Vets call on MPs for better tools for enforcement of animal welfare laws

20 April 2016

BVA and BSAVA gave evidence at the Efra Inquiry on animal welfare

As part of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Inquiry on animal welfare, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) told MPs that the Animal Welfare Act 2006, while an excellent umbrella piece of legislation, can be difficult to enforce – with more resources needed to assist charities and local authorities as well as the introduction of secondary legislation to make clear responsibilities.

BVA and BSAVA highlighted that the Animal Welfare Act is intentionally generic and there is a need for guidance, codes of practice and secondary legislation - as promised when it was passed 10 years ago - in order to help deliver effective enforcement decisions and identify unnecessary suffering. The veterinary organisations further suggested that, if pets are seized under the Animal Welfare Act, they must be taken into suitable accommodation which meets appropriate animal welfare standards.

The Efra Sub-Committee held its second oral evidence session in the House of Commons on Tuesday 19 April, during which Heather Bacon from BVA's Ethics and Welfare Group, BSAVA Vice President John Chitty and Bill Lambert, the Kennel Club's Health and Breeder Services Manager, answered questions from Neil Parish, Efra Committee Chair, and other members of the Efra Committee.

During the session, which focussed on the welfare of dogs, BVA and BSAVA urged that, in the internet age in which we live, legislation around the sale of domestic pets must be fit for purpose. Legislation such as The Pet Animals Act 1951 and The Breeding and Sale of Dogs Act (1999) must be updated to bring them in line with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and current practices, in terms of both the species now regularly kept as pets and with online sales and advertising.

The BSAVA Vice President noted that vets can help play a key role in advising prospective pet owners on breeding of dogs to ensure puppies are healthy as well as the health and welfare needs of different species, if contact is made with their local vet prior to a pet being purchased.

Irresponsible dog breeding, microchipping and responsible pet ownership were also raised as key issues upon which the panel provided oral evidence.