What protection is in place for Wales’ “Sanctuary Animals?”

22 July 2015

Article by Candice Boyes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image of cat in kennel

Image from Pixabay by Elvirahatting1. Licensed under the Creative Commons

Despite there being almost 100 animal ‘sanctuaries’ (or welfare establishments) thought to be operating in Wales today, there are currently no rules in place to safeguard how these are run.

There is also no definitive record of exactly how many Sanctuaries there actually are, as, unlike other organisations, there is no legal requirement to register this type of establishment – a fact which can have an impact on welfare factors, including potential implications for disease control in animals.

Groups such as riding, breeding and boarding establishments are licensed and regulated by their local councils, but there are no such policies in place to protect animals housed within a sanctuary environment.

A report was published by the Animal Welfare Network Wales’ (AWNW[1]) in October 2012, entitled The Case for the Regulation of Animal Welfare Establishments in Wales which investigated the need to regulate animal sanctuaries.

The report stated that:

Currently, although there is some information available, there is still no definitive data as to how many animal welfare establishments are operating in Wales, because they are not required to register, which has wide ranging implications for animal welfare and disease control.

The Report’s findings were that, although it is expected that staff are trained to deal with these (often exotic) animals in the correct manner, there are no rules or safeguards in place to ensure that this will happen.

There are also no current legal requirements to govern experience levels or qualifications of staff working with the animals, or to ensure the animal sanctuaries themselves have sufficient financial resources to be able to adequately provide for the animals in their care.

A petition (P-04-500) calling for the compulsory regulation of Animal Welfare Establishments in Wales has been considered by the Assembly’s Petitions Committee.

The petition, led by Lisa Winnett, was first discussed on 24 September 2013, again on 11 March 2014, and most recently on 10 March 2015.

The Committee originally wrote to the then Minister for Natural Resources and Food Alun Davies, seeking his views both on the additional information included in the petition, and the recommendations of the AWNW report. He was asked to notify the Petitions Committee of the outcome of his considerations.

On 28 January 2015, the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food Rebecca Evans wrote to the committee to say she had asked the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales to convene a meeting with the network (PDF, 685KB) to discuss the way forward on this issue.

RSPCA Cymru have supported this petition, and in its submitted written evidence to the Committee stated that the Network were:

…looking forward to receiving a response from the Welsh Government on the report.

RSPCA Cymru also launched a campaign in December 2014, urging the Welsh Government to put a set of mandatory regulations into place.

Martin Fidler Jones, RSPCA Cymru’s Political Campaigns Manager, said on the matter:

Many of the 90 sanctuaries in Wales may well be operating to a fantastic standard. However, RSPCA Cymru along with a group of sanctuary operators and experts, agree there should be standards covering the sector to protect the large number of animals cared for in such places.

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[1] AWNW is an independent network comprising of about 140 organisations and volunteers working in animal welfare in Wales