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Parliament sets focus on animal welfare

Parliament sets focus on animal welfare

The sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops in Gibraltar could be banned under new legislation mirroring legal developments in the UK that aims to stop the poor treatment of animals in so-called ‘puppy farms’.

Under new UK legislation known as ‘Lucy’s Law’ those wanting to buy or adopt a pet younger than six months old must go to a reputable breeder or a rescue centre.

And, Gibraltar could be following suit.

In a recent session of Parliament Environment Minister Dr John Cortes explained: “My Team has today finalised a draft Pet Animals Bill which I hope to be publishing once I’ve taken it through Cabinet as a Command Paper.”

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This comes after the House unanimously passed new animal welfare legislation overhauling ‘outdated’ prior legislation and as the Government looks to tighten up numerous aspects of animal welfare and management and environmental governance in general.

Commenting on the new Animals Act, GSD MP Trevor Hammond said the Opposition welcomed the legislation. But he expressed disappointment that the Act does not cover the sale of animals through pet shops.

“In the English law I believe it is covered and the sight of puppies in pet shop windows all by themselves all day long being gawped at by people is something that I think should be a thing of the past.”

Going further GSD MP Daniel Feetham urged the Government to follow in the UK Government’s footsteps by introducing its own ‘Lucy’s Law’ to ensure that people buy from reputable breeders or animal shelters.

Additionally, Mr Feetham flagged recent developments in the UK on the banning of sales of ivory.

In response Dr Cortes said he had “good news” for the members opposite as he detailed his departments movements on the Pet Animals Bill.

He added: “And yesterday I saw a first draft of an Ivory Bill in order to deal with the question of ivory and to keep up with what is proposed in the UK so that we are consistent with the very important steps the UK is taking in order to try and save the elephant from extinction.”

ANIMALS ACT

Explaining the policy background behind the amendments to the new Animals Act, Dr Cortes said that since the Animals and Birds Act was originally enacted in 1948, animal welfare and rights issues have seen significant development.

“Awareness of the suffering of animals has risen, and the public outcry that ensues on instances where animals have suffered cruelty or distress exceeds the levels of redress the law currently provides,” he said.

“Only domestic, owned animals, are protected under the current Act.”

The amendments to this respond to public requests that cruelty offences have a wider application, to animals for whom nobody is responsible, he said.

Dr Cortes outlined a number of new provisions contained within the legislation including the extension of the offence of cruelty to apply to animals that do not have owners and includes cruelty to wild animals.

The amendments expand on the offence of cruelty to animals, and set the maximum conviction at 12 months or the maximum statutory fine, or both, on summary conviction, or five years on indictment.

They also provide for dog’s DNA profiles to be taken from the dog’s saliva, rather than blood, in exceptional circumstances.

Measures have also been introduced to prevent any dolphins or whales being kept in captivity, amongst other things, effectively banning dolphinaria and similar collections.

Based on English Animal Welfare Act 2006, a new part has been introduced into the Act, incorporating extensive provisions to provide authorised officers with the powers to access properties where they reasonably believe an animal is in distress.

These provisions, will, amongst other things, provide the Magistrates Court with powers to grant a warrant to access residential premises, and to make orders relating to the re-homing or treatment of the animal.

This will, for example, cover instances where dogs are kept in hot, closed cars.

An authorised officer who finds an animal that is suffering may take those steps that need to be taken immediately to alleviate the animal’s suffering.

It also allows officers to take into possession not only animals which are suffering but also those which are likely to suffer if action is not taken.

The provisions also confer powers of entry for the purposes of dealing with an animal that is believed to be suffering or likely to suffer if remedial action is not taken.

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