I, too, pay tribute to Robert Flello for bringing this issue to the attention of the House. It has certainly created a huge amount of interest across the country.
As I understand it, the purpose of the debate is to aim to encourage the Government to consider legislation that will make it illegal to sell puppies and kittens in pet shops. Local authorities already have the power to do that if the conditions of the retail outlet are poor, but this would involve an outright ban. I have considerable sympathy for that and urge the Government to consider it.
Such is the demand for cheap pedigree puppies and kittens—and, indeed, for all puppies and kittens—as presents for young people and children that unscrupulous breeders and dealers of pets can make large amounts of money without any consideration for the welfare of the animals. It is said that many of the so-called puppy farms are based in Cardigan and Carmarthenshire, and I know that the Welsh Assembly Government and local authorities in that area are working hard to bring in regulations to ensure that the conditions are suitable for the breeding of animals. It is important that we use cross-border co-operation in dealing with these issues, because many of the animals bred in Wales end up being sold in parts of England.
The subject of today’s debate, of course, is puppies and kittens, but yesterday the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs took evidence on the problem of horse welfare. The same concerns were raised about the indiscriminate breeding of horses and ponies, which are expensive to keep and often abandoned when the first enthusiasm to own them disappears and the cost becomes more apparent.
The organisations promoting today’s debate make the very good point that conditions for neonatal animals are very important in ensuring that they stay healthy and have sufficient time with their mothers before weaning. Early weaning, which allows the bitches to be bred from again, means that many pups suffer from undernourishment and poor nutrition. I had a case in my constituency of an owner of Great Danes who was not breeding them indiscriminately but with careful consideration for the genetic well-being of the animals and their sale afterwards. Nevertheless, the challenges of maintaining these large animals with a litter of 12 rapidly growing pups proved too much for their management skills and the pups suffered from a number of complaints related to unhygienic conditions. In the end, the RSPCA intervened and removed the pups, which were then kept at considerable cost to the owner. I must emphasise that these were considerate and responsible owners who were not merely interested in money making, but we can imagine the conditions that persist in some puppy farms.