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Protection Of Animals (Anaesthetics) Bill

Volume 527: debated on Friday 21 May 1954

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Order for consideration (as amended in the Standing Committee), read.

First Schedule—(Excepted Operations)

1.57 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 3, line 11. to leave out "or," and to insert:

"before it has reached the age of three months or of any."
The object of this Amendment is to reduce to three months the age of castration of male dogs without anaesthetics. During the Committee stage, several hon. Members argued that the castration of male puppies was unnecessary, whilst others suggested that the age of six months was too high. I have made further inquiries about this matter since then and I am satisfied that we cannot go so far as to delete the words "male clog" altogether from this paragraph of the Schedule.

I am assured that there is definitely a demand, and it may well be a growing one, for the supply of castrated male puppies in order that the owner may have a dog which will not wander off for days at a time. This applies particularly in the case of the working sheepdog or cattle-dog which has to be used almost every day and which, if not chained up, may well be found missing for some days when a neighbouring bitch is in season. I am informed, for example, that in one veterinary surgeon's practice alone, about 50 male dogs are brought in for castration every year.

The reason for exempting this operation from the provision of compulsory anaesthesia is the same as for cats and other young animals, namely, that the operation is quickly carried out and the total amount of pain, fear and nausea involved may well be less than where additional restraints have to be applied in order to give anaesthesia. I do appreciate, however, that there may be good reasons for reducing somewhat the age of dogs, in so far as these animals mature more quickly than cats and would undoubtedly be more developed at the age of six months than would cats.

We must remember, of course, that if we go too far in this matter the provisions of the Bill may be ignored and the law be brought into contempt. I feel in all the circumstances that the age of three months is a reasonable compromise so far as the castration of puppies is concerned, and I hope those Members who have taken an active interest in this matter will feel that chat is a satisfactory settlement of the issue.

I am sorry to have occupied the time of the House for so long with this explanation, but strong feelings were expressed in the Committee and I thought I had better explain why I am unable to meet the views of hon. Members on one point.

Amendment agreed to.

Second Schedule—(Acts Which May Be Cited Together)

Further Amendments made: In page 3, line 38, at end, insert:

Any Act passed during the present Session of Parliament relating to penalties for offences of cruelty to animals in England and Wales.

In line 45, at end, add:

Any Act passed during the present Session of Parliament relating to penalties for offences of cruelty to animals in Scotland.—[Viscountess Davidson.]

2.1 p.m.

I beg to move. "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I am sure that it would not be the general wish that I should take up much of the time of the House on Third Reading, seeing how tolerant Members were of the long exposition which I gave on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill. I should, however, like to thank all those who have made it possible for me, as a layman, to deal with the very technical questions involved. I thank not only those hon. Members who have given me their full support but also those who, having raised various points during the Second Reading debate and in Committee, have been good enough to accept my case or to agree to a reasonable compromise.

I thank the officers and advisers of the British Veterinary Association, by whom the Bill was prepared. Their initiative and public spirit in this matter is most praiseworthy. I am also grateful to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and their advisers, who have been extremely co-operative.

I am sure that this Bill will be welcomed by all those concerned with the welfare and good treatment of animals. It will be particularly satisfactory to the veterinary profession to know that by their own efforts the advances made in recent years in scientific knowledge about animal anaesthetics will be applied under the provisions of up-to-date legislation. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have steered this Bill so far on its way through the House, and I hope that it will receive a Third Reading without question.

2.3 p.m.

Though I do not wish to detain the House, I think that someone from this side might indicate that we are very much obliged to the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) for introducing this Measure. It has had the support not only of Members on her side of the House but also on this side.

It is rather interesting to reflect that, of the four Bills with which we have dealt today, three have been for the greater protection of so-called dumb animals and birds. This Measure is not the least of those with which we have dealt today, and I should like to congratulate the noble Lady for having seen it safely through.

Might I add the congratulations of the Government to the noble Lady on her skill in carrying this Measure through?

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.