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Animal Welfare Charter

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1  Introduction

1.1 Hastings Borough Council recognises that all animals are sentient creatures, capable of enjoying a state of well being and equally capable of suffering.

1.2 This Council believes that in a civilised society people should advocate the welfare of animals and take whatever action is within their power to protect them from abuse and cruelty.  The Council supports the view that all animals have the right to enjoy five basic freedoms:

  • Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
  • Freedom from physical discomfort and pain;
  • Freedom from injury or disease;
  • Freedom from fear and distress;
  • Freedom to express their normal behavioural needs.

1.3 The Council will look to these five freedoms for guidance when exercising its statutory powers in relation to animal health and welfare matters.

1.4 Through lawful means the Council will also use its best endeavours to promote improvements in animal welfare by taking full account of animal welfare issues in the Council's day to day operations, in its decision making process and through influence in association with other local authorities, voluntary welfare groups and government agencies.

1.5 This Charter has been adopted by Hastings Borough Council to reflect the concerns of local people who care about animal welfare and the cruel treatment, abuse and neglect of animals.

1.6 In adopting the Charter and implementing the policies contained within it, the Council hopes that through its own direct actions and by providing an example to other agencies, organisations and individuals, unnecessary suffering of animals will be diminished.  Whilst there are areas where the council is unable to take direct action, as a responsible body it will make its views known via the Local Government Association, Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament and the Government.

1.4 This Charter is not a fully comprehensive document intended to cover every aspect of animal welfare.  It will however provide a framework within which new policies can be developed.  It details those areas that the Council considers most important and where it hopes it can have some influence as a public body.

1.5 The Council calls upon all members of the public to support this Charter and to draw to the attention of the Council any contraventions of the provisions contained within it.

1.6 The Charter will form the basis for a 5-point action plan:

  • Publicise - the Charter throughout the Borough
  • Educate - the Public and Commerce
  • Enforce - fully existing laws and bylaws when introduced
  • Take Account - of animal welfare considerations where relevant in the decision making process.
  • Lobby - government departments, professional organisations and local associations to bring the Council's views to the government's attention.

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2  Background

2.1 This Charter has been produced by an all-party working group, which fully supports the general principles set out within it.

2.2 Any attempt to define 'animal welfare' immediately serves to highlight the complexities of the whole subject and the issues involved.  It is at least fairly clear what is meant by 'animal'.  Interpretation of 'welfare' is not so simple.

2.3 'Animal Welfare' means many things to many people.  For some it simply means the well being of animals while they are alive and the acceptance that farm animals are bred and kept with the objective of eventual slaughter for the provision of food.  Others will feel that the whole process of breeding and keeping animals for sale, for entertainment or for food is unacceptable exploitation and that it is not in the interest of the animal's welfare to control its existence for the benefit of human beings.  Some consider that the welfare and behavioural needs of animals can only be met by keeping animals in extensive conditions, while others believe that the 'welfare' losses in intensive conditions are relatively small and are offset by the economic advantages to the consumer.

2.4 Both ethical and scientific considerations play a part in the whole subject of animal welfare.  It can be asserted that no enlightened society could seriously contest that human beings have an inescapable responsibility to ensure the well being of those animals on which humans depend for their own well being.  Obvious areas of disagreement and contention relate to the limit to which human beings in a civilised society are prepared to reconcile their need to use animals for food with the above considerations.

2.5 The Borough Council recognises that the use of animals in the food chain is inescapable.  However, the Borough Council supports the aim of ensuring that, in the processes involved, animals are treated humanely, all measures are taken to avoid unnecessary suffering and the guiding principles of the Five Freedoms are observed.

2.6 The Borough Council's role in animal welfare is partly one of enforcing its statutory powers and partly one of influencing the debate.

2.7 The Statutory powers of the Borough Council are firstly contained in a range of licensing provisions concerned with the protection of animal welfare in activities such as pet shops, animal breeding and boarding establishments, riding establishments and zoos.  Secondly the Council has an enforcement role in relation to dog ownership and control.

2.8 The influencing role of the Borough Council derives from its status as a democratic organ of local government able to reflect the view of the Hastings Borough community, which it serves.  Whilst there is little doubt that the proper welfare of animals is of increasing concern to that community the activities of the Council are constrained by the limits on its statutory powers.

2.9 As a large organisation within the community the Borough Council has the ability to influence the animal welfare debate and to lead by example through the way it conducts its operations and by supporting and encouraging other organisations with similar interests.

2.10 In this Charter, the term "Council" means Hastings Borough Council except where an alternative understanding of the term is clearly indicated.

2.11 The Council will ensure that this Charter is produced and made widely available to members of the public through the Town Hall, Council Offices and other community based centres.

2.12 The Council undertakes to review and amend this Charter from time to time in order to update and strengthen its provision in the light of changes in national and European legislation, local circumstances and the growing public concern about animal welfare.

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3  Enforcement of Statutory Powers

"The Council will fully enforce the statutory powers it has in respect of animal welfare"

3.1 The Borough Council is responsible for the licensing and enforcement of licence conditions in respect of a range of activities involving animals, including:

  • Dog Breeding
  • Pet Shops
  • Animal Boarding
  • Riding Establishments
  • Zoos

3.2 The Borough Council also has a role in enforcement of a range of other statutory powers in relation to dogs, including dangerous dogs, stray dogs and dog fouling.

3.3 In order to fulfil its statutory responsibilities under this legislation the Borough Council will:

  • Employ a core of trained and experienced personnel and where necessary and appropriate call upon the expertise of others to assist in the process;
  • Produce, apply and regularly review conditions attached to licences issued by the Council to provide adequate protection for animals and promote their welfare;
  • Prepare and distribute to all involved, material explaining the provisions of the law and licence conditions so as to promote a better understanding of the law and greater compliance with the various statutes;
  • Inspect premises and carry out such enquiries as required prior to their licence application being determined to ensure that they will comply with the licence conditions;
  • Patrol the Borough to deal with stray dogs, dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog ownership;
  • Liaise closely with other enforcing agencies to ensure a co-ordinated approach to animal welfare.

3.4 The Council recognises that it may also be required to enforce statutory powers relating to pest control.  In such circumstances, the Council will only kill pest species where they present a serious threat to the health or well-being of the local community.

3.5 The Council will ensure that care is taken in the selection of poisons if required to deal with population control or health hazards.  The Council will only allow people who are properly trained and certificated to use poisons.

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4  Influencing Behaviour

"The Council will use its best endeavours to promote improvements in animal welfare through its influencing role and in association with other organisations"

4.1 Responsible Pet Ownership

4.1.1 The Council believes that domestic animals have an important place in our society and give much pleasure and companionship to their human owners.  The Council recognises that many domestic animals can suffer neglect and cruelty and that it is right that measures be taken to protect them in such circumstances.

4.1.2 The Council considers that a pet should only be purchased once the prospective purchaser has the necessary equipment, facilities, time and financial means or the level of interest necessary for the proper keeping of the animal and understands the responsibilities entailed by ownership of the pet.  It is clear that some homes are unsuitable for the keeping of certain pets.  Some personal circumstances could mean that adequate provision for pets is difficult if not impossible.

4.1.3 The Council will encourage owners to ensure that their pets have sufficient space to avoid distress or suffering.  Particular attention will be drawn to the inadequate standards for cages, which appear to be commonly accepted for many birds and small mammals.  The term "birds and small mammals" includes canaries and budgerigars, rabbits and guinea pigs, etc.

4.1.4 The Council supports and encourages the use of 'pet' dogs as therapy in hospices and nursing homes.

4.1.5 In encouraging responsible pet ownership the Council regards leaving animals unattended at home during the day, as well as long periods in motor vehicles, especially in hot weather, should be discouraged.

4.1.6 The Council will particularly encourage the re-homing of rescued animals from recognised societies and establishments.

4.1.7 The display of puppies, kittens and exotic animals in pet shops can lead to impulse buying without proper thought for the future well-being of the pet.

4.1.8 The Council will require licence holders or pet shops in its jurisdiction to ensure that particular attention is given to exotic animals and Environmental Health Officers of the Council shall ensure that the special requirements for the proper keeping of the exotic animals in pet shops are adhered to.

4.1.9 The Council considers that the sale of any animal to a person under the age of sixteen years should be made illegal.

4.2 Responsible Dog Ownership

4.2.1 The Council will continue to promote responsible dog ownership and believes it has an important role in advising and educating the public.

4.2.2 The Council will endeavour to re-home dogs that come into its care.  Dogs will only be destroyed in abnormal circumstances, and then only having taken into account veterinary advice, and always in a humane way.  The Council will also:

  • Encourage the neutering of dogs as part of its animal welfare education activities.
  • Audit its canine records on a regular basis.

4.2.3 The Council encourages all dog owners to train their dogs and will make information available on the subject for those who are interested.

4.2.4 The Council supports the humane training of animals by the Police, other public protection agencies and for those who help the disabled.

4.2.5 The Council supports the introduction of a properly financed and organised National Dog Registration Scheme associated with a system of identification.

4.2.6 The Council will continue to provide dog faeces bins throughout the Borough and to publicise them.

4.3 Population Control

4.3.1 The Council, working with other animal agencies, encourages the neutering of domestic cats and dogs, which plays an important part in countering irresponsible pet ownership.  This should be carried out as early as possible to reduce the number of unwanted animals born each year.

4.3.2 Surgical neutering is a safe and effective way to prevent unwanted breeding of cats and dogs.  Veterinary surgeons will advise owners of the best time for operation, and the need for a correct diet and exercise to keep pets healthy.

4.4 Surgical Mutilations

4.4.1 The Council does not approve of the mutilation of animals for cosmetic (non-veterinary) purposes.  Tail docking must only be undertaken on the advice of a veterinary surgeon.  It is now illegal for ear cropping and debarking of dogs as well as the de-clawing of cats to take place.

4.5 Breeding

4.5.1 The Council does not approve of the breeding of animals for producing changes in bodily form, and/or function, which are detrimental to their health or quality of life.

4.5.2 The Council is strongly opposed to irresponsible and uncontrolled private and commercial breeding of puppies and kittens, such as puppy farms.

4.6 Farm Animals

4.6.1 The welfare of a farm animal, whether on the farm, in transit, at markets or at the place of slaughter should be considered in terms of the "five freedoms", which define the standards for acceptable animal welfare.

4.6.2 The Borough Council fully supports the commitment of East Sussex County Council to protect the welfare of farm animals by fulfilling its statutory responsibilities under the Animal Health Act.  These activities by the County Council will help to ensure as far as is possible that:

  • Farm animals are free from hunger and thirst by having ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  • Farm animals are free from discomfort by the provision of an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting place.
  • Farm animals are free from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Farm animals are free to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
  • Farm animals are free from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoids mental suffering.
  • Farm animals are properly cared for during transport and sale to minimise fear, distress or discomfort.

4.6.3 The Council supports all systems of farming, which promote humane treatment of farm animals.

4.7 Animals in Education

4.7.1 The Borough Council fully supports the commitment of East Sussex County Council to:

  • Actively promote the awareness of animal welfare in schools;
  • Ensure that animals kept by Rural Studies Centres and in schools are kept in accordance with the County Council's Charter;
  • Ensure that the welfare aspects are fully explained to the pupils.

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5  Leading by Example

"The Council will take full account, where appropriate, of animal welfare issues in its day to day operations and its decision- making processes"

5.1 Procurement

5.1.1 In its role as a major purchaser the Council will endeavour not to purchase animal by-products where alternatives are available.

5.1.2 The Council supports the Convention on International Trade - Endangered Species (CITES) and its opposition to the importation of animals from the wild and to the importation of products derived from wild animals.  The Council accepts, however, that importation of live specimens may be necessary for captive breeding programmes for endangered species.

5.1.3 The Council realises that the use of fur on robes and other garments relating to Council office may cause offence to many local people.  The Council will therefore not use fur on any such garments.

5.1.4 Many people who are concerned about animal welfare, and in particular the slaughter of animals or the morality of killing animals for food, have decided to change their lifestyle and adopt a vegetarian diet.  The Council respects this and will endeavour to ensure, as far as possible, that when meals are served in Council establishments, vegetarian alternatives are also available.

5.2 Land Management

5.2.1 In relation to land and farms owned by the Borough Council it will normally:

  • Not let land for use by circuses and other like enterprises of entertainment where caged and/or performing animals are used;
  • Make it a condition of all lettings of Council land for fairs and similar events, that living creatures (including goldfish) are neither sold nor given as prizes.

5.2.2 The Council will seek to ensure that wherever on its own land, animals are used in the making of films, advertisements or television programmes and in the theatre, they are not caused any suffering or distress.

5.2.3 The Council will support the following principles in respect of wildlife and seek to employ them:

  • Oppose in principle the taking or killing of wild animals, or the infliction of any suffering on them, subject to the need to control vermin;
  • Oppose the use of all snares and any trap which causes suffering;

5.2.4 The Council believes that angling practices should seek to minimise the infliction of pain and suffering on fish.  The Council acknowledges the work done by angling organisations to keep, protect and conserve the aquatic environment and to keep anglers informed.

5.2.5 The Council supports a national ban on the use of lead shot by anglers and shall not permit the use of Lead shot and ledger weights, barbed hooks or live vertebrate bait for angling on Council owned land.

5.2.6 The Council supports the conservation of river banks, hedgerows, wooded areas, etc. which provide a habitat and cover for other animals which are not normally hunted.  The Council acknowledges the conservation work done by many landowners and sportsmen.

5.2.7 The Council will ensure that its land management practices accord with the protection and welfare of wild animals and their habitats.  Furthermore, it will encourage other landowners to follow similar principles.

5.3 Decision Making Processes

5.3.1 Hastings Borough Council believes that the rich variety of wildlife in the Borough is an important treasure to be protected and safeguarded . Wild animals have the capacity to suffer stress and pain through direct abuse and persecution and through direct and indirect stress placed upon them through the destruction, reduction and pollution of their food sources and habitats.

5.3.2 Hastings Borough Council published an Urban Nature Conservation Strategy in 1996.  The Strategy outlines the strategic framework for protecting wildlife and habitats in the Borough.  A range of policies and objectives commits the Authority to supporting international and national policies and legislation on the protection of habitats and species.  Specific policies in the Strategy protect local species and habitats and aim to sustain a viable network of local ecosystems in which wild animals can fulfil their life cycles.  The key wildlife protection policies of the Nature Conservation Strategy are integral to the statutory Borough Plan, which outlines future development proposals in the Borough.

5.3.3 The Council recognises that the welfare of wild animals extends to the protection of habitats and natural systems that are essential to their survival.  All wildlife, from insects to birds, mammals and plants require a healthy environment in which to fulfil their life cycle requirement.  This authority therefore recognises that the welfare of wild animals in the Borough cannot be separated from the welfare afforded to the complete range of wildlife and their habitats that together constitute what is known as the biodiversity of the Borough.

5.3.4 The UK Sustainable Development strategy identifies specific targets and indicators for a sustainable healthy natural environment.  The UK strategy identifies the population of wild birds as a key indicator of a healthy, natural environment for all wildlife as well as wild animals and all local residents.

5.3.5 Taking into account national and local strategies which directly affect the welfare of wild animals, Hastings Borough Council will ensure, wherever possible, the welfare of wild animals is protected.

5.3.6 The Council recognises that changes to the natural environment through land use changes or changes in management practices may directly or indirectly adversely affect the ability of habitats and ecosystems to sustain viable populations of wild animals and plants.

5.3.7 The Council recognises that the welfare of wild animals is inseparable from the protection of their habitats and the natural systems that support their life cycles and that habitats and species are easily destroyed and harm can be irreversible.  Hastings Borough Council is therefore committed to implementing all the key policies and proposals for the welfare and protection of wild animals as approved within the Urban Nature Conservation Strategy and the Borough Plan.

5.3.8 The Council will produce a Local Biodiversity Action Plan which outlines realistic targets for the welfare and continued survival of local wild animals, wildlife as a whole, and their habitats.

5.3.9 A database of local wildlife species, both animals and plants, which is accessible to the local community, is seen as integral to fulfilling our biodiversity objectives and will serve to act as a monitor of our success in fulfilling these objectives and monitoring wild animal welfare in the Borough.

5.3.10 The Borough has rare, threatened and legally protected species of animal within its administrative jurisdiction.  The Council will therefore endeavour to ensure their continued survival through research, habitat management and monitoring.

5.3.11 The Council supports the construction of road crossings and other innovative measures to safeguard wild animals in the Borough.  Where appropriate, the Council will encourage developers to safeguard the welfare of wild animals and their habitats.

5.3.12 The Council will, wherever possible, alert all developers to the presence of protected species of animal on any proposed development site, or where they reside nearby and may be affected by loss of habitats, and will alert them to relevant legislation protecting wild animals and their habitats.

5.3.13 The Council will encourage the use of management agreements and legal agreements as part of the Planning process to ensure adequate management of land, which may be affected by development.

5.3.14 The Council will encourage the designation of Local Nature Reserves as a positive commitment to safeguarding wild animals and their habitats.

5.3.15 The Council will encourage the development and use of educational and interpretative materials to raise awareness of wild animals in the Borough.

5.3.16 The Council will consult with local residents and groups who have considerable local knowledge, experience and expertise in the welfare and study of wild animals to assist in the formation of strategies and action plans to support wildlife in the Borough.

Date last revised - 21st January 2001

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