HC Deb 10 February 1977 vol 925 cc762-4W
Mr. Gould

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of his review of the antirabies import controls; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Strang

It is clear from the extensive and constructive consultations the Government have held that the import control measures in the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) Order 1974 have worked well. However, in order to strengthen those measures in the light of experience we propose to make an amending order to achieve the following:

  1. (1) To ban native animals from boarding vessels carrying animals from abroad;
  2. (2) To define more precisely the security conditions and circumstances under which foreign animals must be confined on board vessels; and to define more clearly the persons responsible for ensuring such confinement;
  3. (3) To provide powers for inspectors and police to seize and, if necessary, to destroy animals not properly confined on board vessels;
  4. (4) To extend to the police the powers, currently available to veterinary inspectors and diseases of animals inspectors, to seize and if necessary to destroy illegally landed animals;
  5. (5) To amend the schedule listing those ports and airports authorised to receive imports of rabies-susceptible animals.

My right hon. Friends will lay the amending order before Parliament as soon as possible.

On the need to stiffen the penalties for anti-rabies offences, the Criminal Law Bill now before Parliament seeks to extend the police powers of arrest when dealing with such offences and to increase the maximum fine available to magistrates from £400 to £1,000.

The Government have also considered a proposal to introduce a discretionary power for the courts to order the destruction of an animal whose owner is convicted of importing it illegally. The case for such a power rests primarily on whether it would be an effective deterrent. In the light of experience, and bearing in mind the unfettered power of destruction already available to the enforcing authorities for reasons other than punitive ones, there appears to be little evidence that this would result. On the other hand, there are moral and ethical arguments against the destruction of healthy animals as a punitive measure against their guilty owners. On balance, therefore, we have decided that the existing powers of destruction and punishment, together with the new powers we now propose, are adequate.

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