Children Face Ban on Buying Animals

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAEME WILSON

CHILDREN under 16 may soon be forbidden by law from buying pets.

The measure will be among proposals unveiled by the Government this week to overhaul confusing legislation on animal welfare.

It follows intense lobbying by the RSPCA and animal rights groups concerned over loopholes in existing regulations.

Children aged 12 and over can legally buy dogs, cats and hamsters from pet shops.

But Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett will set out proposals to raise the age to 16 when she launches a consultation on creating new rules on animal welfare.

While it could be two years before a Bill is produced, Whitehall insiders signalled that the new law would include the change in age limit.

Ministers believe the present welfare laws - there are 11 in total and some date back 90 years - are not protecting animals.

They are alarmed at loopholes which have left Britain with lax rules on cruelty against horses.

Current laws also mean children of any age can buy a dog from a puppy farm or be given a goldfish as a prize at a fair.

The decision to act comes six months after animal welfare came under the newly-created Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, headed by Mrs Beckett.

One official said: 'Our animal welfare laws are nearly a century old and with the decision to bring all the different strands on this issue together in one department, ministers felt it was time to look at our law again. …