BIRD WELFARE STRATEGY
Since the publication of the initial Avian Welfare Strategy in 2009 there have been further changes and updates to report. A Conservative government has now replaced the coalition Government of that time, with changes in the minister in charge of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). There have also been budgetary constraints on many government departments, including Defra. Similarly, there have been changes of personnel within the various groups involved in the production of the initial welfare discussion document. These facts inevitably affect the progress and continuity of many projects, bills, and discussions involving government departments and potential legislation, not least those involving animal welfare.
The England Implementation Group (EIG), mentioned as the supervising authority in the initial 2009 posting has since been disbanded. Further discussions continued with the Companion Animal Sector Council (CASC) (www.casco.org.uk), with particular reference to potential licensing requirements for keepers or premises for various groups of animals. This move potentially could affect bird keepers and traders. Defra input also suggests the need for updating several older pieces of legislation (some dating back to 1925!). The Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides for the welfare of all kept animals. The proposals put forward on this website's Bird Care page outline these requirements very well.
Defra states that all of the Acts relating to animals require local authorities to grant licences subject to compliance with a set of standards. The current licensing system has served its purpose for several decades, but it has a number of limitations, partly as a result of its age and the gradual development over time of the activities being licensed. It is administratively complex and involves a considerable amount of duplication; it does not account for the diversification of animal activities (notably those on the internet); and it does not reflect current and up-to-date knowledge of companion animal welfare.
Defra aims to modernize the animal licensing system to relieve the administrative burden on local authorities and to simplify the application and inspection process for businesses, as well as maintaining and improving existing animal welfare standards. This plan aims at a single 'Animal Establishment Licence' to cover boarding establishments, pet shops, riding centres and dog breeding. Canine, feline and equine study groups have already submitted their thoughts on this action, and in November 2015 a meeting was convened at Defra headquarters to seek similar input from groups representing birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and other exotic species.
Experienced avian, fish and zoo veterinarian Dr Peter Scott chaired the meeting, and The Parrot Society UK was represented by its current chairman Alan Jones. A wide-ranging discussion by all parties crystallised the need for improvement in education of inspectors and licence-granters throughout the supply chain of the various animal groups; inconsistencies and weaknesses in current legislation; a serious need for the control of advertising and sale of animals via the internet; and a lack of regulation of the many unlicensed rescue and rehoming centres that exist for all groups. Various suggestions were put forward for possible solutions to these various problems. Full minutes of this meeting are available at www.casco.org.uk/meetings.
The next step will be for all participants to submit their findings and thoughts to Defra by 12 March 2016 (this has been done on behalf of the Parrot Society), and for individual groups to continue to work on their own Codes of Practice for their species interests. Comments to this website and to The Parrot Society UK and other interested parties have been taken on board, and the 2009 document will be amended in the light of these comments.
It remains to be seen how government departments will proceed, in the light of the current focus on Britain's continued membership of the European Union, as well as further cuts to departmental budgets. Watch this space!
THE BIRD WELFARE STRATEGY GROUP
The Chief Veterinarian Officer Nigel Gibbens for Defra invited all members of the Companion Animal Strategy group, which is made up representatives from the Bird, Reptile, Rabbit and Fish sectors, to a meeting at Defra Headquarters. This was to hear how he would like to see this project develop, now that the England Implementation Group has been disbanded. There was no formal agenda, but the discussion was around further developing the strategy approach begun by the EIG, with each strategy group identifying where they actually are in terms of health and welfare, and identifying topics within the strategy which can be developed as action points.
Speaking for the bird sector (also the other sectors), I felt that getting good quality information out would be a major step forward addressing health and welfare - so the ongoing development of overarching Good Practice Guidelines and the production of specific care sheets should continue. It was agreed that veterinarian Peter Scott should continue to leave the whole companion Animal Group reporting direct to the Chief Veterinarian officer thus, as it were, cutting out the middle tier and making the whole process leaner and quicker.
The codes of practice for Cats, Dogs and privately kept Primates has been completed and will go before Parliament before the 6th April next year and work has already begun on live animals in circuses. However we were told that with the forthcoming election there would be no more work done on other sections until a new Government is installed and Mr Gibbens said that would give us a good time window to complete our own Best Practice Guidelines for Birds so when this area was revisited by Defra a BPG would already be in place.
Colin O'Hara, Chairman Bird Welfare Strategy group, 15 December, 2009.
Allen and Page - sponsors of the Bird Welfare Strategy Group
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The welfare discussion document, Avian Strategy For Hobbyist Livestock and Pet Birds, has been eight months in the making.
It was put together by the National Committee for Bird Strategy, a group of eight specialist societies: the British Waterfowl Association, Hawk Board, National Council for Aviculture, National Pigeon Association of Great Britain, Parrot Society UK, Pet Care Trust, Poultry Club of Great Britain and World Pheasant Association.