Michael and Rocky
Michael and Rocky

Many local people are animal lovers – caring for their pets, service animals, wildlife, and livestock. Most Manx people take great care of the animals that we share this island with.

But not everyone shows such love and care for animals. While animal abuse and animal cruelty is thankfully rare on the Isle of Man, we should ensure that our laws reflects our values as a caring community.

Manx animal welfare legislation is primarily controlled by the Animal Health Act 1996 and the Cruelty to Animals Act 1997. The IOM Government has been terribly slow to upgrade the protection of local animals, dragging their feet on introducing new legislation. They promised that this would be introduced many years ago – but they have failed[1] to give animal protection the priority that it deserves. Josem will fight to introduce modern animal welfare protections in the Isle of Man for all of them.

This policy document draws heavily upon Michael Josem’s submission to the Animal Welfare Bill inquiry earlier this year, and expands upon his policy proposals from 2020.

Establish a Manx forum of key animal stakeholders to write this bill properly

Instead of just copying some parts of UK legislation, the Isle of Man Government should establish a public forum with a variety of experiences in protecting animal welfare. This can and should engage with stakeholders with experience in relation to different types of animal.

Protect service animals by supporting the introduction of Finn’s Law in the Isle of Man

Finn is a retired police dog, who was part of a dog unit in England. Finn is highly trained and won many awards whilst helping his handler, PC Dave Wardell.

Finn was sent to stop a fleeing juvenile in October 2016 who was getting away from PC Wardell. Finn was alone when he caught the youth, who was scaling a garden fence. PC Wardell caught them up at which point Finn had a good hold of the youth and the youth withdrew the knife from Finn’s chest. The youth then swung the knife in PC Wardell’s direction and it is at this point, Finn put his head in to defend PC Wardell. Finn received a further cut to his head and PC Wardell a minor cut to his knuckle. 

At the time, there was no specific law against hurting a service animal whilst it is on duty in the United Kingdom. Finn’s attacker was charged with assault for hurting PC Wardell and also charged with ‘criminal damage’ for what he did to Finn.

This is the same charge that he would get if he had deliberately smashed a window. Service animals like Finn are more valuable than a window pane. Petitions were launched to change the law so that anyone who hurts a police dog or horse would get the same punishment as if they had hurt a police officer. This law became known as “Finn’s Law”.

As a result of these British petitions, the law in England, Wales and, most recently, Scotland was changed to treat harm to service animals as more than mere criminal damage. Michael Josem will fight to upgrade protections for service animals like Finn on the Isle of Man so that they are similarly protective of animals as across.[2]

Tougher penalties for animal abusers

Under the Manx legislation above, offences such as cruelly torturing an animal are subject to a maximum of just 6 months in prison, or £5,000 fine, or both. Manx people have told Josem that this is too soft on people who deliberately torture animals, and Michael Josem will fight to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to at least one year in prison. This will upgrade Manx law to become at least equal to UK law.

Newspaper headline: Let's bring in partridges and shoot them
Newspaper headline: Let’s bring in partridges and shoot them

Oppose the Government’s proposal to bring in partridges and shoot them

Last year, the Isle of Man Courier revealed Government proposals to import grey partridges to the Isle of Man and shoot them. Michael Josem will oppose efforts to expand shooting on the Isle of Man.

Banning electric shock collars for pets

Local residents have said the we should follow moves across to ban electric shock collars for pets[efn_note]Wales already bans electric shock collars, while England is already moving to do so. Source: British Veterinary Assocation[/efn_note]. As a result, Josem will support banning electric shock collars for cats and dogs in the Isle of Man.

Ban animal testing

The Department of Environment Food and Agriculture should revise the Cruelty to Animals Act 1997 to ensure that no testing on animals is permitted unless it is for the specific purpose of protecting or improving the welfare of the animals.

Stop the sale of ear-cropped dogs in the Isle of Man

Leading veterinary and welfare bodies are concerned by the alarming rise in ear-cropped dogs in these Isles. Ear cropping is illegal in the UK and an unnecessary, painful mutilation with no welfare benefit. The practice involves cutting off part of the ear flap, often without anaesthesia or pain relief.

Public reports from the RSPCA in the UK states a 621% increase in reports of ear cropping from 2015 to 2020. It is likely that the situation in the Isle of Man is similar. Do let me know if you need any details regarding ear cropping.

Ear cropping itself, is already an unlawful mutilation in the UK and has been for many years. Reports indicate a significant increase in cropped dogs, with some explained as being European imports. This is unlikely, as ear cropping is illegal across most of Europe. Indeed there is a European Convention that aims unify this ban but further to restrict the advertising of such dogs. 

A rise in celebrity “influencers” sharing images of their cropped dogs on social media may be helping to fuel this. We should make it illegal to sell ear-cropped dogs, import them from abroad, advertise ear-cropping services,  or take dogs abroad to be cropped. These loopholes act as a smokescreen for those illegally cropping in these Isles. The Government must close these loopholes and end the trend in ear-cropped dogs for good.

Make pet theft a specific criminal offence

The Manx Government should create a specific offence for dog theft, punishable with an appropriately severe jail term. Dogs are like members of the family to many people and current laws do not reflect this. Dogs are a support network for so many, a family member, a lifeline.

Dog theft is not currently a specific offence in the UK, and the IOM’s proposed Animal Welfare Bill earlier this year does not contemplate the creation of such a crime. While the crime of theft already exists, the existing offence doesn’t target the specific problem which is dog theft.

Dogs should be seen to have their own offence to protect them. Current laws and penalties are not enough justice for the families and dogs that go through this trauma. They protect us, and the Isle of Man Government should protect them.

Alpacas and the Isle of Man

Sadly, while Michael Josem loves alpacas (they’re cute! they’re adorable! they’re furry) it is not practical to allow the importation of camelids such as alpacas or llamas to the Isle of Man. This is because they are at risk of carrying bovine tuberculosis, and the risk to the Manx livestock industry is probably not currently worth the benefits. Instead, we will need to keep adoring gorgeous photos of alpacas from afar.

Disclosure: This policy article draws upon many of the good ideas that have been publicly proposed by the FOAL Group: Focus On Animal Law to improve animal welfare in these Isles. Similarly, Michael Josem is a member of the Manx Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Nothing in this policy proposal should be taken as representative of the position or views of either the Manx SPCA or the FOAL Group.

[1] Look at this foot dragging by the Isle of Man Government in the words of one lawyer late last year: “In April 2016, the Council of Ministers accepted a recommendation by the Select Committee on Animal Welfare to establish a Forum to assist in drafting an Animal Welfare Bill with the ultimate intention of introducing the legislation in the 2016/17 legislative year. This has not yet occurred and it is unclear whether the Animal Welfare Bill remains on the legislative agenda.”

[2] With thanks to Charles Price of Port Erin and other lawyers for their assistance with this.

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.