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RSPCA

Concern as pets absent from Wales’ new homelessness action plan

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man in blue denim jeans sitting beside white short coat dog

The needs of animal-owning homeless people, and their pets, must be a key consideration in the Welsh Government’s strategy to end homelessness. That’s the call from RSPCA Cymru – as an action plan to end homelessness in Wales is published by Welsh Ministers.

The action plan does not presently reference animal welfare –  but, ahead of a difficult winter, the charity is urging the Welsh Government and local authorities to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not required to choose between accessing safe and secure accommodation and keeping their pets.

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Estimates suggest 10 percent of homeless people have a pet – with dogs being the most common companions.

Local authorities must also publish homelessness strategies in Wales under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 – but research from the RSPCA found none of the 22 make reference to animal welfare.

Reports have suggested only eight hostels in Wales presently operate a dog-friendly policy. The Senedd also heard in 2019 that 18 of Wales’ 22 local authorities had no dog-friendly hostels at all.

RSPCA Cymru believes the Welsh Government should work in partnership with local authorities and providers of accommodation for homeless people to ensure the fear of losing pets is not providing a barrier to vulnerable individuals accessing services.

There’s also calls for model tenancy agreements to be introduced in Wales, discouraging landlords from imposing blanket bans on pets unless there is justifiable reason to do so.

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Billie-Jade Thomas, RSPCA public affairs adviser, said: “As the Welsh Government unveils its plan to combat homelessness in Wales, it is vital the needs of those with pets, and the animals themselves, are considered.

“We’re worried that too many people are having to choose between accessing services and their pets – and that’s incredibly tragic and unacceptable.

“While local authorities must already publish homelessness strategies, unfortunately our research has found that none currently mention animal welfare.

“As the Welsh Government takes forward its new action plan, work with local authorities and providers of accommodation will be key to ensure pet ownership is not proving a barrier to people accessing lifelines of support.

“It’s also vital the whole housing sector in Wales is better equipped at welcoming pets – and that’s why we think model tenancy agreements for the rented sector will be crucial; allowing pets as the default position. Across the UK, 7% of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties – a situation likely to improve in England with the new model tenancy agreements there; and it’s vital Wales doesn’t fall behind.”

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RSPCA Cymru was one of the six charities who previously worked with Jack Sargeant MS on the creation of a Pet Friendly ‘Paw-licy’ for Wales.

The report made a host of recommendations to tackle issues relevant to Wales’ homeless animal owners – including facilitating the provision of pet friendly accommodation, training staff on understanding the benefits of pet ownership for homeless people and highlighting the benefits of positive pet policies for tenants to social housing providers and the private rented sector.

Jack Sargeant MS, who represents Alyn and Deeside, added: “My involvement in this was inspired by a conversation with a homeless man about his pet. His story about not being able to access accommodation and keep his dog, really struck a chord with me. As a dog lover myself I strongly feel no one should be faced with this heart-breaking decision.

“I completely agree with RSPCA Cymru and I hope the Welsh Government will consider pet welfare in their plans to end homelessness and take onboard the recommendations set out in the pet friendly policy.”

(Lead image: MART PRODUCTION / Pexels.com)

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RSPCA

Restrictions on keeping monkeys as pets in Wales now ‘closer than ever’

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Restrictions on the keeping of primates as pets in Wales are now “closer than ever” – much to the delight of the RSPCA.  

It is estimated that around 120 monkeys are currently being kept as pets across the nation and RSPCA Cymru has long called for a ban.

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The charity has welcomed news that new conditions in the UK Government’s Kept Animals Bill, which will ban the keeping of pet monkeys except under licence, are now set to apply to Wales too.

This year, the Welsh Government shifted its position stating it was now content for provisions around primates to extend to Wales. Previously, as recently as January, Welsh Ministers had suggested they were not minded to ban the keeping of pet primates.

Last month, in the UK Parliament at committee stage, a series of amendments were unanimously backed which will allow the Kept Animals Bill’s plans for primates to apply to Wales.

Under the new UK Government plans, privately-kept primates will all have to be registered and inspected and, following a phase-in period, will not be allowed to be kept in England or Wales unless specifically authorised under licence.

Owners will need to meet certain conditions, including related to the animals’ environment, diet, accommodation and provision of behavioural needs. In Wales, these conditions will be set by Welsh Ministers.

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In order for this to become law, Senedd Members will now need to pass a legislative consent motion, and Members of Parliament will need to pass the legislation at Westminster, to ensure the rules apply to Wales – both of which are expected to happen.

A new Supplementary Legislative Consent Memorandum was laid before the Senedd last week (December 10), reflecting the updated, amended contents of the UK Bill.

RSPCA strongly supports the intention of the UK Government’s Bill to ban keeping primates as pets –  but does have concerns that it relies so heavily on a licensing scheme administered by already overburdened local authorities, and hopes to see the scheme tightened further during its Parliamentary journey in 2022.

Polling for the RSPCA found 72 per cent of people in Wales support a ban of the keeping of all primates as pets; but estimates suggest approximately 120 monkeys are currently kept as pets across the nation.

Dr Ros Clubb, from the RSPCA’s wildlife department, said: “Recent amendments to the UK’s Kept Animals Bill are really positive as, following a change of position from the Welsh Government, they mean restrictions on the keeping of primates as pets in Wales are closer than ever.

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“As recently as January, the Welsh Government wasn’t publicly minded to ban. But the RSPCA kept campaigning on this issue, and we’re really pleased that these provisions in the Kept Animals Bill are now set to apply in Wales.

 ”The RSPCA is clear that meeting the needs of monkeys and other primates is practically impossible in the domestic environment. Despite this, estimates say around 120 live this way in Wales – which is a real cause for concern; so we really need to see a strengthened Kept Animals Bill come into law, and for the Senedd to pass the LCM.

“The public in Wales have shown strong support for a ban – so we hope the Welsh Government will use their powers to ensure the conditions in which a primate can be kept are evidence-based and set a sufficiently high bar; and that the Bill ultimately doesn’t place too much pressure on already overstretched local authorities.”

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Carmarthenshire

Watch the moment a West Wales otter returned to the wild after electric fence run-in

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An otter has been returned to the wild following a run-in with an electric fence in Carmarthenshire.

RSPCA Cymru was contacted after members of the public spotted the otter appearing lethargic on 22 May. It is believed the otter had sadly run into a nearby electric fence and was disorientated from the experience.

The member of the public was able to confine the otter by placing a wire run over the top of him – before RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West arrived to help the animal.

RSPCA Cymru took the otter into their care – and fortunately, despite his ordeal, found no injuries, though ARO West suspects his “pride had been hurt”.

The otter was slightly underweight and hungry – so spent some time in the RSPCA’s care and was fed up before being safely returned back to the wild on 27 May.

Up-close video footage shows the heartwarming moment the otter was returned to the wild.

ARO West  feels “truly lucky” to be able to work so closely with British wildlife – and said it’s always a “wonderful feeling” to be able to secure a happy ending for animals like this otter.

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She said: “This poor otter was found appearing very out of sorts – and we’re grateful to the member of the public who spotted and safely confined him before I arrived.

“Thankfully, we found no injuries or serious welfare concerns – though the poor thing’s pride had been hurt, and he was quite underweight, so he stayed in the RSPCA’s care for a few days.

“Luckily, he soon had a spring in his step again and we were able to return him to the wild.

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“Wildlife is such a passion of mine, and I feel truly lucky to be able to work so closely with British wildlife, like this Carmarthenshire otter.

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“Sadly, so much wildlife we are called to is often severely injured or poorly – so when we have jobs to deal with like this otter, where we are able to help them and get them back to the wild as soon as possible – it’s truly a wonderful feeling.

“Otters are animals I’ve always been extremely lucky to have worked with for many years but each one is still special. Sharing a magical moment like releasing this one back to the wild is fantastic.

“When released, he came out of the cage fairly quickly and dipped into the running water and headed downstream at a fast pace through some white water. He just seemed very happy to be back where he belongs – the wild!”

(Lead image: RSCA)


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Charity

Adorable new book tells story of South Wales’ incredible rescue dog

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A new book about a loveable rescue dog from South Wales is raising vital funds for animals in need.

‘Stevie the Wander Dog’ – whose long, eventful life saw him become a school wellbeing dog, a mountain leader and even an actor – is the star of the book written by South Wales’ Hayley Jones.

A donation from every book sold is being made to the RSPCA’s Llys Nini branch, which runs an animal centre in the Penllergaer area of Swansea.

Llys Nini works for animals from the Swansea to Cardiff area, and their animal centre finds new homes for rescue dogs, cats and other small furry animals.

The book – which costs £7 – can be purchased online, and would make a “fantastic present for the rescue pet owners of the future.”

Author Hayley said: “As Stevie became an older dog, we wanted to do something we could remember him by – and I was so proud to write his amazing story.

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“I’d first written the story while on maternity leave, and as the Covid-19 lockdown struck, I thought it was time to publish the book and bring a smile to people’s faces.

“Stevie would have wanted us to help other dogs like him – so it was a no-brainer to use the book to help raise money for animals; and I know what amazing work RSPCA Llys Nini Animal Centre does in finding new homes for rescue pets.

“Like all charities, I know the pandemic has been tough for Llys Nini – so if Stevie’s legacy can help them help animals, then I’ll be so pleased.”

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Stevie was rescued by the Jones family in 2003 and made his forever home in the Dulais Valley in Neath.

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He was exceptionally popular in the local community, and would often attend work with Hayley’s father, Alan Tudor Jones, a local headteacher, helping accompany schoolchildren on Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions to the Brecon Beacons or Gower.

In 2010, he even played Sandy in the musical Annie at Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot – and, the following year, toured Europe in a campervan, where he briefly swapped the Dulais Valleys for France, the Netherlands and Spain.

Hayley added: “When my family first got Stevie, I was in my late teens and he was just the most amazing rescue dog. He hated being on his own – and always wanted to be with people; so we took him absolutely everywhere with us.

“Stevie was just incredible company. He was placid, calm and happy – and we had the most amazing adventures together. Sadly we lost him earlier this year but his 18 years with us lives on in this heartwarming story.

“I’d urge anybody wanting to hear more about Stevie’s mountain expeditions, travels across Europe or school trips to pick up a copy of this unique book.”

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Sally Hyman, chair of the RSPCA’s Llys Nini branch, added: “Stevie just sounds the most incredible dog and we couldn’t be prouder that his amazing story is raising money for RSPCA Llys Nini.

“His book will undoubtedly make a great present for the rescue pet owners of the future, and adults alike.

“As a local RSPCA branch, we’ve had a really tough time during the pandemic. It’s the kindness of people like author Hayley that have helped us to keep doing what we do for animals during this most unprecedented time.”

More information about the book, and the fundraising efforts for Llys Nini, can be found online.

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