Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
I am writing to update you on the outcomes of the consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Licensing of Animal Exhibits) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (“the AE Regulations”) and the accompanying guidance. An analysis report of the key themes received during the consultation has been published and can be accessed here: Animal exhibits.
I am pleased the licensing scheme, which would allow checks to be made on licensed animal exhibits (AEs) to ensure good welfare standards are met at their home base; in transport; and during exhibition, was generally supported by individuals, animal welfare organisations and AE operators alike.
I was particularly pleased to read the positive comments on the requirement for licensed AEs to promote public education and awareness of the species kept. Identified benefits surpassed our immediate objective of encouraging responsible animal purchasing and ownership, including positive impacts on our tourist industry and culture, and the conservation of flora and fauna, both in the UK and worldwide.
I have noted the feedback regarding the need for greater clarity on certain definitions in the legislation and guidance, and these points will be considered further. AEs vary greatly in size, nature and types of species kept, so whilst it is important local authorities have flexibility to assess each AE against the requirements of the legislation on an individual basis, we will look again at how, as far as possible, a standardised approach to implementation can be achieved.
I am aware many AMs received correspondence during the consultation period as a result of a campaign generated by The Kennel Club implying recreational activities such as dog shows would be subject to licensing.
An analysis of the responses received has been undertaken, including those which supported the inclusion of this activity either within this licensing scheme or via a separate registration system. Consideration has also been given to the protection currently provided to certain recreational activities under the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925, which is the current legislation (for example, dogs trained to perform a routine to music (‘dancing dogs’)) and whether it is appropriate to maintain this or relax it under the draft Regulations.
I can confirm it was not intended for dog shows or similar activities to be licensed under the AE Regulations – and this remains the case. Officials are considering what amendments to either the Regulations or the Guidance may be needed to better convey this point, in order to avoid ambiguity or unintended consequences.
I was interested to receive evidence from a number of respondents of potential welfare issues in activities which had not been considered for licensing in the draft Regulations, namely greyhound racing and the use of animals for human therapy purposes (for example, dogs taken into care homes). Whilst no responses were received to the consultation from representative organisations of either activity, my officials will ensure they have ample opportunity to feed in to the policy development process to allow a fully informed decision to be made on whether or not they should be subject to licensing going forward.
I share the concern raised by many respondents of the potentially significant financial impact in cases where mobile AEs which operate both in Wales and England may need to be licensed under both licensing schemes. My officials raised this issue with Defra colleagues earlier this year and I am pleased a commitment in writing has now been received to work with Welsh Government officials in considering this matter further.
It is clear further work is required on the draft AE Regulations and Guidance to ensure they reflect our policy objective and are well suited to the working practices of AE exhibitors. I am also keen for a solid outcome on discussions on the mutual recognition of licences between at least Wales and England to be achieved, and further discussions are planned between governments with a view to delivering this objective.
I have instructed my officials to continue their engagement with stakeholders as drafting work continues. This is to ensure those who may be affected by the additional activities being considered for inclusion in the licensing scheme as outlined above, have an opportunity to comment on the proposals. It also allows organisations who have not already expressed an interest in being involved in the ongoing policy development process, to register with the Animal Welfare team and to be contacted (if required) to assist in the gathering of data to inform specific drafting amendments or research into potential impacts: WAHFG@gov.wales. I urge you to alert any stakeholders you feel may be affected to contact my officials via this formal email address.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.