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Animal welfare
Reptiles and the Animal Welfare Act
  1. Martin L. Whitehead
  1. Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital, Banbury Road, Chipping Norton, Oxon OX7 5SY; e-mail:

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AS Mike Radford states in his letter on assessment of the unnecessary suffering offence (VR, December 3, 2016, vol 179, p 577), the intention of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), with the duty it imposes on those who assume responsibility for an animal to ensure its welfare, is to minimise unnecessary suffering of any cause. Suffering may result from deliberate cruelty, wilful neglect, or ‘unintentional unnecessary suffering’ (UUS) in which keepers who are genuinely trying to keep their animals well do not realise they are, unintentionally, causing suffering. A common example of UUS is the scenario of an owner having ‘all the kit’ and following internet and care-sheet advice on keeping their reptile that nevertheless develops illness due to suboptimal husbandry – the owner had no reason to believe their actions would cause illness, and does not recognise the illness so caused unless and until it becomes severe.

Ten years of the AWA has failed to protect many species against serious welfare problems – cases in which the animals' welfare needs, as required to be met by the AWA, are clearly not met, examples being rabbits kept on their own, parrots in cages their whole lives, reptiles chronically …

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