Sale of Puppies and Kittens

Part of Backbench Business – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 4th September 2014.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 1:41 pm, 4th September 2014

I certainly agree that we need to do that. My slight concern is that although some hon. Members are asking us to examine other issues, which we certainly should, that should not be at the expense of doing what we can here today. I completely take on board, for example, what Sir Edward Leigh said about animals coming from other jurisdictions or via the internet, which may be a harder nut to crack right now. However, that should not mean that we do not act now to take action on pet shops, garden centres and so on. I agree that that will not be a panacea or a silver bullet, but we can do it relatively straightforwardly. We should do it, because we can do it and it will make a difference.

I was speaking about the vet who had raised with me her concerns about pedigree puppy farming in particular, which can result in particularly grim conditions. Genetic problems range from serious breathing difficulties to chronic, lifelong skin allergies to crippling joint problems. The real concern is that some of those problems, such as obstructive airway syndrome, are seen as normal by those who are willing to put looks and fashion before animal welfare. A price tag of more than £1,000 is not uncommon for breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, and the inevitable outcome is more breeding to meet more demand.

That vet explained to me that in some breeds of bulldogs, the majority of bitches cannot give birth naturally and need a caesarean to deliver puppies. She explained that she had come across breeders who were so willing to put their dogs under repeat surgeries, so that they could keep breeding them for as long as it was profitable, that they literally bred the dogs to death.

Of course, some of the responsibility should stop with the consumers who are willing to pay to purchase dogs from puppy farms and bad breeders. That is why I welcome the fact that the motion mentions the importance of raising awareness. However, I believe that many people are simply not aware of the issue. They do not know that if they buy a puppy from a pet shop, it could have come from the type of grim background that we have described, so raising awareness is massively important.

The role of local authorities is also massively important, and I underline again the importance of ensuring that they are properly resourced to carry out the welfare checks that they have the right to do. However, that does not take away from the fact that the Government need to act as well. The vet that I have been referring to says that she does not believe the problem is

“likely to go away anytime soon without some kind of intervention or regulation.”

I believe that there is a case for overwhelming action today. The fact that we cannot do everything does not mean that we should not do anything. I very much hope that the Government will listen to the strength of feeling throughout the House and the country and swiftly take the measures that are within their power.