(Director of Neighbourhoods) to consider the attached report.
The Assistant Director, Neighbourhood Services, Mr Nolan introduced the report on the provision of guidance on establishments licensed to sell, board and breed animals. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health had undertaken to produce standard guidance in this area and had now done so. This was because different local authorities had different standards. In general terms the guidance conditions deals with the structural requirements of the premises the welfare of the animals and the control of the spread of disease.
The conditions also covered places where dogs and cats were boarded (kennels and catteries), places where dogs are bred (including so-called puppy farms) and places where animals are sold (commonly pet shops).
A number of agencies and authorities were consulted on the production of these guidelines, including Epping Forest District Council. Officers were of the opinion that a consistent approach to the licensing of these premises was essential and therefore recommended that these conditions were adopted. It was noted that if any of the establishments did not comply with these standards on renewal of their licences they would have to go to a sub-committee to plead their case.
Councillor Morgan asked who dealt with problem dogs in public places and was told that if they were a nuisance or were strays that it would be the EFDC environment officers; but if the dogs posed a danger then it would be the police.
Councillor Jennings was pleased to see these guidelines but was concerned with unlicensed establishments such as puppy farms, could we shut them down? Mr Nolan said that they did not go out to look for them but if they were reported to the Council then they would investigate. Officers had the powers to prosecute.
Councillor Surtees asked how much of this guidance was mandatory and how much was advice. Mr Nolan said that some areas were enforceable such as those covering health and diseases. Other areas covering such things as kennel construction were not set, as long as they complied with certain basic conditions.
Councillor Lion noted that there was a lot of information in the documents pertaining to cats and dogs but they did not fit together. Mr Nolan replied that they fitted together in terms of the law such as standards for boarding.
Councillor Lion asked if we audited the establishments. He was told that the guidance would be issued to all establishments. We would talk to them about the criteria and then inspect them. Officers could issue a notice for improvements to be made with a time limit, their aim being to help people comply with the guidance. Our officers will have polices to follow and it would become enforceable from 1st January 2018 onwards. They would then have a yearly inspection, probably in December. Officers would continue working with them throughout the year, their primary aim being to educate rather than prosecute.
Councillor Jennings noted that horses were not mentioned. She was told that they came under separate legislation.
Councillor Keska asked how many kennels and catteries did we have in the district. He was told that we had approximately 80. Councillor Keska then asked how often we had new ones. He was told that there was now a new category called ‘doggie day-care’ and we had received 5 applications for these since December.
Councillor Keska asked if there was a minimum standard. He was told that it depended on how safe it was, the size of the premises and on how many dogs they wanted to board. They also must have appropriate insurance and enter into contracts with their clients.
Councillor Keska asked about dog walkers and was told that they were not covered by this guidance but by other legislation.
Councillor Lion asked how many prosecutions have there been in recent years. Mr Nolan said he could not remember the last time this happened; officers tended to work with the establishments to put right what went wrong.
The Chairman noted that we have not had any concerns raised by the animal charities over establishments in our area. He also noted that it was not easy to distinguish between guidance and mandatory rules. Mr Nolan said that officers worked from guideline set by the Government on how they had to enforce things. They have to write to people telling them exactly what we wanted them to do and to point out what was a statutory requirement and what was not.
The Chairman said that the Committee was happy to agree these guidelines and also wanted to compliment this Council on helping to produce these documents.
That the Licensing Committee agreed that the Council adopted the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Model Licensing Conditions for the following:
(i) Dog Boarding Establishments;
(ii) Cat Boarding Establishments;
(iii) Dog Breeding Establishments;
(iv) Pet Vending Establishments.