20 November 2014

The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association has joined forces with the City of London Corporation to launch a new scheme for its members to help them to show high standards of animal welfare.

The trade association has formed a Primary Authority partnership with the London local authority to cover the issuing of pet shop licences and health and safety requirements.

The new scheme aims to help protect members from strange and unreasonable conditions that can sometimes be introduced by local authorities during a pet shop licence inspection visit. And it offers shops a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors by showing they follow high animal welfare standards in their shop.

The new scheme is open to OATA retail members. They will still be inspected by their local authority but it should follow an inspection plan to be drawn up by City of London Corporation in association with OATA. This should make the inspection process easier to manage for retailers, who will know what to expect from their inspection visit.

This is the first time a co-ordinated Primary Authority partnership arrangement has been organised to cover the ‘animal establishments’ category of legislation and it’s the first scheme to draw up an inspection plan, which is based on the 2013 guidelines on pet vending from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

“The pet industry has worked with a variety of groups from the veterinary profession, licensing authorities and welfare charities for 35 years to try to achieve country-wide consistency and coherence in pet shop licensing,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport. “But we know, both anecdotally from our members and our Freedom of Information surveys of pet shop licensing authorities, that standards still differ widely.

“This Primary Authority arrangement will give OATA members, whether they have a single shop or a chain with sites in different authorities, the peace of mind of ‘assured’ advice – effectively ‘gold standard’ guidance on what’s required to get a pet shop licence. A local authority would have to have an extremely good case not to follow it, if the shop is a member of this scheme.

“Incorporated in the scheme will be an inspection plan to help licensing officers focus on the most important aspects of husbandry. We believe this enables members of the scheme to show their customers they are meeting high welfare standards – can their competitors say the same? And there are mechanisms to help reward good shops with fewer visits, which releases officers’ time to concentrate on those businesses (if any) that do not come up to standard.

“The scheme will be reviewed in 18 months to see if it has delivered the hoped-for benefits. If it isn’t working effectively then we believe we’ll have a good case to press Ministers for secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act.

“We believe all pet shops should achieve at least good welfare standards. If poor pet shops are being allowed to trade then that indicates a local authority that has failed in its licensing role for 60 years. If they exist then the pet shop and the licensing authority must be robustly encouraged to improve.”

The pet shop licence scheme, which will cover fish, reptiles and amphibians, is available to OATA members in England and Wales. They must also have signed up to OATA’s Code of Conduct. The health & safety scheme is available to OATA members in England, Scotland and Wales.

Find out more about the scheme here.