I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 and 529 together.
All animals will be given protection under the Animal Health and Welfare Bill. Section 12 of the Bill outlaws cruelty to all animals irrespective of whether they are classified as protected.
The term “protected animal” is applied to animals under the protection i.e. ownership of humans. The difference between “protected animals” and those living in the wild lies in the specific obligations placed upon their owners or keepers. Wild animals, including feral cats, are defined as having no owner or keeper. It would not be sensible to apply the same provisions to these animals because it is not possible to impose an obligation on any owner to care for them. In my view, to remove the distinction between domesticated and feral animals would significantly weaken the protection given to those animals with an identifiable owner, while not serving to increase the protection for those animals living in the wild.