MS calls for more powers for RSPCA to boost animal welfare
Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
A Conservative MS has led a debate calling for more powers for the RSPCA with the aim of better protecting animal welfare in Wales.
Samuel Kurtz, who represents Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, told the Senedd that RSPCA inspectors undertake vital duties with no legal powers.
The shadow rural affairs minister said the charity responded to more than 4,900 animal cruelty and neglect cases in the year to October.
Mr Kurtz explained that RSPCA inspectors do not have the same powers as councils under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
He said they cannot enter outbuildings without a police warrant, seize animals or issue a statutory improvement or welfare notice under the Act.
Mr Kurtz told the Senedd: “Whilst the RSPCA are able to attend complaints of animal cruelty that have been submitted to them by the public, they cannot remove animals in distress without the owners’ permission or a police warrant.
“This current reliance on statutory public services, such as the police and local authorities, places additional pressure on their already stretched resources, whilst also leaving animals in vital need of rescue in limbo and potentially under cruel conditions for longer.”
He added that the powers would bring the RSPCA in Wales in line with other organisations such as the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Mr Kurtz said the workload of Wales’ 22 councils in terms of animal welfare duties is expected to grow in the near future, with the Welsh Government expected to consult on regulations before the end of the year.
He told MSs: “Formalising the RSPCA’s role in this capacity could allow more time for local authorities to focus on the licensing of animal sanctuaries, rescue and rehoming centres, and mobile animal exhibits, following the outcome of this consultation.”
Mr Kurtz warned the American XL Bully ban – the first time a breed has been added to the Dangerous Dogs Act since 1991 – will have an unprecedented impact on councils.
He said: “It is more vital than ever that we seriously consider accepting help and advice from this experienced and accredited organisation in the form of statutory powers to enable the RSPCA to work with and alongside local authorities to keep animals safe.”
Carolyn Thomas, who represents North Wales, said: “The RSPCA has a tough job to do.
“In north Wales alone, they’ve received 1,800 calls in the past 12 months and most people don’t realise just how large an area inspectors have to cover.
“At times, only one inspector is available.”
The MS said the powers would mean animals receive help quicker and it would improve the ability of RSPCA inspectors to help more animals.
She added: “We also must look at the cost saving for North Wales Police and local authorities, who have to support the RSPCA inspectors to use any of these powers.”
Fellow Labour backbencher Huw Irranca-Davies, who represents Ogmore, urged the Welsh Government to press forward with the changes.
Lesley Griffiths commended the RSPCA – which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2024 – for its tireless efforts to protect animals.
The rural affairs minister said: “We have, unfortunately, witnessed a perfect storm of rises in pet ownership, particularly during Covid, accompanied by a cost-of-living crisis, which has sadly led to an increase in relinquishment and abandonment of pets.”
She told the Senedd animal neglect and abandonment has hit a three-year high in the UK.
Ms Griffiths acknowledged the benefits of the RSPCA being granted extra powers, saying: “When I’ve accompanied them on visits, I’ve witnessed first-hand the frustrations faced.”
The minister said she will revisit additional powers for the RSPCA once the Welsh Government’s 2021-26 animal welfare plan has been delivered.
During the short debate on Wednesday November 22, she said her counterparts in England share the same stance due to the complexities and costs involved.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.