March 21, 2018

Although most animal welfare establishments, or “sanctuaries” are invaluable resources for the improvement of animal welfare, there are times when things go wrong.

Resources can be overwhelmed or capability surpassed for both large and small organisations, in these cases a framework is necessary to protect vulnerable animals and their carers who may find themselves out of their depth.

The regulation of animal welfare establishments is already in force in some European countries, and there are parallels with the regulation of other animal welfare establishments such as riding schools, dog breeders and kennels/catteries.

Similar measures could be introduced for sanctuaries in Wales with regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Welsh Government data collected under the Companion Animal Welfare Enhancement Scheme (CAWES) showed that there were approximately 88 “sanctuaries” that Local Authorities were able to identify in Wales.

As the Chair and secretariat to the Animal Welfare Network Wales (AWNW), the RSPCA played a key part in the AWNW’s working group on animal welfare establishments (sanctuaries), which took written and verbal evidence from animal welfare organisations and local authorities, presenting its report to the Minister in October 2012. Our 2014 public campaign urged the Welsh Government to consider the matter and introduce basic standards for such establishments.  Read the Members Research Service blog on the topic here.

In the meantime welfare cases within sanctuaries continue and whilst the RSPCA will endeavour to investigate any such cases, they will often involve large numbers of animals, which places an even greater strain in these already difficult times on both our, and our partners’, resources.

Since 2006, when animal welfare was mostly devolved to Wales, RSPCA Cymru has consistently campaigned for sanctuary regulation:

  • In 2009, the Animal Welfare Network Wales ran a seminar in North Wales to consider the legal case for regulation with presentations from the sector and Mike Radford of Aberdeen Law School. The RSPCA chaired and provided the secretariat.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, the Animal Welfare Network ran a working group including representatives from local authorities in Wales to take evidence from a wider group of stakeholders on the case for regulation.
  • In 2012 the Animal Welfare Network for Wales published a sectoral report calling for regulation of the sector.  
  • In 2014 and 2015, RSPCA Cymru launched a public campaign urging the Welsh Government to respond to the report.
  • In 2015, the Welsh Government asked the Animal Welfare Network for Wales to reexamine the case for regulation which led to the publication of an Addendum to the report confirming the need for regulation.
  • In February 2018, the Animal Welfare Network Wales submitted a draft Code of Practice for Animal Welfare Establishments in Wales. The AWNW is committed to this process but believes, as does the RSPCA, that a Code of Practice can only be effective if statutory and accompanied by regulations which require an Animal Welfare Establishment to licensed.