How appealing is a society where bullying, abuse, and violence decrease, maybe even disappear? Do you feel technology can protect us by knowing if someone has a violent past is important? Will you feel more secure if the police knew where violent people live, using that information to track a criminal, and make our communities safer? In order to make us safe and to protect us we must be willing to take a risk. Brexit offers the UK to control of its destiny and to make us safer. So, how can we become safer while reducing abuse and violence? The answer is simple an animal abuse register.
The term register creates a lot of questions, such as: what is an animal? How will it operate? Will fox hunting be included? How come the Police National Computer is not sufficient? Why do we need to change the Animal Welfare Act 2006? I will address each of these questions but for anything to work, proper funding must be provided to enforce the law. I believe, this is a major failure and why on a daily basis we read tragic stories of animal abuse like Chunky.
Our starting point for the register is based on the state of Tennessee animal abuse register and under Tennessee's law an animal is defined as a companion that is not livestock and not wild. Since foxes are wild animals fox hunting will not fall under this definition and anyone illegally fox hunting will not be put on the register. Only those who abuse companion animals will be subject to the register.
This raises the next question; how will the register operate? A more detailed explanation can be in vision, the link is at the top of the page. 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.
As for who can access the information a basic access will be available online for the public and the public will need to pay a fee to access more detailed information. Whereas law enforcement will be able access full information without paying a fee. Anyone who works in certain professions, those who work with the vulnerable, animals, or children will be subject to a check on the database before they can be employed. Likewise, anyone buying an animal will be subject to a check by the seller and if the seller reasonably believes the individual is on the list or reasonably believes selling an animal will put the animal at risk then will be protected from legal and / or civil action.
At this stage I hope you are still with me and not sleeping. 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.
After discussing the structure of the registry, 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. The registry provides 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. Whilst I do not expect requests for detailed information will make the registry self-sufficient, it will help fund it. I expect any legislation will include enough funding for enforcement.
Another 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. The diminishes the serious nature of animal cruelty. The Tennessee model provides a great model and in our vision, I discuss in more detail how I see the Tennessee model working.
Last point about the Act, I believe the Act tries to be all encompassing without the funding or structure to support it. I believe the registry fills an important gap that is missing.
Currently DEFRA has been asked to review our vision. 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.
Thank you for reading and I hope you will support the cause.