A GOVERNMENT minister is to meet the owners of an Oswaldtwistle cattery to discuss their campaign for animal boarding establishments to be classed as part of the hospitality and tourism industry.

The offer was made when Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe raised the issue in a special debate in the House of Commons.

She told junior environment minister Jo Churchill that animal boarding establishments, including catteries and dog kennels, had 'fallen through the cracks' of the government's grant system to compensate businesses for the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

Miss Britcliffe took the issue to Westminster after Craig and Claire Dodding, who own the Rhoden Manor Cattery in Oswaldtwistle contacted her following a prolonged battle to get Covid-19 grant cash from Hyndburn Council.

Despite their eventual success they discovered that dozens of similar businesses nationwide faced similar problems and launched a national campaign to reclassify animal boarding establishments as part of the hospitality and tourism industry as most clients were owners seeking care for their pets while on holiday.

Miss Britcliffe praised the government's coronavirus grant system for supporting businesses hit by Covid-19 restrictions.

She told Mrs Churchill: "As with any system, a number of specific cases fell through the cracks. I will highlight the example of kennels and catteries, which offer accommodation to pets 365 days a year and provide a vital service to travellers and businesspeople who need to go abroad.

"Like other industries, kennels and catteries were affected by the lockdowns.

"The difficulty is that restrictions remained on industries directly affected by tourism- but kennels and catteries are not considered part of the tourism sector. This is where my constituents Claire and Craig Dodding come in.

"In response to those difficulties, they set up the UK Alliance of Catteries and Kennels, which advocates on behalf of catteries and kennels across the country.

"We see a discrepancy in how councils have awarded discretionary funding.

"It seems to me that a sensible first step would be for representatives of the sector to meet the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and discuss these issues. I therefore ask you whether it would be possible to broker an initial meeting between her and her officials, the UK Alliance and me."

Mrs Churchill said: "Kennels and catteries provide important services to our cat and dog populations and their owners.

"The government are aware of the sector’s concerns relating to the Covid-19 restrictions. We take that very seriously.

"I would be happy to meet you to see exactly where the challenges are."