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Following several meetings with Pet Shop Owners and the Authorities GRTU has won a number of essential amendments to the Animal Welfare Act- Protection of Animals offered in Pet Shops from what has originally been proposed.
GRTU emphasises that it is totally in favour of increased animal protection and condemns without reservation abuse, neglect and cruelty on any species. We felt however the need to intervene as certain aspects of the law would have heavily burdened pet shop owners making certain aspects of their business unsustainable. The GRTU representing pet shops has led the authorities to accept amendments to the law without essentially reducing the level of increased animal protection for which was the aim of this law in the first place. The GRTU welcomes the new law as it will indeed mean an increase in the level of protection of animals and as the Authorities themselves confirmed most of the pet shops will only need to make minor amendments to facilitate inspection. The GRTU also welcomes this law as it will put anyone selling an animal, be it from a pet shop, a private residence and a website in a position of breach of law should they go against any part of it. This will establish a level playing field which till now was very lacking as pet shops were regularly inspected while other individuals selling animals were most of the time ignored.
The GRTU has first of all managed to postpone the date of the law coming into force by 12 months, to the beginning of next year, as discussions took long and it was practically impossible for the law to enter into force this year as both from the side of the authorities and the pet shops preparations and courses have to be undergone.
The most important change the GRTU has brought about relates to record keeping. Record keeping is important as it can shed light on repetitive problems within an establishment and provide a tracking system, should a problem with a particular species arise. Record keeping however is burdensome therefore GRTU proposed and saw accepted its proposal to limit record keeping to the species which need it most as some species enter and exit the pet shop too frequently to keep records of. In fact purchasing records (the invoice) would be kept but when it comes to sale records they would be kept only for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, poultry and all other animals included in the Registration of Exotic Animals Regulations, 2010. This diminished the bureaucratic burden significantly and maintains record keeping where it is most needed. Another bureaucratic and costly burden that was alleviated was the requirement of having a VET verify all the mortalities. This now will be done only for mortalities in access of 10% of individual species. Had this requirement been maintained the veterinary inspection would cost much more than most of the animals themselves, jeopradising the sustainability of pet shops. One must also keep in mind that it is in the best interest of the pet shops to keep all pets alive as otherwise they would lose money.
Another heavy requirement in the law was the long acclimatization period for all animal species when entering the pet shop. These were considered too long and might have involved the pet shop needing a significant amount of extra space for quarantine. From 7 hours for any animal it was reduced to 2 days for birds and others, 12hrs for fish and 0hrs for chickens. A proposal accepted was to exclude hand reared parrots from the requirement of not selling animals that are not weaned this because there is a specific niche market that requires these birds before being weaned due to the bonding of the bird with its owner. Also accepted was the change of wording that was proposed which leads to less stringent cleaning impositions which are now more related to need. Similarly the working was arranged to replacing of food when needed which means that dry food can be kept for longer periods than soft food. GRTU also asked and saw accepted the inclusion of enclosure sizes for other species of animals which were not yet included.
GRTU also questioned the adequacy of some inspectors following complaints by pet shops that certain inspections were carried out with an aggressive and rude attitude. GRTU emphasised the need to maintain the same level of cooperation we have managed to create between the public and private sector and therefore the cooperation of pet shops should not be lost by aggressive behaviour. The approach should be one to guide and teach. The authorities confirmed that inspectors were being coached into this attitude and invited and complaints in this regard so that the Authority could take immediate action.
Most of the proposals that were rejected are not as important as they related to diminishing the amount of time related to the issuance of a licence and the accepting modifications to the pet shops. A proposal which has still not been accepted and a minority of the pet shops are not willing to let go is the imposition that no person shall see or offer to sell an animal in open market or on the street. GRTU requested this proposal to exclude the sale of birds and that the sale on the market would be subject to the same requirements as any other pet shop. The authorities said that the proposal will be rediscussed however it is unlikely it will accept it.
The GRTU together with the relevant institutions will be working on establishing the relevant qualification requirements and ensuring that pet shops having years of experience are treated are assessed on their experience and given the necessary recognition. Work is therefore still ongoing however we would like to thank the authorities and more specifically Dr Anthony Gruppetta for the excellent consultation and openness to understand the different situations and requirements of the sector. It is unfortunately very rare that real consultations like this one are carried out.
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