I would certainly like to see more work done on the compulsory microchipping that is going to come in; I would like us to have a proper database rather than just something that floats out into the ether, never gets updated and will just continue to grow and not be used properly. I am hoping that the Minister is listening carefully and will take the message back to DEFRA that the chip is a good thing but the database behind it is the important one.
Let me return to the issue of high street pet shops. The only place most of them can source their puppies and kittens from has to be breeders that put minimal effort into breeding and rearing; there is a “pile ’em high” mentality. In addition to domestic operations, there is a rapidly growing trend of selling puppies brought into the UK from overseas breeders. We hear of breeders in the Irish Republic with 1,000 breeding bitches, which dwarfs the figure for even some of the Welsh breeders—I am sad to say that as I am sitting alongside my Welsh colleagues—who have more than 300. Although regulations are in place to address the import of cats and dogs, I know from my own experience this summer how very easily the pets passport system could be evaded.
I also know from meeting Eurotunnel and ferry companies that they are concerned about the situation and are unhappy that they are, in effect, policing something they do not have the training for and that this is not properly resourced. It simply does not work. Ultimately, the retail end of this chain drives it, with up to 100 high street pet shops in England licensed to sell puppies or kittens on their premises. That is responsible for the pain and misery of thousands of animals. Although the number of pet shops selling puppies and kittens in the UK is relatively small, there are no signs of a downward trend. My intention, with this motion, is not to vilify pet shops per se, but in almost every case where they sell puppies and kittens they simply cannot meet the specific needs required in this developmental golden period for puppies, in which puppies learn their future emotional template, in order to exhibit normal behaviour patterns and safely adjust to family life. In addition, there are all the health implications to consider.
Clear patterns have been established between early experiences and the development of aggression in dogs. A US study, for example, found that puppies obtained from pet shops were three times more likely to display aggression directed at their owner, and almost twice as likely to show aggression to other dogs they did not know, compared with dogs obtained from a small responsible breeder. By tackling the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops we can remove the most impulsive means of purchasing, giving prospective owners the chance to research ownership and everything that goes with it. We can protect these prospective owners from the health and behavioural problems associated with pet shop puppies and kittens. We can also take a big step towards curbing irresponsible breeding practices and over-production of puppies and kittens.