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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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Environment

Campaign urging people to be responsible around coastal wildlife launched by RSPCA and police in Wales

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A campaign to stop people behaving irresponsibly near marine animals such as seals, dolphins and nesting birds is being rolled out in Wales.

Operation Seabird is a joint campaign between the RSPCA, all four Wales police forces – North Wales Police, South Wales Police, Gwent Police and Dyfed Powys Police – and other partner organisations such as Natural Resources Wales.

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The first action day on 14 April saw RSPCA officers patrolling areas in Colwyn Bay/Angel Bay and Abersoch with North Wales Police, and aimed to raise awareness and educate people about how vital it is not to disturb the mammals and birds of Britain’s coastal areas and to enjoy watching them from afar.

RSPCA animal rescue officer and wildlife officer Ellie West took part in the first action day with Dyfed Powys Police in Pembrokeshire.

The RSPCA say that sadly, common disturbances to wildlife include speedboats, kayaks and paddleboards deliberately getting too close to seals, dolphins and cetaceans. This often causes stress to the animals and can result in the females suffering spontaneous abortions or babies being abandoned by their mothers.

The animal charity say that other issues include dogs off leads disturbing nesting birds or seals, litter including plastic rings severely injuring seals, wild camping beach barbecues and camp fires causing significant damage on the beach, and quad bikes or 4x4s vehicles riding over nesting areas.

There have even been incidents where beachgoers have got too close to wild animals for the sake of a selfie. Users of boats and other watercraft can also cause severe injury to some marine mammals if they collide with them while trying to watch them.

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Sergeant Matthew Langley of Dyfed Powys Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “The aim of Op Seabird is not that of enforcement but of engagement and education with the public to ensure they enjoy our beautiful coastline safely and responsibly.

“Last year we saw a large increase in disturbance offences mainly due to a certain celebrity walrus who came to holiday in Tenby! It is important for the public to also be aware that by disturbing wildlife they may be committing offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”

RSPCA inspector Andy Broadbent said: “We want people to enjoy watching our marine wildlife but this should be done at a safe and sensible distance without disturbing the animals.

“Every year, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres have to treat and rehabilitate a wide range of wildlife – including seals and seabirds – which have been injured or orphaned due to human disturbance.

“While last year, we may remember Wally the Walrus who visited Pembrokeshire for a long period of time. It was really concerning when we had reports of some people trying to get close to him by using jet skis or paddle and surf boards. It wasn’t in his best interest and we always urge people to act responsibly when they see any marine animal.

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“If people have concerns about an animal, they should keep their distance and contact the RSPCA helpline on 0300 1234 999 (daily 7am-10pm).”

Operation Seabird is urging people visiting Britain’s coastline to maintain a significant distance from wildlife, both at sea and around the coast; never get close enough to touch animals or take selfies; read signs and stick to paths; and keep dogs on leads where instructed to do so and keep dogs under control at all times.

As the holiday season begins, high visibility patrols by the RSPCA, local police forces and wildlife groups will target coastal areas where people and animals interact, such as beaches with seal colonies, dolphins swimming offshore or sites with nesting seabirds.

Sergeant Liam Jones of the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team said: “Op Seabird Cymru seeks to engage key partners to work with the police throughout Wales to educate those people who use our coastal areas and seas and to enable them to enjoy our wildlife safely and without disturbance.

“Over the years we have seen an increase in people using our coastal areas and being unaware of the effect that they can have on coastal birds and mammals if they act irresponsibly. A disturbance can have a devastating effect on certain species and their habitats and with simple education and engagement we can help prevent it from happening.”

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Dog attacks can kill seals, as well as posing a risk to the dogs themselves from bites that can become infected from the bacteria that live inside a seal’s mouth. Seal pups disturbed by curious people will move off into the sea, using valuable energy which they need to survive and grow. Birds such as little terns travel thousands of miles to breed in very specific UK coastal points.

They have one annual chance to nest and produce young, but if disturbed this opportunity is lost, and due to their ground nesting habit they are particularly vulnerable to dogs, and careless feet.

Andy added: “While our beautiful beach and coastal areas are great to have fun in, they are natural habitats and breeding grounds for many native and migratory animals, including several species on the endangered list. We humans share this space, and we can easily and unwittingly cause disturbance, fear, and distress.

“For many tourists it can be surprising and exciting to see marine mammals, including seals and their pups which will normally rest on the beach at various times of year, as well as ground nesting birds which are usually resident between March to September. But as tempting as it is to approach them, we would respectfully ask that everyone stays at a distance and keeps their dogs on leads and under control.

“Our message is to ‘Observe, Don’t Disturb’ as people visit Britain’s wonderful coastline.”

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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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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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