A photo of a dog wrapped in a blanket sleeping.

Regulation of Dog Rescue

Addressing Post-Pandemic Challenges in a Period of Austerity.

Research by Dr Sarah Singh and Professor Marie Fox.

Media reports have highlighted how national animal rescues are ‘drowning in animals’ as the cost-of-living crisis bites and people abandon animals in unprecedented numbers. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis increased pressures on an unregulated and already vulnerable sector, which was ill-equipped to cope with this influx of dogs. Puppies acquired during the pandemic by inexperienced owners frequently developed behavioural problems making them harder to rehome; while the last year has seen a significant drop in applications to adopt. The intolerable burden on rescues has resulted in many closing their doors to new surrenders. The animal welfare implications are obvious, but associated burdens on staff, volunteers, veterinary professionals etc. are increasing. As legal academics, who are also trustees of a small breed specific dog rescue, we are uniquely placed to address how law can respond to this crisis.

This project explores whether regulation of rescue can drive-up animal welfare standards and increase resilience within the sector by fostering communication and cooperation amongst rescues.

To realise these aims we are working alongside external collaborators including BatterseaThe Kennel Club, and The UK Centre for Animal Law (A-law). As a leading national charity, Battersea have agreed to collaborate and advise on this project and assist with dissemination, given their standing and expertise in the sector, track record of influencing policy in this field and Battersea Academy’s role in training/supporting smaller rescues. The Kennel Club Is the UK’s preeminent organisation devoted to dog health, welfare, and training. It holds a directory of breed specific rescues and frequently surveys them on issues including regulation. Finally, A-law is a charity which brings together legal professionals and academics to protect animal interests through law. It will feedback on law reform proposals and disseminate outputs from the project.

UKRI QR Pump Priming funding allowed us to build upon the quantitative data supplied by our collaborators, undertaking interviews and focus groups with small rescues across the devolved nations of the UK whose voices are rarely represented in government consultations. In June 2023 we co-hosted an event with the Kennel Club at their London premises which brought together 26 breed specific rescue with some general rescues and regulators to share experiences and attitudes towards different models of regulation.

In terms of the perceived benefits of this project, primarily this is envisioned as a law reform project. It will evaluate new legislation in Scotland, analyse arguments for self-regulation in Wales and make regulatory proposals attuned to local conditions in England and Northern Ireland. There is an urgent need to keep this issue at the forefront of the relevant Government departments. Our data will provide a qualitative evidence base which speaks to all four jurisdictions and equips us to respond to future consultations/Parliamentary Committees. As this funding draws to a close, we will continue to work alongside other stakeholders (inc. our collaborators) as well as governments stakeholders in DEFRA (as well as the equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) to lobby for law/guidance that will promote welfare standards, inform the public and foster co-operation amongst rescue organisations, thus fostering sustainability and maintaining public confidence in dog rescue.


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