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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Bill of Rights for pets 'is nonsense'
Cats
These rescued cats were some of the lucky ones
Talk of a Bill of Rights for pets has been dismissed as "silly nonsense" by the animal welfare minister.

But Elliott Morley told the BBC he was planning a shake-up in Britain's "outdated" animal cruelty laws.

Proposals include preventing young children from buying pets and a ban on docking dog's tails.

The Animal Welfare Bill would pull together disparate laws, including the 1911 Protection of Animals Act, into one piece of legislation.

Genetic defects

But talk of a bill of rights for animals was dismissed by Mr Morley as "rather silly nonsense by a few over-excited journalists".

He also dismissed press reports that the EU was planning to outlaw certain breeds of dogs, including Corgis.

"There are one or two breeds where genetic problems do need to be addressed," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Morley said he had received more than 1,600 letters from members of the public and 200 from welfare organisations and companies during the consultation period on the animal welfare bill, which ended on Tuesday.

Quality of life

The RSPCA has called on the government to make pet owners have a legal "duty of care" towards their animals.

They want five basic freedoms for animals enshrined in law.

This so-called Bill of Rights would guarantee a minimum quality of life for all animals.

Pet owners would be legally obliged to provide their cats and dogs with food and water, appropriate shelter and access to a vet.

Prevention

The charity had hoped it would be granted the power to take steps to prevent cruelty, rather than having to wait until there is evidence of harm before acting.

The animal welfare charity, which last year rescued 11,947 animals, releases new statistics on Tuesday which show that reports of animal cruelty have increased dramatically over the past 10 years - but the conviction rate has declined.

The number of complaints investigated by the charity has gone up from 86,531 a year 10 years ago to 123,156.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Hall
"New legislation is still at least two years away"
Chris Laurence, RSPCA
"What we want is legislation that prevents cruelty. Cruelty is actual ignorance and neglect"
Animal welfare minister Elliott Morley
"There's no question of corgis being banned"
See also:

29 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Pets may get 'Bill of Rights'
29 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
'Animal-loving' UK's tale of neglect
28 Aug 01 | Wales
Fighting the animal cruelty war
25 May 01 | Scotland
Pet cruelty study 'warning'
09 May 00 | UK
The chain of cruelty
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