How updating the Animal Welfare Act 2006 Make Britain Safer?
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.
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.
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.
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/