HC Deb 25 January 2002 vol 378 cc1171-2W
Norman Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment her Department has made of(a) public awareness relating to potential disease risks between humans and animals in locations defined under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and (b) the effective enforcement of relevant health and safety standards; and if she will make a statement; [30004]

(2) what steps her Department has undertaken to ensure that establishments defined as a zoo under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 are (a) licensed and (b) meeting required standards in animal welfare and public safety; and if she will make a statement. [30005]

Mr. Morley

[holding answer 21 January 2002]: The enforcement of zoo licensing, and of health and safety standards in zoos, are matters for the relevant local authorities, taking account of advice issued by the Department and the Health and Safety Executive.

In terms of zoo licensing, local authorities must ensure that the zoos in their area have a licence to operate or are exempt from the provisions of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. All licensed zoos are also subject to regular inspection to ensure that the Secretary of State's Standards on Modern Zoo Practice, which include provisions relating to animal welfare and public safety are being met. The Department has issued guidance to local authorities on the implementation of the 1981 Act and a new circular will be issued shortly to take account of the changes introduced by Council Directive 1999/22/EC on the keeping of wild animals in zoos, which is due to come into force in April.

Guidance on the management of public interaction with zoo animals is also set out in the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice. This requires that risk assessments be carried out on a case-by-case basis, taking advice from the Health and Safety Executive, where necessary. For example, hand-washing facilities must be provided, together with signage reminding the public of hygiene requirements.

The prevention of transmission of zoonotic disease between zoo animals and employees is addressed by inspections carried out under health and safety legislation. In addition, inspections carried out under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 will check whether zoos have measures in place to alert employees to the potential risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

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