Horse & Hound
New animal rescue code launched
The new Welsh scheme will form the basis of future regulations for animal rescues and sanctuaries
A VOLUNTARY code of practice for animal welfare establishments in Wales will form the basis for regulation and aim to stop problematic sanctuaries, as England faces being left behind.
The code, published by the Welsh government and drafted by the Animal Welfare Network for Wales (AWNW, whose members include Redwings, World Horse Welfare and RSPCA Cymru) outlines a framework for rescues and sanctuaries to deliver “exemplary levels” of care and encourage the highest standard of husbandry. It is hoped sanctuaries will follow the guidelines.
National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) chairman Nic de Brauwere, who also chairs the AWNW management committee, told H&H it was recognised that secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act was required to set standards.
“We want to shut down the ones that do a bad job because animals suffer. This is not about saying all rescues are good – we have some really problematic ones where there are serious welfare concerns and they need to improve or stop,” he said.
“The Animal Welfare Act is a very powerful tool if you can get into a premises, but often the owners don’t let you, so the only time we find out a sanctuary is a problem is when the public spots something and complains. At that point, you’ve already had animals suffering neglect or worse.”
Mr de Brauwere said the code took “the best of ” existing codes of practice created by NEWC and related organisations.
“It is a dynamic situation and having the Welsh government’s stamp of approval really sets public expectations – and it has a lot more clout than if it was just a NEWC code,” he said.
“We have spent too much time chasing places that should have been the ‘home for life’, or ‘happy ending’ for animals, who have ended up being in a hell worse than the one they came from. That just shouldn’t happen.
“It’s been going on too long. It needs to stop, and this is a really important step.”
Mr de Brauwere said there will be a two-year window to gauge the work before regulation is created. In Scotland, the Scottish government is due to put forward proposals for a public consultation on draft regulations on animal welfare establishments.
“Wales and Scotland have led the way on the secondary legislation. They have been very progressive in taking the opportunities where they have presented themselves,” he said.
A spokesman for the RSPCA told H&H it is working with the UK Government on guidelines for animal rescues in England.
“Now Wales has their code, England is in danger of being left behind. We’re closely monitoring the launch of the Welsh code; which we hope will deliver consistent standards.”
World Horse Welfare deputy chief executive Tony Tyler told H&H the Welsh code is a “step in the right direction”.
“This voluntary phase will allow the code to be trialled on the ground and any wrinkles ironed out before we tackle our ultimate goal; that these establishments are licensed to ensure they meet minimum welfare standards across the UK,” he said.
“There is no doubt people usually have the best intentions when setting up rescues but, sadly, the realities and complexities involved mean we do see situations where they fail and become welfare concerns themselves.
“We believe these guidelines will enable those seeking to set up a sanctuary, rescue or rehoming centre to make better-informed decisions, helping ensure they operate sustainably and the welfare of the animals in their care is protected.”