My hon. Friend makes an important point. Often those dogs go on to have terrible health conditions, which then cost the loving owner a fortune in vets’ fees, as they have to mitigate against some of those terrible breeding practices that the poor pup suffered in its early life.
Obviously, the breeding and sale of puppies and other animals provides a living, and in some cases a good living. The vast majority of breeders have chosen that as a way of life because they love animals and love the joy that they can bring to the families to whom they go. Many are very particular about ensuring that their puppies go to a good and loving home. I do not want to see the lives of those breeders made more difficult by any change in the law. None the less, I am sure that they would be the first to agree that we must ensure that the law is strong enough to be able to stamp out the minority of breeders in the country who do not share their high standards of care.
My constituents are particularly concerned when they see puppies for sale in pet shops without their mothers present. I understand that that practice persists in a very small minority of pet shops in the UK—about 2% according to Pet Care Trust. None the less, I agree with my constituents that that practice should be ended completely. It has been pointed out that some councils have successfully eradicated this practice in their areas through their licensing requirements, but, like buying a car, buying a pet involves the kind of purchase that people are prepared to go further afield to make. Indeed, my dog Leo is an Essex boy, and we travelled all the way there to adopt him. Although such actions are welcome, they mean little if all the surrounding councils do not feel able to follow suit. I therefore think it is worth looking at what more can be done at a central Government level to spread best practice across the country.
I do not know what the right balance is in obtaining regulations that are enforceable and effective but that do not represent an onerous duty on local authorities or other agencies or place unnecessary restrictions on the many good, responsible and caring breeders, but it is clear that we are not striking that balance at the moment.