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Pet shops protest at strict new rules

Bira has made representations to DEFRA to voice the concerns of pet shop owners who are critical of new regulations that came into force on 1 October 2018.

The new Animal Activities Licensing (AAL) regulations replace several laws dating back to 1925. Now any business in England selling live animals or boarding cats or dogs will need a licence issued under the new regulations. The rules do not apply to activities such as pet sitting, grooming and dog walking.

Concerned members have complained to Bira that local councils, which issue the trading licences, are in danger of closing down traditional pet shops by rigorous enforcement of the new rules. One member, who has been trading for more than 30 years as a bird specialist, has been told that he has to change all his cages as they do not fit the exact measurements specified in the new law. This is even though his existing cages, in cubic feet, are considerably larger than what is required. Cages with the designated dimensions are not available commercially, he says.

Another demand is that the shop keeps a daily “mood record” of the birds it sells. The owner told Bira magazine: “I work so hard usually I don’t even have lunch. How am I supposed to find the time to note the mood of my canaries and zebra finches? And how do I describe the mood of them anyway?”

The Bira member, who wishes to remain anonymous so as not to antagonise the local council, believes the underlying aim is to close down shops that sell live animals to satisfy the demands of animal rights campaigners: “The regulations are set out in a 91-page document from DEFRA and the local authority officers have told us they intend to enforce every detail.”

Andrew Goodacre, Bira CEO, commented: “DEFRA has told us that it is too late to change the regulations and it will be down to the local authorities to how they interpret them. This appears to be another example of unnecessary legislation being loaded on to honest retailers. It shows again that Bira as a trade association must keep up our pressure on the lawmakers when they are putting together new regulations. To do this effectively, we need our members to be fully involved and engaged with us.”