The Director of Public Health and Public Protection submitted a report, the purpose of which was to inform the Executive Member of new legislation which came into effect on 1 October 2018 in relation to animal licensing, and to seek approval for the proposed fee structure.
Local Authorities had a statutory duty to issue licences for specific animal related premises and activities, aiming to maintain good welfare standards. The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 had updated previously outdated licensing legislation, streamlined it into one licensing regime and provided improved standards for certain activities involving animals, examples of which were included in the report.
The report explained that animal licensing was a relatively small, but important area of regulatory work in Middlesbrough, and provided details pertaining to 2017 under the previous licensing arrangements. There was likely to be additional premises which would now fall under this legislation, such as dog breeders and internet sales; however, it was difficult to estimate figures, some of which may have only been identified through investigation.
The new regulations brought in statutory licence conditions. Approved Guidance had been issued by DEFRA for each of the licensable activities listed in the report. This set out the minimum compulsory standards plus the additional higher standards that businesses could elect to operate to. The Guidance had been, and continued to be, amended by DEFRA, and this had delayed the implementation of this legislation.
The report provided details regarding the standards set out in the Guidance, together with national consultation work that had been carried out prior to the introduction of the legislation.
A schedule of fees had been calculated using relevant national guidance, this was shown at Appendix 1 of the report; an Equality Impact Assessment was shown at Appendix 2.
In response to an enquiry regarding the impact of this legislation upon unlicensed dog breeders/premises, it was explained that those attempting to purposely evade the legislation would be identified and appropriate action taken. Members of the public were encouraged to report unlicensed activities and, similarly, anyone purchasing a dog was advised to ensure that they were purchasing from a licensed breeder.
Other potential decisions and why these had not been recommended
It was a statutory duty for the Local Authority to enforce this legislation and the Local Authority could charge. If the Local Authority chose not to charge and not to enforce the legislation, the Local Authority would be in breach of that statutory duty.
That the content of the report be noted, and the proposed fees for animal licensing activities set out in Appendix 1 be approved.
The decisions were supported for the following reason:
It was a statutory duty to enforce this legislation and the Local Authority could charge fees for the issuing of licences. If the Local Authority chose not to enforce the legislation, it would be in breach of its statutory duty and may be subject to legal challenge and potential reputational damage.