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Stricter Animal Controls [18/10/2006]

Defra (the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs ) announced new measures to stop the commercial sale of animals at pet fairs which will be introduced under the Animal Welfare Bill. Following a judicial ruling on pet fairs, the Government has decided to review its plans to regulate these events. While commercial sales of animals will be banned, there will be exemptions in the cases of koi carp, racing pigeons and poultry. These will need to be licensed by the local authority. As before, pet fairs that do not involve the sale of animals, or that do involve the sale of animals but not in the course of a business, can continue without the need for a licence.

Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Animal Health and Welfare, said: "I believe that the revised measures on pet fairs, together with our proposals to raise the standards of pet vending generally and the introduction of the welfare offence for companion animals, provide the best protection yet for animals at pet fairs."

The new proposals on pet fairs will be issued for full consultation before they go before Parliament.

The Animal Protection Agency (APA), which spearheaded a campaign to stamp out such barbaric trading of mainly exotic, wild-caught animals, has commended the Government and now looks forward to the Bill receiving Royal Assent.

Elaine Toland, Director of APA, said: "The Governmentís new and clear intention to prohibit commercial trading of animals at pet fairs is a most welcome advancement for animal welfare that sits comfortably in a Bill designed to bring about real improvements in the way we treat animals. The Animal Welfare Bill, with this latest commitment, ensures genuine protection for countless thousands of pet and wild animals. "

And in Scotland...

New animal welfare legislation also came into effect in Scotland earlier this month. The new Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act means that people who cause unnecessary suffering to animals now face fines of up to £20,000.

Local authorities around Scotland now have powers to remove animals from situations where they believe they are at risk of suffering. Animal health officers, state veterinary officers and Scottish SPCA inspectors will also be able to issue care notices, to give owners a chance to improve conditions for their animals.

The Act is in two Parts. Part 1 covers Animal Health and provides Scottish Ministers with new powers to slaughter animals in an outbreak of virulent disease as well as a new offence of deliberately infecting an animal with disease.

Part 2 covers Animal Welfare and restates the former offence of cruelty to an animal, as well as creating the new offence of failing to provide for an animalís welfare. Penalties for cruelty and for animal fighting are increased. Courts are now obliged to consider banning convicted persons from keeping animals. Other offences include: abandoning an animal, selling an animal to a person under 16, giving an animal as a prize (except in a family context). Cruel operations on animals are banned, as are mutilations of animals (apart from certain husbandry practices to be specified by secondary legislation).

Edinburgh-based campaign group Advocates for Animals welcomed the measures contained in the act.

Spokeswoman Libby Anderson said: "Let us hope that the new obligation on animal owners will mean no more ponies left neglected in fields, no more dogs tied up outside for days on end, and no more animals kept in conditions which are barely tolerable."

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