Furthermore Liberals believe that New Labour’s current management of the National Health Service is being driven by target setting which has more to do with the health of political reputations than the health of the nation; we deplore the wasting of money on bogus public consultation surveys and the increasing dependence on private health care which we believe undermines the confidence of patients and health workers in the NHS.
Legislative changes were introduced in 1986 – opposed only by the Liberal Party – that were supposed to protect animals used in experiments from unnecessary pain and put this country at the forefront of animal protection. Unfortunately, reports detailing non-observance of regulations by reputable establishments, such as the National Institute of Medical Research, calls into question the ability to introduce and police effective legislation. Liberals believe that it is time to phase out and outlaw research and experiments on live animals altogether.
The Liberal Party notes research which indicates that toxicity tests, for example, can be just as effectively undertaken using cultures of postmortem cells and skin tissue. Liberals believe that many would respond to the postmortem tissue donor scheme for such research. In the meantime, we would abolish the LD50 test (the test which aims to establish the dose at which 50% of test animals die) and would support a common European acceptance of national testing, so that testing will only have to be done once.
Liberals are appalled at the unacceptably high number of stray dogs on our streets and the growing costs as a result road accidents, savaged livestock and hospital admissions. Liberals are also concerned that children in particular are at risk of blindness as a result of uncontrolled dog fouling.
Liberals recognise the need to balance the legitimate rights of dog owners and the remainder of the public. We believe that there must be adequate space for dogs to exercise freely but that strictly enforced controls should apply elsewhere. Therefore Liberals call for:
- the restitution of a self-financing national dog licence system including a test on the welfare and control of dogs;
- a law whereby it would be an offence, carrying a minimum mandatory sentence, to allow a dog access to a public place (including public rights of way or access across private land) without a muzzle or a leash or both;
- new powers for local Councils to deal with cases of fouling by dogs without having to rely on bye-laws. Councils would have the power to designate open land to which there is public access, on which it would be an offence for any person (excluding the blind) to fail to remove fouling by a dog in their charge;
- a statute banning for life any person convicted of causing or committing cruelty, mistreatment, neglect or unnecessary suffering to dogs from owning a dog (or any other animal);
- an increase in the number of dog wardens and their responsibilities extended to cover other companion animals and a modest educational role in schools.
As to the current concern over the ownership and breeding of large aggressive dogs, Liberals see merit in their being classified under an amendment to the Dangerous Animals Act of 1976, requiring the payment of a fee, a licence, secure and suitable premises, and the use of a muzzle in public. Liberals further believe that the courts should be given greater discretion as to whether to order the destruction of prohibited fighting dogs seized in a public place.