The animal welfare charity Blue Cross hosted an event at Conservative conference. The panel included Neil Parish MP, who is a member of the EFRA select committee and chair of the APPG on animal welfare in parliament. Steve Goody from Blue Cross, James Yeates from RSPCA and PC Keith Evans from West Midlands police were also speakers on the panel.
Neil Parish said that the government would be announcing legislation soon including microchipping puppies soon after birth. This would obviously reduce stray dogs and increase the return of lost dogs to their rightful owners. The number of cases of puppies being discarded is also too high and it is hoped that microchipping will reduce this. He added:
“As a backbencher I can say that microchipping puppies does not go far enough, but if we can’t enforce the legislation it has no effect”.
He added that: “Responsibility for dog behaviour is with owner. Irresponsible dog owners can be prosecuted.” Dog attacks are a serious problem with the Communication Workers Union reporting that 6,000 postmen are bitten each year. The legislation will not penalise dogs defending their owners or indeed owner’s property.
Steve Goody from Blue Cross said that there are over 20 million pets in private ownership in the UK. “There are too many pets for too few good homes.”
He said that the three main areas of campaigning for Blue Cross were, over breeding, irresponsible sale & purchase and irresponsible care of animals.
Mr Goody also called for legislation or a code of conduct to ensure better regulation of internet sites which sell pets.
Blue Cross is campaigning for animal welfare to be covered by the national curriculum and working with schools on programmes to help improve pet welfare.
He concluded by saying that the government proposals on dangerous dogs don’t go far enough. Blue Cross would like more flexibility on section 1 dogs which currently have to be put down without exception.
James Yeates from the RSPCA said that abandoned horses are increasing with 50 five years ago in RSPCA care and 600 now. He added that people needed to view taking on a pet more as a ‘consumer decision’ due to the real cost often adding up to £10,000 or more over the pet’s lifetime.
PC Keith Evans from West Midlands police said his force welcomed the suggestion of greater powers to protect individuals on private property from dog attacks. He though the new proposals would also give officers more discretion in how they proceed.
He said that it was unfortunate that attacks on guide dogs had not been included from the consultation.
Other issues mentioned in questions included the high cost of vet care for animals, compulsory neutering of cats to reduce the estimated 12 million cats in the UK and compulsory pet insurance.
Neil Parish said he thought that: “government ought to point out to people the full costs of having a pet over its lifetime”.