that this is vitally important: local authorities must
be able to set fees that reflect local conditions.
3.3 We are not convinced by the argument
put forward in Annex L regarding possible additional costs for
local authorities. Costs "saved" from the lengthening
of a license to 18 months (if indeed any are realised) are unlikely
in themselves to compensate for the additional burdens that will
flow from the legislation. We would also support the view of many
of our members, and that of the LGA and LACORS, that local authorities
should have the discretion to inspect premises more frequently
if it is deemed appropriate.
3.4 Another issue regarding costs of implementation
concerns training. The Regulatory Impact Assessment refers to
the possibility of additional training costs for local authorities
in attaining minimum standardswill the introduction of
such a minimum standard be supported by additional funding?
3.5 We feel that further detailed consideration
is required of the clauses relating to Section 14 (Entry to search
for and deal with animals in distress). We have anecdotal evidence
of difficulties experienced by our members when seeking to gain
entry to premises which may be part-used as a private dwelling
where they suspect cruelty to animals may be taking place. We
do not feel that as currently drafted this crucial part of the
legislation will achieve its objective and may conversely cause
inspectors to become mired still further in legal wrangling. We
would welcome the opportunity to contribute to further discussions
on these matters.
3.6 We have some concerns over the potential
effect of Clause 15, dealing with the definition of a prosecutor
for the purpose of the legislation. Specifically we do not feel
that non-statutory enforcement bodies, such as the RSPCA, should
be afforded prosecution powers under the Act. We feel that this
would lead to confusion in enforcement regimes and would be contrary
to effective regulation. Similarly, we feel that it should be
a requirement under the legislation for organisations to share
any information it may have received about possible offences.
26 August 2004