Can the UK re-introduce pet licences?

There’s something about the partnership with pets that I love, when the animal is put first, as they should be, it can be wonderful for them and the people who look after them. It feels like a relationship with parts of nature that humanity can continue to explore over the coming millennia. But when pets aren’t looked after properly, they can cause problems, such as untrained dogs hurting people, a disrespect for nature where roaming cats aren’t controlled in important wildlife spots or when meadows for horses aren’t managed correctly.

In reality, most pet owners will be responsible and aware of these impacts. Keeping cats in at night and putting bells on to minimise hunting, putting dogs on leads on moors during ground nesting bird season. How then, to manage the minority who cause problems, whether unwittingly or because they simply don’t care? Or the people who don’t look after their animals?

When I was growing up in the 1980s, we used to have dog licences. These were abolished in 1987 to be replaced by various laws to protect animal welfare and people, but this relies on proactive reporting and although people can be stopped from owning pets, it’s not very well controlled, especially nature protections.

A better method would be to introduce a new version of pet licence, this would go a long way to solving all of the problems associated with pets. If anyone wants to own any kind of pet, it feels sensible that they should go on record as owning that pet. In today’s world of databases and modern tech, it would be extremely easy to manage such a large database. If someone doesn’t stick to the rules, they could be fined and have their licence revoked never to own pets again.

The management and policing could be paid for by a small fee for the licence and from fines. Though there would have to be provision to help people on low incomes to own pets too – the cost of pets has been rising too high in recent years.

Pet licences would go a long way to solving people’s concerns about animal welfare and also, impact on nature from pets. For instance, it would be possible and very easy to say no licences can be given for outdoor cats in certain wildlife sensitive areas, or at least, limit the number. This would allow for cat welfare while also helping the most sensitive nature. Anyone who lets their dog chase protected ground nesting birds, or to harm sheep could have their licence revoked etc.

This seems like such a simple and obvious step to sensible pet ownership and would increase pet welfare. It protects nature without the extreme blanket ban of pets that some people have called for. Pet licences in a world with modern technology allows for a better, more bespoke and specific strategy for future pet ownership.

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