How updating the Animal Welfare Act 2006 Make Britain Safer?

Maxine Berry Interview

How updating the Animal Welfare Act 2006 Make Britain Safer?

Intro

Imagine a place where bullying, abuse, and violence disappears? What does it look like? How does it make you feel? Do you feel technology can protect us by knowing if someone has a violent past? Will you feel more secure if the police knew where violent people live and was using that information to make our communities safer? Sound too good to be true? Maybe, but there is a something that can help to make Britain safer and decrease violence in society.

In order to make us safe and to protect us we must be willing to take a risk. Brexit offers the opportunity UK to control and make us safer. So, how can we become safer by reducing abuse and violence? The answer is simple an animal abuse register.

Animal Register: The Basics

How can an animal abuse register reduce abuse and violence in this country? In order to understand how an animal abuse register can make Britain safer it is important to understand the very basics. First, the term animal abuse register creates a lot of questions, such as: what is an animal? Animal Welfare Act 2006 defines animal in section1 but whilst it does a marvelous attempt in defining animal it raises questions about application to invertebrates and how can it be successfully funded to allow enforcement? Maxine Berry through her Justice for Chunky petition calls for a register to protect our pets, companion animals. The state of Tennessee animal abuse register, as defined by Tennessee’s legislation establishing the register, an animal is defined as a companion that is not livestock and not wild. This means only those animals kept as companions, such as dogs or cats, will be covered.

This raises the next question; how will the register operate? A more detailed explanation can be found here. The register will only include those who have either been convicted of qualifying charge or pleads guilty to a qualifying charge. As a part of sentencing the individual will be placed on the register, by the courts, for a qualifying period based on the severity of the charge and if they have been previously charged for another qualifying offence. Once placed on the register, it will then become the responsibility of the convicted to provide up to date and accurate information. Failure to comply can result in serving further jail time. While on the register the individual will be barred from owning or caring for a pet. Also, it is proposed while on the register the individual will not be allowed to work with the vulnerable, the old, or the young.

Information Access:

Maxine Berry Interview
Maxine Berry being interviewed before submitting justice for chunky petition to DEFRA

As for who can access the information? Brighter Tomorrow, owned in part by Maxine Berry, envision the information being held on a database and when required the information is searched with an indication if the person is on the register. Only those who have a right to the information (sellers and employers) and pays a fee can access it. Nonetheless, Brighter Tomorrow is open to the idea of a public register, like Tennessee, but the government needs to make money to fund it. By limiting access and paying a fee makes the register self-funding. Plus it protects the information held on it. Otherwise it will be no better than the current Animal Welfare Act 2006.

At this stage I hope you are still with me and not sleeping. If you are get a cup of coffee or a hot milky tea. Glad you are back and want to learn more. I realise the above is not the most interesting or exciting; however, it provides important information on the framework and how the register will operate. For those of you who are familiar with the Police National Computer (PNC), maybe asking, why the register if we already have this? There are two fundamental reasons. First the PNC is not accessible to the public. Second the PNC is about holding crime information such as vehicle information and it is meant to solve crimes. Whereas the registry is about providing an additional tool that contains information about the individual, the crime, and sentence. The registry will provide an additional tool and provide accessible information to the public.

Why Change the Animal Welfare Act 2006?

After discussing the foundation of how the register will operate, I am sure the big looming question is why change the Animal Welfare Act 2006? First reason, from what I understand, there is a lack of funding for enforcement. As stated earlier the Animal Welfare Act 2006 covers all animals and can cover invertebrates too. Thereby making it difficult to set priorities, difficult to enforce, and limits funding for enforcement. This means does enforcement focuses on protecting pets, badgers, horses, or pigeons? Where are enforcement officers sent? Who is charged under the Act? It leaves a lot of questions that need to be answer and because of broad focus very difficult to enforce.

Another reason for the register, it provides vital information about those convicted of animal abuse that anyone can access. It also provides a funding mechanism when more information is needed from employers and the general public. Depending on the funding model selected it is possible the register can be self-funding.

dog roaming
dog roaming free.

Third reason for updating the Animal Welfare Act, regards how animals are treated in the Act. In America, for example, there is a growing trend to change the reference from pet owners to pet guardians. This semantic change may seem minor but it is very powerful. A failure of the Animal Welfare Act is animals are treated like property (e.g. X-Box, home computer, stove, etc.) and the shift to guardian means unable to manage own affairs. Changing from owner to guardian allows a necessary change in the law. It allows for tougher sentencing because harm to animal means harm to something that cannot care for itself and not simple property damage.

Next reason for changing Animal Welfare Act 2006 is sentencing is too lax. Maximum sentence is six months and most do not even see jail. The diminishes the serious nature of animal cruelty and make it seem like a “slap on the wrist.”

DEFRA has been asked to review our vision  and has not acted upon it. Stories like Chunky happen on a daily basis and highlights how the Animal Welfare Act 2006 fails our most vulnerable. The registry provides a way forward and offers a route to bring UK in line with other countries that value animals.

The immediate focus is getting the registry along with the appropriate funding for enforcement, changes to sentencing, and change to Animal Welfare Act 2006 to bring about effective change. This is a long and at a point where public support is crucial. I ask our supporters to attend the MPs surgery, write their MP, email their MP, Facebook message them, tweet them, and to do the same for DEFRA.

I am convinced the registry can make a positive and long-lasting change in the UK. The change will mean better lives for everyone. For us to have a better life, with less violence and abuse, comes a very little cost and with minimal disruption. All we need now is continued support from the public and support of our government.

Conclusion

Finally I believe the Animal Welfare Act 2006 has merit and should be retained. Nonetheless, I believe by reforming the Act and focusing on companion animals it can lead to more prosecutions and have a lasting impact on crime reduction.

Thank you for reading and I hope you will support the cause.

We can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JusticeforChunkyCampaign/

Further Related Articles

Tennessee Animal Abuse Legislation

Vision for Animal Abuse Register with Cost and Benefit Analysis

Justice for Chunky Petition

How to Make a Brighter Tomorrow for Your Pet: Supporting the Animal Abuse Register

Tikkun Olam: Making a Better Britain Through the Animal Abuse Register

5 Things the Animal Abuse Register Will Provide the UK

Why Does Britain Need the Animal Abuse Register?

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Why is the Tennessee model the best model for the UK Animal Abuse Register

remembering dogs that serve
dream
we all have a dream and ours is bringing an animal abuse register

Why the Tennessee Model is the best model for an animal abuse register?

The answer is simple. The Tennessee model for the animal abuse register offers an “out-of-box” solution thereby being able save government money by providing a proven structure.  Furthermore the success of the Tennessee Model makes it the best model for the UK to use for its register.

Out of Box Solution

Inspiring other states to legislate the register

So what is meant by an out-of-box solution? To begin with, the Tennessee register as been operation since January 2016 and it is inspiring other states to legislate similar type of registers. Other states deciding to follow Tennessee is a testament to the success of the Tennessee model.

Whilst the House of Commons, Committee on Environmental, Food, and Rural Affairs, Animal Welfare in England: domestic pets on page 33 believes in the merits of the register but fears it may lead to vigilantism. This author believes the Public Order Act 1986 and other legislation is can address any issue of vigilantism. Plus if Parliament does feel the need, it can increase civil and criminal penalties for anyone who acts as a vigilante based on information contained in the register.

Correct statutory definition of animal

Second reason, why this author believe the Tennessee model is the right model, the legislation defines the term animal. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the term animal is very broad. Hypothetically, the term animal as defined by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, section 1(3) – section 1(4), can imply the act could be applied to ants, snails, and in a very extreme case to even bacteria.  This author is not saying ants, spiders, and microbes will every be protected under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Instead this author is saying the Act, as it currently is written, could, with enough political pressure, be applied to cover invertebrates.

Whilst this author does not disagree all animals should be protected from animal cruelty, nonetheless this author believes the Tennessee definition is correct.

Only applying the register to companion animals raises a very important debate, what should the register cover? The problem arise when cost and enforcement are considered. How can you effectively enforce animal protection in a very rural area, especially for livestock? How do you carry out enforcement with a limited budget and a limited staff? What takes priority protecting a badger, a fox, or a dog? Where does the priority lie?

Granted all animals are important; however there is not enough budget or resources to equally enforce the register for all animals. This means something will take priority and others become a lesser priority. Assume for a moment, if the register covered companion animals, livestock, and wild animals kept in captivity. Where do you start? Do you protect the seeing eye dog that allows a blind person the ability to work and become a productive member of society and carry out enforcement of a pet-shop? Alternatively do you look for fox hunting events, check on zoos, check farms to ensure animal welfare is being protected; or check the woods to ensure trapping is not occurring?

The point this author is making, a broad definition makes it harder to enforce especially when all animals are treated the same. Furthermore this author believes animals that require guardianship, companion animals, should receive additional protection through longer sentencing. Reason for this belief, is based on this author’s support for the legislation and belief companion animals improve lives of individual thereby are worthy of additional protection. Finally this author is also trying to demonstrate complexity imposed by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the need for an update.

UK sunrise

Longer Sentencing

Third point as to why the Tennessee model is a good out of the box solution, it provides for longer sentences. Is rehabilitation a better solution than increasing sentencing? This author believes, those who might benefit from rehabilitation need to be correctly identified and correctly matched to the correct rehabilitation program. Requiring everyone convicted of animal cruelty to go through a rehabilitation program, according to Civitis report on rehabilitation by Iain Murray, see for example sections 3 – 4, a generic program will not work for everyone. This author believes, we all make choices and we assess our choice on a variety of factors such as: risk, like, urgency, priority, and how it will improve our situation. In order to dissuade some from committing animal cruelty and dissuade others from re-offending, this author believes longer sentences is necessary.

Returning to the previous discussion in the preceding section, this author mentions the definition of animal and discusses the issues with the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Tennessee model provides longer sentences for those who abuse companion animals. Companion animals are animals that are kept as our companions like dogs and cats. Whilst this author fully understands, appreciates, and does not necessarily disagrees that all animals should be treated equal. This author believes companion animals improve our lives by:

  • Alleviating stress
  • Keeping us healthy by keeping us active
  • Protecting us
    • Working for the police
    • Guarding us
    • Working at ports to smell out illegal drugs, bombs, or illegal imports (e.g. foods)
  • Helping us be productive members of society (e.g. seeing eye dog)
  • Being a part of our family

At least for this author, the starting point must be companion animals because companion animals are the group of animals in most need of guardianship and protection.

Fourth reason, the Tennessee model provides a model for the animal abuse register. Under the Tennessee model the register is public; showing the photograph of the person along with identifiable information and the person remains on the register for the period of time stated on the register.

Will the Animal Abuse Register Lead to Vigilantism?

Tennessee model has raised concerns in the United Kingdom, such a public record will lead to vigilantism.  It is worth noting, it is easy to search online in the UK, find a local paper, and the local paper publishes the photograph along with the name of the individual convicted (see – this example). As previously stated in this article, from my research I cannot find any indication vigilantism has occurred against those on the Tennessee register. Since the UK animal abuse register will mirror the sex offenders register, there is no media reports this author can find no stories of physical attacks against those on the sex offenders register.  Nonetheless, there is one story about individual over 7 years ago, in 2010 posting photos of pedophiles on Facebook and a few media investigations into various aspects of the sex offender register.

In regards to the individual who posted photos of pedophiles on Facebook, the question must be asked if the register was public similar to the Tennessee model would they have posted the photos? In this author’s opinion the posting of photos on Facebook, is at best using a very liberal definition of vigilantism, a very harmless form of vigilantism. Harmless in this context means, based on the article there were no terrorist threats, the physical violence, no threats of physical violence, no group took action; and based on the article, it does not appear the police were called. Based on the article, this author argues the action is more likely fits the definition of defamation that can be easily managed by Facebook suspending the account. Since the incident in 2010 did not require police to use their powers under the Public Order Act 2006, Misuse of Computers Act 1996, Offences Against the Persons Act 1861; or similar legislation, it can be argued a register will not lead to vigilantism.

Liverpool Albert Docks Sunrise
Liverpool Albert Docks at sunrise

UK Animal Abuse Register

Without spending a lot of time writing about my proposal for the animal abuse register in the UK, I am attaching it that can accessed from this link. This vision also includes a section on cost and benefit analysis of the different funding models.

Conclusion

The Tennessee model is quickly gaining a lot of fanfare by inspiring others to implement their own animal abuse register. Sadly, the United Kingdom is lagging behind other developed nations in protecting animals and implementing an animal abuse register. Whilst the Tennessee animal abuse register model may have a few undesirable aspects, nonetheless it provides a strong working solution for the United Kingdom that can be easily adapted to meet the UK needs. I strong believe the register must be adaptable and provide a deterrence against animal abuse. However for those who commit the offense then they should face the consequences of their decision and should they decide to repeat their crime then I believe a long sentence is warranted.

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