I have received correspondence from a number of constituents about amendments to the Animal Welfare Act as they relate to birds of prey.
I understand that the panel that was formed to advise on the drafting of the regulations was comprised largely of representatives from local authorities and the sector councils: the Equine Sector Council, the Canine and Feline Sector Group and the Companion Animal Sector Council. These groups were tasked with consulting more widely within their sectors, feeding comments back to the panel. As I am sure you appreciate, it would not be possible to have a representative from every industry covered by the regulations on the panel itself, as this would create too large a group to meet or to be productive. However, all of the sectors were represented through the sector groups.
I am encouraged that DEFRA has received assurances from the members of the panel that bird of prey keepers were consulted as part of this process. Individuals and groups within this area have also fed comments and feedback directly to the Department, which has fed in to the drafting of the guidance which will support the regulations.
In regard to the scope of the regulations, they will not apply to birds being kept as pets or for sporting purposes, nor will they capture hobby breeders or conservationists if they are not running a business. There is a business test in the regulations to separate hobby breeders from those running a business, and this is expanded on in the guidance. A genuine hobbyist who does not make a profit would not be covered.
I welcome the fact that, under the new regulations, local authority inspectors will need to undertake a training course in inspection to ensure they are suitably qualified. There will be a transitional period to allow inspectors to undertake the training, during which time grandfather rights will apply. This training course will ensure that they are competent to inspect the different types of establishment covered by the regulations.