We are working closely with a wide range of stakeholders to respond quickly and effectively to emerging issues which may impact animal welfare.
We are having regular meetings with the livestock industry to discuss the specific issues affecting each sector and to consider what interventions might be appropriate. We have provided detailed guidance on how to safely care for farm animals whilst maintaining social distancing. We are encouraging farmers to consider the financial support schemes introduced by the Government, including a specific Dairy Response Fund, which will be open to applications from 18 June and will provide up to £10,000 each to help those dairy farmers most in need of support.
The Government recognises that the zoos sector, including aquariums, faces unique circumstances and we are committed to working with the industry to understand the impacts. We have been engaging closely with the main industry association, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), and with individual zoos about the best way forward, also taking expert advice from Defra's Zoos Expert Committee.
Zoos are eligible to apply for a range of support schemes including the Job Retention Scheme, VAT deferral, Business Rates Relief, the Business Interruption Loan schemes, the option to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay and grant funding of up to £25,000. In addition, specifically for zoos in severe financial distress, the Government introduced a £14 million Zoos Support Fund for licensed zoos in England on 4 May.
As announced by the Prime Minister on 10 June, outdoor areas of zoos and safari parks will be allowed to reopen from 15 June, subject to appropriate social distancing measures being in place. This includes keeping indoor exhibitions, such as reptile houses and those in aquariums, closed, and ensuring other amenities like cafes offer take-away services only. The move follows close work by the Government with the zoo industry to ensure visitor numbers can be managed and safeguards are put in place. The decision to relax restrictions on these select outdoor attractions is part of the Government’s careful approach to easing the lockdown in phases, guided by the advice of scientific and medical experts and the fact the risk of transmission is much lower outdoors.
Officials continue to meet weekly with BIAZA and with the CEOs of the largest charitable zoos and aquariums in England providing a valuable forum to monitor concerns and seek insights from key sector representatives on current issues.
We are in regular contact with animal welfare charities to discuss their concerns and to see what actions can be taken so that the welfare of animals can be maintained through these difficult times.
We have also responded to, and continue, to respond to individual enquires from pet owners and pet related businesses.
To assist animal owners in these difficult times, the Government has issued the following guidance for owners and their animals which can be found on the GOV.UK website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals. Throughout this crisis, veterinarians have been classed as key workers and practices have been permitted to remain open.
The Government has sought the expert advice of the Animal Welfare Committee on the potential impact of Covid-19 on animal welfare and the actions that might be taken to mitigate the risks. Their report, published on 4 June, will help inform our future actions in addressing the wider impact of Covid-19 on animal welfare: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/awc-opinion-on-the-animal-welfare-issues-related-to-covid-19
We continue to remain in close contact with the animal welfare sector about the situation facing organisations working with animals and to understand the impacts on the sector and their needs.