Above: Not only bird sales, but those of mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians will be equally affected if DEFRA’s blanket Animal Activities Licence (AAL) is introduced. The NCA’s Chris Smith told C&AB he was surprised the proposed regulations had got to the Parliamentary approval stage without direct consultation with the hobbyists

CLICK HERE to download a letter to send to your MP.

CLICK HERE to read a DEFRA background document. NOTE: it doesn’t mention bird sales but clearly they fall under the same remit.

BIRDKEEPERS MAY FACE a nightmare combination of new red tape and costs, if DEFRA plans for a blanket Animal Activities Licence (AAL) become law.

The proposed new regulations, which may take effect as early as October, could cripple sales of birds in this country, with vendors forced to apply for fixed-term licences and to comply with inspections by local authority officials.

The proposed AAL started life in 2015 with a review and consultation intended to add teeth to local authorities’ legal obligation to license petshops, dog breeders, riding establishments and animal boarders. Last year DEFRA released a “Next Steps” document based on the consultation results. But then last month came a meeting attended by Jim Collins (the co-ordinator of the Sustainable Users Network, or SUN). In that meeting DEFRA made clear that a single licensing system for “commercial breeders” had to cover every type of animal – birds included.

For birdkeepers, the implications of AAL will hinge on the interpretation of “commercial” versus “hobbyist” status: decisions to be made by local authority inspectors.

Draft DEFRA guidelines have been issued to help inspectors. These recommend that AAL should apply where:

[birds] are imported, distributed and sold by a listed business;

businesses or individuals operate from domestic premises for “commercial purposes”;

high numbers of for-sale adverts could indicate commercial behaviour.

A final draft of DEFRA’s AAL guidelines is due to be released by early April.

According to Mr Collins, a problem would be the variability of how local authorities interpret the guidelines. 

He said: “Over-zealous local authorities (and plenty exist) or those with inspectors who have a tendency towards animal rights will, I fear, seek to use the rather loose and far from definitive guidelines to accuse hobbyist breeders of being ‘commercial’ and, therefore, subject to licensing and the stipulated conditions therein. 

“Far too much potential exists for animal rights extremists to lobby local authorities.”

AAL is “out of scope” for:

The infrequent sale of a small number of surplus offspring/excess stock by a private individual who breeds [birds] for pleasure [or] “exhibition for prize”.

Organised events where people meet to sell surplus [birds] they have bred, or [birds] that are surplus to their requirements.

Chris Smith, chairman of the National Council for Aviculture (NCA), said: “We need to join together with other groups to influence the guidelines to local authorities in the implementation of this legislation to ensure breeders are not unduly burdened by this licensing regime.”

For background, search online for “Animal licensing next steps”.

For more news from Cage & Aviary Birds, click here