New Welsh Government could pave way for statutory powers for RSPCA

PRESENTLY, RSPCA officers have no formal powers – but the charity feels better recognition will ensure they are “better equipped” to respond quickly to animal welfare emergencies, while taking the pressure off of other public bodies they currently rely on for carrying out certain duties.

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As part of the charity’s ambitious strategy, the RSPCA aims to achieve statutory powers in Wales and England for its dedicated inspectors by 2030.

 

Animal welfare is devolved in Wales – meaning any decision about giving the RSPCA formal recognition under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 would sit with the Welsh Government and the Senedd.

 

New First Minister Vaughan Gething MS – who took office last week – included a specific pledge in his leadership manifesto to give RSPCA officers “additional enforcement powers”, and also pledged to “make Wales the leader on animal welfare standards in the UK.”

 

He has subsequently appointed Huw Irranca-Davies MS as the new Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs – meaning he will oversee animal welfare policy in Wales.

 

Mr Irranca-Davies has also previously shown support for giving the RSPCA statutory powers, pledging his “full support” during a debate in the Senedd tabled by Samuel Kurtz MS last November, and noting that any such move would remove a “burden” on other enforcement bodies, and “streamline the process fantastically”.

 

RSPCA Senior Public Affairs Manager for Wales, Billie-Jade Thomas, said: “Our frontline officers do tremendous work responding to urgent situations of cruelty and neglect – and help countless animals across Wales each year.

 

“But the current system means they often have to rely on certain public bodies to get things done – placing unnecessary strain on bodies like the police and local authorities; and sometimes meaning animals have to wait to get the help they so urgently need.

 

“It’s really encouraging that the new First Minister, Vaughan Gething MS, singled out this issue in his leadership manifesto – and supported additional enforcement powers for our officers. We’re also really pleased his new Cabinet Secretary responsible for animal welfare has previously been a supporter of this too. We have written to them both to request meetings at their earliest convenience to discuss how we can progress this commitment together, and ensure our inspectors are even better equipped to carry out their vital work protecting animals.

 

“The formation of a new Welsh Government comes at a potentially exciting time for animal welfare in Wales. With the Welsh Government’s consultation of the licensing of animal establishments, activities and exhibits having recently closed, 2024 could also see progress towards stronger legal protections for thousands of animals in Wales – including racing greyhounds.

 

“With the Animal Welfare Plan for Wales now in its third year, we look forward to working with the new First Minister and Cabinet Secretary to create a Wales that is better and kinder for every animal.”

 

The new First Minister’s leadership manifesto also pledged support for banning the giving of pets as prizes – a pledge which could build on the Welsh Government’s existing commitments already included in the Animal Welfare Plan 2021-2026.

All of Wales’ 22 local authorities have restricted this activity on the land which they control – but giving away pets as prizes remains legal on privately-owned land in Wales.

 

Billie added: “With summer just around the corner, we know many will be excited by the return of fairgrounds and seasonal fetes.

 

“But sadly, it’s still commonplace to see pets – mainly goldfish – being given away as prizes.

 

“While local councils in Wales have done great work on banning this issue on their own land, a Wales-wide ban would better protect goldfish and help create a society that is kind to every animal.”

This year the RSPCA celebrates its 200th birthday. To mark this special anniversary the animal welfare charity wants to inspire one million people to join their movement to improve animals’ lives. To find out how you can join their million-strong movement for animals visit www.rspca.org.uk/200.

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