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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 11:17 GMT
Under-16s may face pet-buying ban
A dog
The RSPCA wants better protection for animals
Younger teenagers could be banned from buying kittens, puppies and other pets as a result of a review of animal protection laws.

The animal welfare society the RSPCA wants the legal age at which youngsters can buy a domestic animal to rise to 18, but would welcome an increase from 12 to 16.

Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley said a review of the 11 existing acts of Parliament regulating the treatment of animals was needed - with the raising of the legal age of buying a pet one of the main issues to be considered.

"This is a broad and sensitive area of legislation on which we plan to consult widely and openly... this will be a lengthy process but we need to take our time and get it right so that any resulting changes stand the test of timel," he said.

"We need to have in place the legislation that not only protects animals against physical abuse but also recognises quality of life and physiological needs."

Circuses face whip ban

Circus animals are also likely to receive greater protection.

Those born in the wild may be barred from performing at all, while the use of tethers, goads and whips to train any animal could be restricted.

Any law would be likely to include higher standards for their housing, meaning circuses would have to keep animals in winter quarters of the same type of standard as those demanded of zoos.

Chris Laurence, RSPCA chief veterinary officer, said: "We urge the government to be bold, seize this opportunity and act quickly to close the many loopholes in the law which still allow animals to suffer unnecessarily in the 21st Century."

New laws he wanted to see included some to allow the organisation to intervene before an animal was hurt.

This could be done by drawing up legally enforceable codes guaranteeing animals the "five freedoms" - such as freedom to express natural behaviour.

Abandoned animals

The RSPCA would ideally like to see the minimum age for buying a pet raised to 18.

Guidelines on care should be given out with each pet and experienced vets should carry out annual inspections.

The review also provided the chance to introduce licensing for animal sanctuaries, the RSPCA said.

The consultation document has been published as the RSCPA faces the traditional post-Christmas rise in the number of abandoned pets.

Among those animals it has taken in are a 10-week old puppy abandoned in a box in a hedge in Doncaster and a young black and white cat found dumped in a skip in Chesterfield on Christmas Eve.

See also:

27 May 01 | Health
Keeping pets 'prevents allergies'
25 May 01 | Scotland
Pet cruelty study 'warning'
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