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Local authorities animal licensing boost

Katie Coyne27/09/2018 - 15:17

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Licensing should result in better animal welfare
Licensing should result in better animal welfare

Tougher animal licensing will shortly come into force with the purpose of improving welfare standards.

The current licensing system, with five separate regimes, will be updated and brought into one scheme under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. It comes into effect at the beginning of October.

The activities it will cover include: selling animals as pets; providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs; hiring out horses; breeding dogs; keeping or training animals for exhibition.

David Etheridge, senior licensing practitioner at Worcestershire Regulatory Services, said: ‘We now have additional powers to suspend and revoke a licence, which we didn’t have previously. That has toughened up our powers significantly.’

He pointed out that breeding without a licence will carry a far harsher penalty. ‘Instead of just getting a fine, which was relatively small, the penalty now includes an imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks and a level-five fine which is unlimited, or both,’ he said.

However, Etheridge added that the new system would mean ‘significantly more work’ for councils.

Under the new regime, local authorities will have to inspect premises and give them star ratings before issuing or renewing a licence.

The star rating will determine how long the licence can be issued for and the frequency of future inspections. One unannounced check will be carried out during the lifetime of a licence. In effect this means a licence-holder with a three-year licence will be visited once every 18 months. Someone holding a two-year license will be checked every 12 months, and a one-year license will be checked every six months.

Simon Blackburn, chair of the safer and stronger communities board at the Local Government Association, said: ‘Despite a relatively short lead time for animal licensing changes, councils are determined to be ready for the new legislation and will work with businesses to ensure a smooth implementation.

‘The intention of the new system is to improve animal welfare standards and to streamline the current licensing process by introducing a risk-based approach.

‘This should reduce burdens for compliant businesses with higher animal welfare standards, which will pay less than those with a lower rating as they will be inspected less frequently and be granted a licence with a longer renewal date.’

Depending on the structure of the local authority and the expertise of its teams, inspections may be undertaken by ‘suitably qualified inspectors’ which in practice could come from trading standards, licensing, or EH teams.


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