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PIF boss Nigel Baker gives his opinions on licensing

We live in a strange and unpredictable world. As of January 2017 the Nuclear or Doomsday clock was set at two and a half minutes to midnight, due to the rise of ‘strident nationalism’ worldwide; the United States’ President, Donald Trump’s, comments over North Korea, Russia, nuclear weapons and the disbelief in the scientific consensus over climate change by the Trump Administration.

Four months later and we are seeing a stand-off between the USA and North Korea and the Syria crisis unfold further with the use of nerve gas and the killing of innocents, as well as terrorist attacks in London and Sweden. In each of these events, I am disheartened that I am powerless to do anything other than be a bystander and saddened by how little some people value life.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU troubles me in so far as I would like to be optimistic that Britain is still ‘Great’ and can negotiate successful trade deals with the rest of the world. Whether the EU will cave into a ‘non member’ and give it the same trading rights as a member, remains to be seen! If we are penalised with trading tariffs and visas required to visit EU countries, will we really think this is success?

LICENSING

I remain a bystander on the global stage and a ‘watcher’ on the Brexit issue. Where I can make a difference, however, is on behalf of the members of the Pet Industry Federation, and more particularly on licensing. Last year at the Pet Industry Forum, we held a debate on licensing and the keeping of animals. Admittedly it was the last session of the day, but the room emptied by 25 percent, and when I asked afterwards why people left they thought the issue did not involve them! It was actually the most interesting debate of the day and saw agreement by the Blue Cross and the RSPCA (who were present in the room) that rehoming centres should be licensed!

Four pieces of legislation (there is one more and it’s about equine which is out if my remit) will be repealed and replaced with a regulation that sits under the Animal Welfare Act. The repealed laws cover pet vending; dog breeding, animal boarding and performing animals. Anyone who has anything to do with these areas will be affected i.e. any third party sellers; home boarders and doggy daycare and animal encounter businesses. In addition, what could (and should) get caught into these changes would be rehoming centres, groomers, dog walkers and pet sitters.

What’s under consideration is one type of licence for everyone, with one set of general guiding conditions and a schedule for each activity as minimum standards that every business will be required to meet. Licensing will be about ‘commercial’ activity and this will be defined in the new regulation, so if you are deemed a commercial business you will need a licence. Inspectors are likely to undertake some form of training so they understand your business; and there may be a need for a suitable qualification for the business owner or manager and training for your staff. In addition, there will be the opportunity for ‘light touch’ licensing for businesses that earn it, which could affect the time between inspections and the cost of licensing. Your local authority will remain responsible for issuing licenses.

As most of the proposed licensable activities (apart from equine) are about PIF members’ activities, PIF has an important role to play as an industry representative in the negotiations with DEFRA, particularly when you consider that the other voices consist of RSPCA, BVA, Cats Protection, Kennel Club and Battersea Dogs Home. In turn, PIF consults with REPTA and OATA on trade related issues.

So how can you get involved? DEFRA won’t consult on the consultation any more, but PIF will consult its membership. Indeed PIF is  already with working to get the pet vending, kennel, cattery and home boarding schedules tidied up, along with work to develop the doggy daycare schedule; a framework for animal encounters and a code of conduct for dog walkers and groomers published. If you want to be involved, don’t be a bystander – become part of the industry by joining the Pet Industry Federation. Your membership can make a difference to the way these regulations are formulated and provided the Doomsday Clock does not strike twelve, together we can improve animal welfare in England and Wales.

For more information go to www.petcare.org.uk.

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