The Pet Industry Federation, the trade association which represents the interests of over 2,500 UK pet businesses, has broadly welcomed DEFRA’s Next Steps document on the review of animal establishment licensing, which includes pet shops and boarding establishments.
In its joint submission with OATA and REPTA to the original consultation last March, PIF called for a new licensing scheme to provide consistent, coherent standards which were robustly enforced by inspectors who had appropriate qualifications and experience to undertake inspections at a range of animal establishments.
“We welcome the proposals outlined in the ‘Next steps’ document and feel that many of them will go a long way towards improving the effectiveness of the licensing system for pet businesses”, said PIF CEO, Nigel Baker.
“In particular, we are pleased that DEFRA has recognised the need for standardised criteria on which to base licence inspections, and for a risk-based framework approach to licensing, with UKAS schemes used only as a means of earned recognition. Furthermore, we welcome the fact that DEFRA recognises the importance of having trained inspectors with specialist knowledge to undertake animal establishment licensing, and PIF is already working on a solution to this. We also welcome the proposal for information to be made available by retailers to potential new owners to be mandatory, and PIF recommends the range of leaflets produced by The Pet Charity for this purpose.”
Nigel continued: “However, there are some areas that appear to have been overlooked and which PIF feels could present a missed opportunity to strengthen existing areas of legislation. There is no mention of any plans to bring activities such as dog grooming, rehoming or dog walking into the scope of licensing. These areas are completely unregulated, so standards vary wildly, with the potential for serious consequences for animal welfare.
“In addition, we would also like to see any new licensing regime providing clear guidelines to local authorities on fee setting, as many businesses, pet shops in particular, have struggled to cope with the increased cost of licence fees. If the fees are too high, turning retailers off selling livestock, then this has serious repercussions for the industry as a whole.”
In summary, PIF welcomes the following points:
• The acknowledgement that online sellers will need to be licensed in the same way that traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ pet shops are;
• That licensing criteria, through the establishment of the key requirements of model licensing conditions, will be become mandatory, meaning that local authorities must follow a consistent set of minimum standards;
• The recognition that licensing inspectors should reach a certain standard of training and prove competence to carry out inspections;
• The acknowledgement that ‘earned recognition’ will mean that inspections could happen less frequently for good businesses;
• All businesses will need to provide written, point of sale information on the animals they sell by law (including online businesses);
• Licences will be issued throughout the year, spreading the administrative burden for local authorities.
Finally, the Pet Industry Federation is delighted to have been selected to sit on the Expert Panel, under the National Companion Animal Focus Group and chaired by DEFRA, to discuss the supporting documentation and background information to the new system of local authority licensing and implement the proposed changes in a way that will be acceptable to the pet industry.