Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of animal welfare protections for serval cats.
When kept privately as pets, pure servals require a licence under Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. While the focus of the 1976 Act is public safety, licensing conditions also provide for animal welfare protections, such as the provision of accommodation that is a suitable size, temperature and cleanliness, as well as providing adequate and suitable food, drink and bedding material. Whether a serval hybrid would require a licence under the 1976 Act would depend on the generation of the cat. When the list of species which require a licence under the 1976 Act was last amended in 2007 it sought to clarify the position for domestic cat x wild cat hybrids generally. The immediate offspring of a pure serval and a domestic cat would require a licence, but subsequent hybrids from this source would not.
Where a serval was kept and exhibited to the public for seven days or more a year (otherwise than in a circus or pet shop), rather than a licence under the 1976 Act, they would need to be licensed and inspected under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. Under the 1981 Act, zoos are required to meet strict obligations in relation to animal welfare, conservation, and education. The animal welfare requirements are set in the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice. The standards are currently under review following a 16 week consultation that ended on Tuesday 21 st June.
The commercial sale of cats, including servals, as pets is regulated under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. The 2018 Regulations set out clear requirements for those who sell cats commercially. Licencees must meet strict statutory minimum welfare standards which are enforced by local authorities who have powers to issue, refuse or revoke licences.
Further to these specific protections, these animals are also protected under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The 2006 Act requires those in charge of animals to protect them from harm and to ensure their key welfare needs are provided for. Those in charge of animals who fail to protect them from harm, or fail to provide for their welfare needs may be prosecuted and face penalties including a custodial sentence or an unlimited fine, or both.