THE Forest Council has affirmed its intention to go “above and beyond” to protect animals from harm with the creation of a new Animal Welfare Charter.

The council says the charter sets out the obligations of owners regarding their domestic animals, including recommendations about “good practice” in relation to caring for them, and will help officers prosecute those guilty of causing unnecessary suffering and neglect.

It also contains contact details for those who wish to raise concerns about the welfare of livestock, which is not a responsibility of the council.

While the council’s statutory obligations relate to domestic animals, including horses, the authority says the charter “supports the view that all animals have the right to live without cruelty”, and makes it clear that minimum standards “ought to be exceeded wherever possible”.

Animal Welfare Champion Cllr Nicky Packer said: “Our Street Warden Team at the Council do an incredible job keeping our communities safe and keeping animals across the district safe from harm.

“As a council, we know that animal welfare is an important issue for residents in the Forest of Dean. As well as setting out the obligations of owners regarding their domestic animals, which the council has a duty to enforce, the Animal Welfare Charter makes recommendations about good practice in relation to caring for domestic animals and to animal welfare generally.

“The charter will help our team of officers to successfully prosecute those guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and will be reviewed regularly, both to update it in line with changes in legislation and to continually improve guidance.”

Enforcing the Animal Welfare Act 2006 isn’t a statutory requirement for councils, with the council one of only two local authorities in Gloucestershire to deal with investigating cases of animal neglect.

The council provides a dog warden service do deal with complaints about dogs being out of control in public spaces, as well as working with Forest of Dean Dog Rescue to ensure that those who owners do not come forward are appropriately re-homed.

The street warden team also works with the counter fraud unit to investigate and secure convictions against those who are guilty of animal cruelty.

Community Safety Lead, Damion Collins, said: “The Street Warden Team works hard alongside residents to ensure that animals across the Forest of Dean are cared for responsibly.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank partners such as Forest of Dean Dog Rescue for their continued efforts in finding homes for unclaimed dogs and especially for dogs that have had such poor starts in life.

“This Animal Welfare Charter makes clear our commitment to going far beyond the minimum statutory obligations and underlines how committed we are to ensuring that all animals across the district are safe from suffering.”