I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he highlights the reason that we have all had so much communication on this issue. It comes back to my point that puppies, kittens and other animals that we bring into our lives become part of our families. As Mrs Hodgson said, we would not tolerate any harmful behaviour towards a human being in our family; many people feel the same bond with their animals and want to ensure that they are properly looked after.
As I said earlier to Robert Flello, if one visits Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, or the Dogs Trust in my constituency, and sees some of the consequences of bad behaviour and terrible care, one cannot help being moved. The Dogs Trust in my constituency does outstanding work but its resources are limited. How many families who were faced with the situation that my wife and I were faced with with our dog Maggie would give up and give their dog away to the Dogs Trust or elsewhere? But let us be under no illusions: the chances are that on many occasions, that dog will be killed—“to put down” or “to destroy” does not have the same impact as “the animal will be killed.” That is why we need to ensure that families offering love and care do not find themselves in a position where they simply cannot care for the animal.
Many constituents have raised this issue with me, but they specifically raised an issue about a pet supermarket in Leeds called Dogs4Us. Petitions have been submitted to Leeds city council, asking it to remove the pet supermarket’s licence, and the city council has looked into the matter. I went further and did the research and looked at the Dogs4Us website, on which it makes reference to an internet campaign and refutes the allegations. The truth will lie somewhere in the middle. I have no primary evidence that these activities are going on, but I do have a lot of secondary evidence.
That points to a bigger picture: what the public are looking for is faith in the inspection regime and licensing system. If that faith existed, people would believe that local authorities would be able to track down and stop what was going on in puppy farming. I urge the Minister to consider closely the suggestions that the licensing and inspection system be renewed, refreshed and redefined so that the public have faith that poor practices, criminality and downright cruelty can be eradicated.
A dog is loyal, rewarding and life-saving; it promotes a healthy lifestyle through exercise and becomes an integral member of the family. As a dog lover, I have focused on dogs, but I know that cat lovers would say the same about their pets. We must do all we can to eradicate the cruelty and harm that can kill puppies and kittens, and to prevent loving and caring families who go out expecting to bring in a new member of their family ultimately experiencing heartbreak, because of a con at the beginning.