New regulations are set to be introduced for animal rescue and rehoming centres following a parliamentary vote.

As it stood, anyone could set one up regardless of skills or resources necessary to care for animals.

However, proposed changes will affect around 90 centres in Wales which are not currently regulated rigorously.

A Senedd debate was led by Samuel Kurtz MS, Conservative MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, who reiterated the valuable contribution of rescue centres in Wales but emphasised the skills and experience needed to be successful in the running, which are not always quite there.

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Speaking at the debate, Natascha Asghar MS, conservative MS for South Wales East, said she had recently visited RSPCA’s Newport Animal Centre which drove home the message.

Nastascha said: “I wish to put on record that I recognise the invaluable work sanctuaries often do to rehabilitate and rehome animals however it is vital that basic training is provided and standards for all animal centres are set in stone to ensure that the welfare of animals in their care is of a decent level.

Natascha Asghar MS, conservative MS for South Wales East, spoke in favour of regulating rescue centres
Natascha Asghar MS, conservative MS for South Wales East, spoke in favour of regulating rescue centres

“The lack of safeguarding existing to protect the welfare of animals in these establishments, which can be set up with no inspection or legal requirement for strong welfare standards and contingency plans, is simply not acceptable and cannot be sustainable.”

The RSPCA has made 10 prosecutions in the past year due to inadequate care in sanctuaries.

David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of public affairs, said: “It's great news that Senedd Members support regulation for many of Wales’ animal welfare establishments - and for a pledge for action to have been included in the Welsh Government's Animal Welfare Plan too.

"So many sanctuaries do fantastic work for animal welfare - but we know that things can go wrong; so regulation for them - and other establishments - will provide key safeguards for the public and for animals.

"Without any baseline standards, welfare can be compromised and without any governance arrangements, establishments can become financially unsustainable.

“Sadly, the RSPCA has already had to intervene on a number of occasions to rescue animals from sanctuaries in Wales in the past decade - so we know action is needed. “Baseline standards do already exist for dog and cat rescues - drawn up by the rescue sector body the Association of Dog and Cat Homes.

"However, we must also consider the final position of local authorities, who are being tasked with enforcing an increasing number of animal welfare laws.

“Any discussions about further regulation should take place when considering the financial situation for local authorities, and the importance of consistent enforcement in all corners of Wales.

"It was great to work with Senedd Members from across the political divide ahead of this debate; at what is a critical juncture for animal welfare here in Wales.”

The RSPCA hopes to extend Wales’ new pet licensing regulations to cover more establishments and activities like cat breeding and dog behaviourists.

A Voluntary Code of Best Practice already exists, created by the Animal Welfare Network for Wales, an independent council made up of organisations working to improve animal welfare standards across Wales.

It includes recommendations of training and staffing, administration, how to deal with disease, transport and more.

The recognition from the Senedd will build on these blocks and make the regulation law.

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