Local authorities play a major role in protecting the welfare of animals. Not only are they responsible for enforcing major pieces of animal related legislation but they also have wide-ranging optional powers.
Recent developments such as the implementation of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and changes to legislation giving local authorities sole responsibility for dealing with stray dogs - along with the animal welfare implications of emergencies, such as flooding and animal disease outbreaks - demonstrate that this work has never been more vital.
What do we do?
The RSPCA has a local government adviser who provides an information service on a variety of animal welfare issues to politicians and officers at all levels of local government in England and Wales. As well as providing briefings and public information material, we also provide the Society’s national response to consultations on issues relating to both animal welfare and local authorities.
The majority of our work involves establishing and building relationships to improve welfare with those within local government whose work directly impacts on animals such as dog or animal wardens, farm inspectors and those who license animal establishments. Increasingly we are working with other sections of local government where we are trying to encourage them to consider animal welfare within their policies, especially in social housing and contingency and emergency planning.
Increasingly we are working in partnership with local authorities to tackle many issues such as puppy trafficking and dangerous dogs, as well as more general messages such as responsible pet ownership. The role of the local government adviser in this situation is to sometimes be actively involved, and other times ensure that relevant branches and inspectors are put in touch with officers. Examples of this are the BARK project and Community Animal Action Events.
Celebrating and sharing good practice
With 380 local authorities in England and Wales all involved in services relating to animals, there is a wealth of innovation and good practice that can be shared. It is therefore important in our role to promote practical solutions to animal welfare that other authorities might like to adopt. The Community Animal Welfare Footprints (CAWF) is a scheme that provides a mechanism for local authorities and housing providers to be recognised for good practice in animal welfare. The scheme, launched in 2008, has lead to the production of a CAWF good practice guide booklet which hopes to further improve animal welfare. More information about the scheme and good practice booklet can be found on the Political Animal website.