Notes from FoBAS: The Federation of British Animal Sanctuaries
ANIMAL WELFARE BILL - Most of the large welfare Organisations welcome the Bill so why are so many smaller Animal Sanctuaries starting to come together to openly oppose it?
The ANIMAL WELFARE BILL has been named the ‘biggest improvement in animal welfare legislation in 100 years’. Most of the large welfare Organisations welcome the Bill so why are so many smaller Animal Sanctuaries starting to come together to openly oppose it? In the entire history of animal welfare in this Country no issue has ever bought animal Sanctuaries together. Usually those of us that run Sanctuaries are too busy to get involved with politics or what goes on generally outside of our Sanctuary/Rescue Centre.
Sanctuaries are concerned – the Bill is too draconian, ambiguous and against all our civil, legal and human rights. There is a great feeling of unrest that these powers may be bestowed upon the RSPCA, and that they will oversee animal sanctuaries and their work.
The main contents of the Bill are: -
- There are no safeguards in place to protect people’s civil and legal rights. There are no protections in place to ensure that prosecutors who breach people’s civil and legal rights will be penalised, and that evidence obtained in this way, will be excluded.
- Codes of practice will control all animal welfare. Who will impose these codes? Knowledgeable keepers or politically motivated Organisations? The Secretary of State need only consult “such persons as he/she sees fit”
- The removal of the need for a Vet to certify the removal of an animal means that unqualified ‘Inspectors’ and Police Officers are going to make judgments when they may have little or no knowledge of the general needs of the type of animal concerned, or the specific needs of the animal.
- The power is extended to allow other animals beyond those, which are believed to be currently suffering to be taken.
- The Inspector has the right to kill an animal without the presence of a Vet if he believes it is impracticable to wait for a Vet.
- Subsection (4) states that the protection provided by subsection (3) the right to the owner to be heard by the Court, does not apply if the Court is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable to communicate with the owner.
- There is no right of appeal if the Court orders destruction in the interests of the welfare of the animal. This can not be allowed as we all know that one expert may disagree with another.
- The power to require assistance goes over and above that which is granted to the Police. It is effectively enslaving animal keepers and forcing them to take actions they may genuinely believe to be detrimental to their animal’s interests. It could force someone who practices homeopathic or other alternative treatments to enable that treatment regime to be destroyed by the applications of medicines to which their animal might have already proved allergic.
The Inspector therefore has the right to seize and destroy your animal without any Veterinary intervention and without even discussing the case with the owner. If an Inspector sees an animal he/she believes may suffer he/she has the right to remove that animal and all the others on the same premises. If you are taken to Court you will have to meet all costs whether the Case goes in your favour or not. How can a Court decide to choose not to communicate with an owner that is being charged?
This Bill gives an “Inspector” such huge and ambiguous powers. If we could be sure that they would be used correctly then it would not be such a big problem. Who will these Inspectors be? State Veterinary Service? Vets? RSPCA? Trading Standards?
At present the public are being dubbed ‘silly for assuming that because the RSPCA have officials called Inspectors they are incorrectly assuming that Inspector will mean an RSPCA Inspector.’ Repeatedly the RSPCA are stating that they are NOT seeking these new powers. So do we need to worry about this or not?
As of September 2004 the RSPCA signed an Agreement with Defra giving the RSPCA full prosecution status under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act. They have repeatedly said they do NOT seek these powers but behind the scenes it was a very different case and they do in fact now have these powers and yet they are continuing to deny this fact. Why worry as it is only the 1911 Act? Because the Animal Welfare Bill will replace the 1911 Act and those powers will go with it.
In recent years there are whole areas of the Country where people live in fear of the RSPCA and we are unable to bring this to the public attention, as people are so afraid they will not allow us to use their stories.
Animal Welfare is a very finely balanced issue and one that requires tremendous organisation and forethought. To my mind the animals are always the priority and it is our job to ensure that they do not suffer. We operate akin to the hospice movement, in as much as we allow the old and sickly animals to live out the rest of their lives in peace and comfort.
There is a fine line between knowing when the time is right to let them go – but it must always be a decision based on the experience and knowledge of that individual animal and made by the animal owner and their Vet.
One Sanctuary was visited and told that one of their sheep was overweight and should be killed as this was not conducive to a long life – the sheep was 14yrs old!
Another was told that any thin horses on the premises should be killed, as the public doesn’t want to see skinny horses!
A Sanctuary owner has recently been arrested for having a skinny horse on her premises, which she had rescued that week.
Sanctuary / Rescue work as we have discussed is very akin to hospice work – how can we then be overseen and regulated by a Charity that destroys so many animals? How can it be right for one charity to oversee another one? How can the RSPCA have this role when as a Charity they are not meant to participate in political lobbying?
What aspects of animal care will this Bill encompass? Overnight Code of Practice can alter the way in which we keep particular animals and the Minister needs to only consult whoever she thinks fit.
At present the EFRA Committee are putting together their Report following the oral evidence that they have received. In this oral evidence in discussions between RSPCA and the Committee there is talk of the RSPCA starting to work on the first Code of Practice, which will cover cats. There is also talk of legislation to cover dogs being transported in cars.
Up to now the anti-animal legislation has covered livestock – FMD, Animal Health Bill and the TSE regulations- now however it will relate to our pets.
We have seen what this Government is capable of – over 10 million healthy animals killed, many buried alive under the guise of Foot & Mouth. We have seen the introduction of equine passports supposedly fundamental in aiding animal welfare but sadly this is another untruth. How can a passport sitting in the owner’s drawer in Manchester assist the ill-treated equine at the keeper’s premises in the South? If we are called out to a tethered or suffering horse the passport is of no use to us in tracing the owner because you have to trace the owner to find the passport!
The Companion Animal Welfare Council that is receiving considerable Government funding as it is now one of their main advisors on the pet animal issue they want to see every pet licensed and identified in some way.
In the case of Equine Passports and the identification of our pets we are told that a significant reason is disease control and veterinary surveillance.
We are moving into very frightening times and the public is about to receive a very rude awakening. We must fight the ambiguity of this Bill if the British – the land of animal lovers –are to keep their much-loved pets.
We can see the controls being put into place all around us – a continued tightening up of laws and our rights being snatched away from us. When the public finally stand up and demand that they have rights to protect their animals they will find they are too late. They have no rights any longer – and sadly neither have their pets.
The Animal Welfare Bill will spell the end of Animal keeping in this Country, as we know it.
Britain – a nation of animal lovers? I wonder!