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Hopes new legal guidelines for animal sanctuaries will forestall ‘catastrophes’


  • Work continues towards introducing regulations for the licensing of animal rescues and sanctuaries in Wales, with hopes that new laws will “close loopholes”.

    Two years ago, H&H reported a voluntary code of practice for animal welfare establishments had been launched by the Welsh Government, drafted by the Animal Welfare Network for Wales (AWNW, news, 15 Oct 2020). The code outlined a framework for rescues to deliver “exemplary levels” of care and encourage the highest standards – with the view of creating future regulation.



    In 2021, the Welsh Government included the licensing of rescues in its 2021-2026 animal welfare plan for Wales, and stated it planned to “work in partnership with key stakeholders and consult on revised proposals” for the licensing of activities including animals – including sanctuaries, rescue and rehoming centres.

    Nic de Brauwere, AWNW management committee chair and Redwings head of welfare, told H&H the code had been a “catalyst” for new regulation, and meetings with the Welsh Government are due to continue.

    “The Welsh Government has been keen to take a step back and make sure that what they’re trying to do is closing loopholes, rather than just throwing a bit of legislation at something because we can and then you end up with a gap,” he said.

    “The key things with regulating rescues are, if you aren’t allowed on to the premises and can’t do spot checks and follow up on things without waiting for a complaint, normally you only discover that something is wrong when its catastrophically wrong – from an animal point of view it’s far too late. Any regulation needs to allow local authorities to go in and keep an eye on these places before they become a disaster. It takes time and we want to make sure we have engagement from the sector.”

    Scotland introduced mandatory licensing for animal rescue centres in September last year (news, 30 Sep 2021). Reflecting on this a year on, Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals chief superintendent Mike Flynn told H&H it had been a “positive step”, but “there is still work to be done”.

    “We will not see the true impact of this licensing until all local authorities have carried out inspections on sanctuaries and rescue centres in their area,” he said.

    “The number of investigations we have led in cases concerned with equine welfare is lower than previous years, and we have seen a consistent reduction since September 2021. This includes any investigations into horse sanctuaries. It is too early to determine whether the licensing has had an effect on this, but it is promising.”

    In 2020, the RSPCA voiced concerns that England was in danger of “being left behind”, and a spokesman has confirmed to H&H that the charity is “still waiting” for the UK Government to confirm plans for the regulation of sanctuaries.

    “We are hoping a consultation will be announced in due course,” he said.

    Do you think licensing for animal rescues and sanctuaries should be introduced? Or are you a sanctuary that has agreed to the Welsh Government’s voluntary code? Let us know your views by writing to H&H at hhletters@futurenet.com and please include your full name and address.

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