Clause 32 - Section 31: supplementary

Part of Animal Welfare Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:00 am on 26 January 2006.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare) 9:00, 26 January 2006

Before I address the amendments, I will just mention that for, technical reasons, we are reviewing the wording relating to the reimbursement   of expenses in the clause. If necessary, we will present amendments on Report, but they will not mean a substantive change.

Amendments Nos. 32, 112 and 131 would require a court to take account of an animal’s interests when exercising its powers under clauses 31 and 32. As with amendment No. 130, which we discussed on Tuesday, I am happy to reflect further on these amendments, although I have some reservations and will wish to ensure a coherent approach throughout the Bill.

Amendment No. 179 attempts to restrict the category of people to whom the court can direct an animal to be disposed of. That would be an unnecessary restriction on the freedom of the court to make a judgment in each case about who is the most sensible person to take on the care of such an animal. The person to whom the animal was given would become at least temporarily responsible for it and therefore subject to the welfare offence. The courts will make it their business to consider whether the person who is given the animal is capable of caring for it properly. The amendment also appears to consider only companion animals and would, for example, prevent the courts from sending farm animals to market or slaughter. I can reassure hon. Members that, should it become obvious in the future that the absence of this requirement was causing animal welfare problems, we would issue appropriate guidance to the courts.

Subsections (3) and (4) are necessary to ensure that the interests of the owner or keeper of a seized animal are protected. That is particularly relevant in the case of farm animals, where a whole herd or flock may be seized. On the basis of those arguments, I urge hon. Members not to press their amendments.