Puppies, Kittens and Pets

Breeding of Pets

All captive animals are universally protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal or fail to provide for its welfare. Anyone in the business of breeding dogs or running a pet shop must be licensed by their local council, and be able to demonstrate that the animals have suitable accommodation, food, water and bedding material; are adequately exercised and visited; and that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent the spread of infection.

Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that Ministers are currently reviewing the laws that regulate the breeding and sale of pets, including dogs, to ensure the highest level of animal safety. The review contains a number of proposals including the assurance of certain welfare conditions before vendors can obtain a licence – for example by ensuring that animals are not sold too young, or by removing the exemption on kittens bred from family pets.

That is why the Government has laid in Parliament a raft of measures to crack down on unscrupulous puppy breeders. These new rules include:

·         banning sales of puppies or kittens under the age of eight weeks;
·         ensuring licenced breeders show puppies alongside their mother before making a sale;
·         requiring puppy sales to be completed in the buyer’s presence, preventing online sales where the buyer has not seen the animal;
·         tackling breeding dogs that are unhealthy or have severe genetic disorders;
·         introducing compulsory licensing for anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs; and
·         insisting licensed breeders can only sell puppies they have bred themselves.

In addition I am pleased that the Government is exploring a ban on third-party sales. This would mean anyone looking to buy or adopt a dog will either deal directly with the breeder or one of the many animal rehousing centres.

If you are aware of any animal mistreatment I would urge you to report these concerns to the police, who have the power to take action to safeguard their welfare.

Breed Specific Legislation 

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recently undertook an Inquiry looking at Breed Specific Legislation. You can read their findings in full here. The Committee heard a number of concerns about Breed Specific Legislation, they put these to the DEFRA Minister responsible for this issue who maintains that this legislation ensures the safety of the public. It is my understanding that these concerns have been well represented to the Government, but they have no plans to repeal this legislation.

Puppy Smuggling

I share your concern about this crime and am grateful to Dogs Trust for highlighting the issue. Responsibility for stopping illegal movement begins in the country where puppies are born, so the Chief Veterinary Officer will be writing to the authorities in highlighted countries to remind them of their duties.

An EU pet travel regulation introduced in 2014 has strengthened enforcement. The new-style passport is harder to forge, new rules apply when more than five animals are moved together and all EU countries must carry out compliance checks. A 12-week minimum age for rabies vaccination assists compliance checking and restricts the movement of very young animals. As the UK withdraws from the EU, the Government will re-evaluate the rules.

There is a robust checking regime for pets travelling here. Every pet travelling with its owner on an approved route is checked for compliance with the travel regime and the UK Border Force carries out a wide range of checks on vehicles arriving in the UK.

Some of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group’s minimum standards have become mandatory for online sellers; it has also been made illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks, and anyone breeding and selling three or more litters a year must now apply for a formal licence. The Government has also given support to ‘Lucy’s Law’ by consulting on a ban on third party sales of puppies and kittens.

Government advice to prospective owners is very clear: people who buy a pet are responsible for knowing where it comes from and, if it is found to have been imported illegally, they will be held responsible for any necessary quarantine and veterinary fees.