Sunday, 13 May 2012

Primates as Pets and Pet Licensing

I have been contacted by a constituent who informs me that Meerkats and Monkeys are being sold as domestic pets. I would appeal to a anyone who finds these animals being sold anywhere to contact me and their local authority.

I am sure some specialist owners do take great care of their primates and there should be consideration for these individuals and organisations.

I do not believe that these animals should be treated as equivalent pets to cats and dogs – they clearly have different needs and unless they are carefully treated they are at risk of suffering from what amounts to animal cruelty. They are also highly intelligent and emotional primates.

The Pet Animals Act 1951 requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local authority. Before granting a licence the local authority must be satisfied that the animals are kept in accommodation that is both suitable and clean, supplied with appropriate food and drink and protected from disease and fire. The local authority may attach conditions to the licence, inspect the premises at all reasonable times and may of course refuse to grant a licence.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that anyone who has reason to believe that a pet shop is keeping animals in inadequate conditions should raise the matter with the local authority who will decide what action to take within the range of its powers.

In January a Bill was introduced called the Keeping of Primates As Pets (Prohibition) Bill. The progress of the Bill ran out of time before the Parliamentary session ended and so unfortunately did not become law. Hopefully it should have been effective in drawing the Government’s attention to the matter. I will certainly consider supporting the bill.

In the meantime I have written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to ask what the Government hopes to do on this issue. This should give us an indication of the Government’s position and will also bring this matter to the Department’s attention.