Animal Welfare Officer’s Annual Report 2020

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Report regarding Animal Welfare Officer’s work for the period 2020

Introduction

2020 was a very unusual year for everyone, and the work that I would normally undertake was massively impacted by the three 2020 Lockdowns, and the huge impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on how people lived their lives.

However, far from reducing the workload of the AWO, the fact that many people lived their lives online, and shifted their businesses and shopping habits to online platforms actually saw a noticeable increase in the amount of breeders advertising and selling online, and thus a similarly noticeable increase in casework and referrals made to other agencies.

2020 in figures

Cases by Month –

January 2020 – 25

February 2020 – 23

March 2020 – 11

April 2020 – 55

May 2020 – 21

June 2020 – 12

July 2020 – 6

August 2020 – 30

September 2020 – 48

October 2020 – 24

November 2020 – 58

December 2020 – 42

Total cases raised for 2020 – 355

Previous total cases raised 2019 – 107

Increase in cases – 248 (69.9% increase)

Summary

As can be seen there was a sizeable increase in cases raised by the AWO in 2020, it is believed that this was largely due to a marked increase in online breeders, but also represents an increase in cases referred to RWAF Head Office by members and the public, relating to animal welfare issues and concerns uncovered during 2020.

Types of cases

As you will be aware, whilst carrying out enquiries for the RWAF, there are occasions where other offending is identified by the AWO.

Where this happens, details and information are always recorded and passed to the appropriate enforcement agencies.

In 2020, the offending profile was as follows –

Animal Welfare Offences including Licensing – 283

CITES (Endangered Species) Offences – 8

Currency Offences – 1

Drugs – 2

Fly-tipping – 2

Red Diesel Offences – 4

Firearms (These all form part of wider offending usually involving illegal Hunting) – 6

Illegal Hunting Offences (Including Hare Coursing) – 21

Food Safety – 1

Fraud Act 2006 – 18

Money Laundering – 2

Illegal Tobacco – 1

Medicines and Medical Devices – 1

Modern Slavery – 1

Road Traffic Act – 1

Vehicle Theft – 1

Cycle Theft – 1

Fuel Theft – 1

Unlicensed Dog Breeding – 1

Video Recordings Offences – 1

Summary

As can be seen the largest area of concern in 2020 related to the AWO’s primary duties which involve identifying unlicensed Pet Sellers (usually rabbit breeders, but there are other areas of concern that have impacted on the casework), with fraud, illegal hunting, firearms and endangered species issues accounting for 53 case referrals in 2020.

Geographical spread in 2020

Cases in 2020 were largely located in the UK, with the highest proportion of traders being in ENGLAND, followed by WALES then SCOTLAND; but my enquiries also took in issues in AUSTRIA, HONG KONG, CHINA and the USA –

Geographical enquiries

England308
Wales17
Scotland10
Austria2
China1
Hong Kong1
USA1
Unknown15
Total355

Referrals in 2020

Referrals were made to the following agencies in 2020:

Local Authorities – 80

HMRC & Other Govt Agencies – 75

Police UK and Overseas – 8

Other Agencies – 35

Total Referrals in 2020 – 198

Breakdown of case disposal

Cases finalised with a referral – 198

Cases closed No further action possible with information available – 95

Cases carried over to 2021 (still ongoing) – 62

Summary

95 (26.8%) of the cases identified and commenced could not be progressed, usually because it proved impossible to trace them, or when the investigation did progress there was insufficient evidence to warrant further action.

Of the 355 cases raised in 2020, 198 (55.8%) were carried through to some form of resolution and 62 (17.5%) are ongoing.

Special projects and notable work

It was noted in July 2020, that a selling platform that had previously been virtually devoid of rabbit sales had suddenly exploded with new breeders, this was Free-ads a platform similar to Ebay and other sites, whereby used items could be offered for sale, amongst the commodities offered were a massive array of animals including rabbits.

I carried out a special project (which is now in its final month of activity) targeting sellers on this platform; the immediate notable and interesting factor identified from this project was the preponderance of new traders identified (by which we mean those who have started breeding in 2020), and this has shown a marked increase in activity.

The project has also provided us with many more in-roads into activity in SCOTLAND and WALES, which will form the basis of a sizeable project in 2021.

Through links in to volunteering with the Angling Trust / EA on Fishery crime, we have also managed to make connections with local Police Forces in the South East, which has enabled us to find contacts in rural crime teams who are happy to receive and deal with intelligence relating to Hare Coursing, which has seen a massive increase in the Winter months of 2020.

I also obtained the Animal Welfare Inspection qualification in 2020, as well as attending a number of other courses which have enabled me to provide a wider base of assistance to the RWAF’s Senior Management Team.

2021

2021 has started in much the same manner as the majority of 2020, in Lockdown and still plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic; it is however shaping up to be another busy year and the following work is planned –

  1. We already have 43 cases open in the book to be researched, an increase of 18 on this time last year.
  2. Geographical Intelligence Project looking at Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
  3. More liaison with Rural Crime Teams as contacts can be made.
  4. Resumption of observation and visit programme once Lockdown is eased.
  5. Planned increase in referral activity provided the pace of identification of breeders and their locations can be maintained.
  6. Possibility of closer-working with a new charity that deals primarily with animal cruelty matters (The Animal Protection Service) who have a presence in the South East and elsewhere in the UK, and while they largely deal with Dogs and Puppy Farming, are also looking to diversify across different pet animal species.

Mark Dron

Animal Welfare Officer

RWAF

16/01/2021