265. Under clause 25 of the draft Bill, an owner
of an animal who is convicted of cruelty, specific fighting offences,
an animal welfare offence or breach of disqualification order,
would be able to be deprived of ownership of the animal. Clause
26 would permit a court to disqualify a person from engaging in
a number of activities following conviction for cruelty, fighting
and welfare offences. Those activities are:
a) owning animals
b) keeping, or arranging for or participating
in the keeping of, animals
c) dealing in animals, and
d) transporting, or arranging for the transport
Disqualification can be imposed in relation to animals
in general or to animals of a specific kind.
266. Clause 26 is the Government's attempt to close
the loophole in the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954
which disqualifies a person only from having "custody"
of animals. Offenders have circumvented disqualification by transferring
ownership and therefore "custody" to a third party,
although in reality the owner retains control of the animal. Paula
Williamson, a solicitor with Worcestershire County Council, spent
three years repeatedly prosecuting individuals who continually
circumvented disqualifications orders imposed by the courts.
Ms Williamson recommended that clause 26 should be expanded to
having custody of an animal where custody
includes control of that animal; or, and this is the crucial point,
"the power to control that animal". This would catch
defendants who try to argue that they have divested themselves
of the custody of an animal
[clause] 26 is fine in
so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. The custody
and the control and the power to control an animal is not adequately
covered by [clause] 26 in its current form.
267. We welcome
the Government's intention to close the loophole in the current
provisions on disqualification by ensuring that an offender cannot
circumvent disqualification by transferring ownership and, therefore,
custody of an animal. However, we consider that clause 26 does
not achieve this intention and we therefore recommend that the
activities prohibited by clause 26 of the draft Bill should
be extended to include "having custody, control or the power
to control animals".
268. Mike Radford recommended that a person who indulged
in animal fighting or baiting should automatically have all their
animals (of a relevant kind) confiscated and face a mandatory
disqualification, on the basis that "fighting and baiting
is cruelty of a different order to negligence or ignorance".
In relation to offences other than fighting and baiting, Mr Radford
recommended that the discretion of a court to impose a deprivation
or disqualification order should be severely limited to emphasise
that the orders were animal protection measures rather than part
of the punishment.
269. We recommend
that fighting should automatically attract a disqualification
order. We further recommend that certain animal cruelty offences
carried out for a profit, such as making 'snuff' videos, should
also attract automatic disqualification to reflect the seriousness
of the offence.