THE CONTROVERSIAL EU directive that will severely curtail the freedom of cat and dog hobbyists to transport their pets continues to cause concern amongst fanciers – and there still appears to be no resolution to the concerns expressed to the Government department responsible for implementing the planned legislation.
As reported previously, the directive, EU Regulation 1/20051 on the welfare of animals during transport, is due to come into force in the UK from January 5th 2007. Although ostensibly aimed at farm livestock being transported for sale and slaughter, closer reading of the document indicates that the freedom of movement of animals that have been bred by hobbyists – including cat breeders and exhibitors – will be severely curtailed.
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched a consultation document to all interested parties - which included the GCCF - but all submissions on this far-reaching and wide-ranging subject closed at the end of July.
However, DEFRA have given no indication of whether or not they intend to issue guidelines exempting hobbyists from the regulations. Indeed, their attitude could be considered to be distinctly blasé, especially as one cat fancier was even told by DEFRA Minister Ben Bradshaw that the interpretation of the Directive would be “a matter for the courts to decide”.
As things stand, the application of the regulation to cat and dog fanciers depends entirely on how the regulation is interpreted by individual officials.
Dr Raymond Wigley, Secretary of the Singapura Cat Club and the Singapura Breed Advisory Committee, had investigated the matter fully and was very concerned at the lack of apparent concern by both the Kennel Club and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Although the GCCF have submitted a response to DEFRA, it appears that the Kennel Club – or certain individuals within the KC at least – have little or no idea of how the regulation could affect fanciers. (See below)
“I was concerned at the apparent lack of action by the Kennel Club, so I telephoned their offices and spoke to an individual for over two hours,” said Dr Wigley.
“I have to say, I was not impressed, because it became clear that they had not read the document carefully and seemed to think that it was a ‘cat issue’ and that it did not apply to dogs. I was able to put them straight on that point!”
Dr Wigley has since been put in touch with KC External Affairs Manager Phil Buckley, who is very ‘clued up’ on the legislation and is working very closely with DEFRA to ensure that hobbyists from both fancies do not fall foul of the law as enshrined in the directive.
Meanwhile, the GCCF have submitted a very detailed written response to DEFRA which may be accessed via the GCCF website: www.gccfcats.org
The response covers all areas of concern to cat fanciers and includes observations on showing, transport of cats to show and breeding, in which the GCCF point out that cat fanciers do not consider their hobby breeding to be ‘economic activity’ and therefore it should not be treated as such under the terms of the directive.
The GCCF sum up their findings in the conclusion to their response which reads as follows:
‘The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy therefore submits that, in the interests of all concerned, especially the welfare of the cats themselves, cat owners, breeders and exhibitors who register their cats with a recognized bona fide organisation with jurisdiction in the UK and/or who show their cats at shows licensed by such an organisation should be excluded (derogated) from the requirements of EU Regulation 1/2005 on the Welfare of Animals During Transport.’
Dr Wigley had some reservations on the conclusion, and commented:
“It does show a slight flaw in their argument. In their conclusion they say that cat owners/breeders or exhibitors who register their cats with a bona fide organisation and/or who show their cats at licensed shows should be excluded from the regulations.
“Should this be accepted it would mean anyone who showed a cat at a licensed show would be excluded, irrespective of what they were transporting in their vehicle. I don’t think they meant that. It would have been better had it had the words ‘whilst transporting those registered animals...’”
Thus far, the GCCF has not received any feedback from DEFRA, although it is understood that DEFRA are set to make some sort of announcement regarding the directive by the end of August.
OUR CATS will, of course, report any news on this issue as soon as we can. In the meantime, it seems that in typical bureaucratic style, the official interpretation of the directive remain as clear as mud.
By NICK MAYS
Dogged by indifference
Dr Ray Wigley comments on his recent conversation with an official from the Kennel Club:
“Being concerned about the seeming lack of activity by the Kennel Club, I decided to give them a call to find out what they were doing about the EU Regulations.
What follows is a transcript of a conversation between myself and a representative from the Kennel Club. The total conversation took over two hours but I have précised it to protect the bored:
RAY WIGLEY: “Did you respond to DEFRA about the EU regulations?”
KC Official: “Yes.”
RAY: “What did you say?”
KC: “Well I spoke to some man at DEFRA who told me that dog shows weren’t affected so I said thanks and just said that as it didn’t affect us we had nothing more to say.”
RAY: “Did he say anything else?”
KC: “Well he pointed me to 2.11 where it said the primary purpose is for pleasure and attending shows.”
RAY: “Did he define what a pet breeder is?”
RAY: “Well it says not as part of a business activity e.g. pet breeder.”
RAY: “At the end of that sentence.”
KC: “Just a minute. Oh yes. But he didn’t say about that.”
RAY: “Oh OK. So how does the regulation affect the 4900 dog breeding establishments?”
KC: “What establishments?”
RAY: “The ones mentioned further in the guidelines.”
KC: “Where in the guidelines does it say that?”
RAY: “On page 63.”
KC: “Just a minute...”
RAY: “Well that is breeders, it has nothing to do with shows.”
KC: “OK so it doesn’t concern the Kennel Club then?”
RAY: “So you are not bothered how it affects dog breeders then?”
KC: “No. Anyway we only register the dogs so DEFRA won’t know who the breeders are. And it has nothing to do with shows.”
RAY: “What about the rest of the guidelines? Have you read them?”
KC: “No I only bothered with the show bit. Anyway it has nothing to do with the Kennel Club does it?”
RAY: “Oh OK. Did they also mention about taking puppies to the vet, without veterinary advice, for inoculations against for example Distemper and Hard Pad prior to them being sold?”
KC: “Where does it say that?”
RAY: “Article 1 paragraph 5 of the regulations.”
KC: “Yes but the regulations are long and complicated.”
RAY: “Regulations usually are. But you read them, yes?”
KC: “Well no. But they have to be ratified by the British Government and that will take time won’t it.”
RAY: “And the mention of economic activity?”
KC: “What do you mean?”
RAY: “Well if my dog is worth £100 in stud fees before winning Crufts, what is he worth after winning Crufts? Surely he is worth at least ten times the fee if he wins?”
KC: “Well maybe. But DEFRA don’t go to dog shows so they know nothing about what happens. And we’re not going to tell them.”
RAY: “Oh, OK thanks. Good luck.”
Ray concludes: “It looks like the Kennel Club have done very little, but perhaps our illustrious GCCF have replied on their behalf as their comments mention any animal. At least the GCCF made an effort!”
EU Transport of Animals - the Minister washes his hands
IF DEFRA appear confused as to the interpretation of the EU Directive on the transport of animals, this may not be surprising given the Ministerial attitude to the issue.
Burmese breeder Chrissy Russell (Ayshasan) followed the advice given in the original OUR CATS report some week ago and wrote to her MP, Dr Julian Fellowes, about the issue. Dr Fellowes forwarded her letter to the DEFRA Minister responsible, Ben Bradshaw, seeking clarification on whether or not the directive applied to cat fanciers.
However, the Minister’s response was, in Chrissy’s own words, “less than helpful”, especially when, at the end of the letter, he implied that the Government would be content for the courts to decide whether or not the directive applied to cat fanciers – seemingly indicating that a prosecution brought against a cat fancier would resolve the issue!
Even worse, although the Minister stated that he did not expect cat fanciers to be included in the Regulation, he quite openly stated in the letter that the Government were not in a position to clarify the finer points of the directive, as this was clearly beyond their remit… another example of the EU riding roughshod over the UK Government.
The Minister’s letter reads:
The Community Regulation… on the welfare of animals during transport will mainly affect those who transport animals on a regular basis in connection with an economic activity, such as farmers, hauliers and professional breeders.
The Community regulation does not define what constitutes an ‘economic activity’ nor can we offer a definition in our forthcoming statutory instrument that will supplement the provisions of the Community Regulation in England. In the event of any dispute over the meaning of the term ‘economic activity’, it would ultimately be for the courts to decide its meaning. That said, we have taken the view that transport in connection with an economic activity would consist of:
‘Any transport of animals undertaken as part of a business of commercial activity which aims at achieving financial gain, whether direct or indirect, for any person involved in the transport.’
Section 2.11 of our consultation guidance provides examples of the kind of journeys that we would not consider not to be connected with an economic activity. You will note that it includes journeys involving a single animal accompanied by a person who has responsibility for its welfare (or two animals accompanied by two persons) or pet animals taken to a specialist show or exhibition. As such, we would consider the kinds of journeys you cite to be exempt from the Community Regulation.
We take the view that the Community Regulation is not intended to affect ‘hobby’ (i.e. very occasional) breeders whose journeys may involve them transporting a single cat/kitten to a new owner who may be paying a sum of money for the animal…. However it will involve those who breed ‘professionally’ and carry more than one animal on journeys as part of a business.
I must stress again that this is only our view on the Community Regulation and not a definitive interpretation, as again that would be a matter for the courts.
With best wishes,
Chrissy Russell was less than satisfied with the Minister’s response and told OUR CATS: “I have to wonder why people have to be dragged to court, wasting time and public money, and causing untold stress, because the government can’t decide what is lawful and what is not. Trust me, it will cost the Government more in public money taking us to court than it will ever rake in with licences for cat breeder/exhibitors.
“How is a court supposed to rule on something that is NOT accurately laid down in law? It will end up at the discretion of a judge or magistrate who probably doesn’t understand the complexities of what we do. Let’s face it, how many times have breeders, when Joe Public asks what they do, heard the phrase ‘You must be making a mint!’? They simply have no idea. It’s only when you are involved that you get a serious wake-up call, and you realise that this is an expensive hobby - NOT a commercial venture!”
Chrissy had some commonsense advice for the Government, adding:
“If the government are going to pass a law, then do it properly, and state categorically whether we are exempt, or if we are included, which would mean classifying us as a business, with all of the implications that that would have when we all decide to start claiming our tax back on the thousands of pounds each of us spend every year on our ‘business’.
”If we cave in and buy this licence, we will in effect be admitting that what we do is a commercial activity, and all Hell could then rain down on us!
”I am still very worried about how this affects us when we take a couple of cats to the vet at the same time too.”