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Press Release 3 February 2017

Improvements to pet selling regulations welcomed but exotics must not be left out in the cold

Plans announced by the Government for new regulations governing pet selling have been broadly welcomed by the Animal Protection Agency (APA) – an organisation that works to protect exotic pets. However, APA is calling for certain protections to be extended to all pets including non-domesticated or exotic animals.

Yesterday, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced its next steps in the review of animal establishment licensing to modernise the current system and improve animal welfare. New regulations will make it clear that anyone regularly selling pets online, either through websites or classified adverts, will be required to have a licence. Previous regulations preceded the advent of the Internet, and had not kept pace with the fact a large proportion of the pet trade now takes place online and so this clarity is welcomed by animal welfare campaigners.

It is proposed that licensed dog sellers display their licence number when advertising dogs online but APA is calling for this measure to apply to all commercial pet sales. DEFRA also intends to legally require pet sellers to provide written guidance when selling animals. However, APA points out that this will be challenging for exotic animals and that much of the husbandry guidance currently provided by trade bodies is unreliable and misleading. It is important therefore that independent experts and animal welfare organisations are consulted as draft regulations are developed.

Says Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency:

“DEFRA has clearly listened and taken into account the fact that the welfare of pet animals is a dominant concern amongst members of the public. For these measures to translate into genuine improvements in animal welfare, local authority enforcers are going to need reliable and practical tools and guidance. We hope to assist DEFRA as much as possible towards this end. ”

Updated and improved model licence conditions for exotic pets are needed as the current ones have been deemed unfit for purpose by a panel of scientists. New, practical, husbandry standards are under development founded on animal welfare science rather than those historically based on practices convenient for pet traders.

APA also welcomes the fact that pet selling business accredited by independent regulators will not be exempt from licensing by local councils. The original proposal explored the option of removing the licensing requirement for bodies affiliated to the UK Accreditation Service but APA was concerned that this would amount to self-regulation of the pet trade, which would not work and has now been rejected by government.