RSPCA Cymru has welcomed the Welsh Government’s publication of a voluntary code of practice aimed at sanctuary owners in Wales.
The document contains best practice guidance for the operators of animal welfare establishments – focussed both on the issue of animal care, but also of staff and volunteer management.
It was drafted by the Animal Welfare Network for Wales (AWNW) – the sector council for all animals in Wales. It comprises a coalition of organisations – including the RSPCA, who chaired a specialist working group to develop the Code.
Estimates have previously suggested approximately 90 animal sanctuaries operate in Wales – but presently no specific rules govern how they function.
RSPCA Cymru believes many sanctuaries do “incredible work” helping animals in need – but fear a lack of oversight, scrutiny and regulation mean welfare issues can escalate at establishments, with owners at risk of becoming “overburdened”.
The animal welfare charity supports the regulation of sanctuaries in Wales – but hopes the voluntary code is a “leap forward”, and has welcomed the Welsh Government’s publication as recognition from decision-makers that specific considerations and safeguards are needed for animals based in such settings.
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “Many animal welfare sanctuaries do incredible work for animals – but there’s a real risk that many in this sector become quickly overburdened and stretched by a lack of resources, support and planning.
“Anyone can call themselves a sanctuary in Wales – and clearly that needs to change; as these are institutions many people in Wales trust and assume will be subject to rigorous checks and oversights.
“Positively, the Welsh Government’s publication of this voluntary code is a huge leap forward – and acknowledges that sanctuary owners should be following important animal welfare and business guidelines to ensure their operations are sustainable and protect animals in their care.
“The RSPCA will continue to call for the regulation of all sanctuaries in Wales – ensuring that only those with the skills, knowledge and resources can open these safe havens for animals of all shapes and sizes.
“We also now look forward to now working closely with animal welfare establishments and local authorities to publicise this new Code and hope it delivers success in raising standards in all corners of Wales.”
More information on the RSPCA’s campaign for safer sanctuaries can be found online.