Puppy Breeding November 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently about the welfare of puppies [and the related International Fund for Animal Welfare campaign]. I share your concern about the welfare of dogs that are bought and sold and the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices. I have long believed that the Government must tighten licensing requirements in this area and better target enforcement actions across the board.
While it has no plans to ban the sales of dogs by third parties, as you know, the Government is currently reviewing animal establishments licensing in England and has proposed tightening up the standards of welfare that apply to these sales. I welcome this review.
The Government plans to update the legal requirements for each licensed activity, including clarifying standards around the sale of puppies, the licensing threshold for dog breeding, and the provision of information alongside pet sales.
I appreciate that concerns have been raised in recent years about the growth in online sales. Breeders, dealers and traders can now easily advertise and sell a staggering array of pet animals on the Internet and I know that there have been some shocking cases where animals have been mistreated after being acquired by abusive owners through adverts on UK websites. I am very concerned about this and am pleased that the Government has clarified that online retailers selling puppies should be treated in the same way as high street pet shops and that any new legislation will be clear that online and home-based businesses, and all domestic commercial pet sales, must be licensed.
The Government also works with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), which has agreed, with several Internet sites, a set of minimum standards for animals sold over the Internet. The Government says that 130,000 inappropriate adverts have been removed as a result of this code and has promised to work with the PAAG so that more internet sites adopt the standards. I welcome the Government's endorsement of these standards and the fact there has been some success in improving online advertising standards among those sites signing up to the standards. However, the standards are voluntary and I am concerned there has been much less success with websites that have not signed up. I am also concerned that, because the code is voluntary, compliance is difficult to enforce. I hope that the Government will therefore consider how it can improve the take-up and enforcement of minimum standards for online adverts.
The Government has no plans to introduce a licensing system for dog owners but has pointed out that compulsory micro-chipping of dogs began in England from April 2016. The Government argues that this makes it easier to reunite stray dogs with their owners, to tackle the problem of dog theft and to track down irresponsible dog owners.
The Government has said that it will publish, in due course, a document setting out its final proposals for modernising the animal activities licensing schemes. I am following developments on this closely and I hope that the Government will listen carefully and respond to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the RSPCA, and act to address the issue of puppy farming and to deter illegal dog breeding.
I believe the Government must bring breeding regulations into the 21st century and ensure that animal welfare standards can be applied to modern trading practices such as online trade and also promote better education to encourage responsible dog ownership and breeding. I will continue to press the Government to drive out unregulated breeders and dealers, in order to improve and safeguard animal welfare.