Further supplementary memorandum submitted
by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Following the discussion which took place on
the topic of improvement notices during the Committee's last evidence
session with Mr Bradshaw on 27 October, the RSPCA felt it might
assist the Committee if it clarified its position further.
As we have already explained, we already operate
a welfare assessment scheme whereby if our inspectors believe
that an animal's welfare needs are not being met, but the failure
falls short of cruelty (for which we would prosecute), they leave
the animal owner a written form explaining what the problem is.
We should emphasise that we do not serve these notices in relation
to the existing cruelty offence and that would not change if the
Animal Welfare Bill becomes law. The notices are only used in
poor welfare situations.
Since we intend to continue serving these notices
if the Animal Welfare Bill introduces a new welfare offence, we
recommended to the Committee that it might be a useful safeguard
if the service of such a notice was made a prerequisite to the
bringing of a prosecution for the welfare offence.
In the course of discussion on 27 October Mr Bradshaw
maintained that it should not be compulsory for all those enforcing
the welfare offence always to serve an improvement notice before
prosecuting since in some circumstances that would not be appropriate.
He also referred to the fact that the Welfare of Farmed Animal
(England) Regulations 2000 (which contain the existing welfare
offence for farmed animals) allow the State Veterinary Service,
which is responsible for enforcing those Regulations, a discretion
as to whether or not they serve an improvement notice but do not
require it in all cases.
Mr Simpson then suggested that, for the sake of consistency,
the Animal Welfare Bill should contain similar provisions.
Whilst we would have no objection to a provision
in the Bill to the effect that enforcers may serve improvement
notices (see regulation 11 of WOFA(E)R), we would be concerned
if the entire improvement notice regime in WOFA(E)R were adopted
in the Bill for the following reasons. Those Regulations make
it an offence for a person to fail to comply with any improvement
notice that is served. In our view this gives too much power to
the enforcer who, in effect, drafts the wording of the offence.
We believe that the commission of the welfare offence should depend
on the wording of the Bill as interpreted by the courts, and not
the wording of an improvement notice drafted by an RSPCA, local
authority or DEFRA inspector. In addition, we anticipate that
this provision would lead to satellite litigation to determine
whether improvement notices had been properly drafted and properly
served and this would unnecessarily complicate an area of the
law which ought to be simple.
4 November 2004