A summary of responses to Defra’s review of animal establishments licensing In England has been published.

Hamster in cage.
Defra’s consultation sought views on how to update existing legislation on places such as pet shops. IMAGE: alexander313/Fotolia.

The consultation ran for 12 weeks from December 2015 to March 2016, and 1,709 responses were received.

Of these, 1,386 were substantive responses specifically addressing the questions in the consultation document. Of these, almost 50% were from the public and 2.24% from vets.

According to Defra, in England, estimates show there are approximately:

  • 2,300 licensed pet shops
  • 650 licensed dog breeders
  • 1,800 licensed riding establishments

These comprise the fourth largest group of business licences issued by local authorities, after premises, taxi and gambling licences.

Decades old

It said: “There is a strong public expectation animal welfare standards will be robustly enforced by local authorities. However, the laws, and their specific requirements, are often decades old, and difficult to adapt to the changing types of animal-related businesses, and to new standards of good practice in animal welfare.

“Moreover, the current process is complex and burdensome for both businesses and local authorities.

“This consultation … aims to relieve the administrative burden on local authorities, simplify the application and inspection process for businesses, and maintain and improve existing animal welfare standards by modernising the current animal licensing system in England.”

Key findings

Key findings of the consultation include:

  • More than 70% want to see the introduction of a general animal establishment licence, connected to improved model licence conditions.
  • 90% agree the sale of puppies below the age of eight weeks should be prohibited.
  • 64% agree the statutory licensing threshold for dog breeders, which is set at three or more litters per year, should be made clear (the consultation also proposed to retain the existing requirement that each breeding bitch should only produce one litter per 12-month period).
  • 90% agreed with the proposal to legally require pet sales to provide written information when selling animals.
  • 72% agreed the registration requirement for performing animals should be maintained.
  • 72% agreed the legal powers of entry available to local authorities wishing to inspect registered animal establishment premises should be increased.

Also, 83% agreed with the proposal to allow licences to be issued for a fixed term, set at any point in the year. However, a proposal to increase the maximum length of a local authority licence to up to three years received a mixed response, with 48% of respondents positive and 40% negative.

Defra said regulations will be drafted regarding the specific proposals – taking into account the views expressed in the consultation – over the next few months.

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