Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure the welfare of animals in zoos is safeguarded during the covid-19 outbreak.
We recognise that zoos are undertaking very valuable work at this time to ensure that the health and welfare needs of the diverse range of animals they care for are well met. We are aware of the issues currently facing zoos and we have been engaging with the main industry association, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), and with individual zoos about the best way forward.
The Government has provided a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support businesses, including zoos, through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. Zoos are eligible to apply for a range of support schemes including the Job Retention Scheme, VAT deferral, Business Rates Relief, the Business Interruption Loan schemes, the option to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay and grant funding of up to £25,000.
In addition, specifically for zoos in severe financial distress, the Government is introducing a Zoos Support Fund for licensed zoos in England. Similar support will be provided by the Devolved Administrations. Where a zoo in England is in severe financial distress and has fully explored and exhausted all other reasonable avenues to generate income and reduce costs, including the existing COVID-19 business support schemes, then they should approach Defra as quickly as possible. Defra has already written to all licensed zoos in England to make them aware of the COVID-19 support schemes available as well as the new Zoo Support Fund.