It is a privilege to speak at the end of this debate, because it has been a good debate and all parties have come together. I have the great pleasure of chairing the all-party group on animal welfare, and I believe this is an issue that we all care strongly about.
There are more than 11 million cats in this country, and Blue Cross and Cats Protection take in between 4,000 and 5,000 stray cats and kitten a month. That shows the scale of the problem with not only puppies but kittens. If kittens are taken too early from their mother, not only is that bad for their welfare, but most will probably depart this world for health reasons. We must be clear about that.
It is more important than ever to ensure that we can enforce whatever legislation is in place—I am sure that is what the Minister will speak about this afternoon. It is no good having legislation that we cannot enforce. This is not just an animal welfare problem. When someone chooses a puppy, they are bringing an animal into their household. They may have young children, and that puppy is potentially dangerous and could grow into a dangerous dog. If people do not see the mother of that puppy and the environment in which it has been raised, they will not know what could happen in their family with that puppy.
With the internet, it is becoming much easier to access a puppy, and if someone goes to buy one and their child picks it up and loves it, it is difficult for them to say they are not going to buy it. Not only will the puppy be difficult from a welfare and behavioural point of view, it may be suffering from many diseases. It probably will not have had proper inoculations or been dealt with properly, whether it has come from a badly managed puppy farm or from eastern European countries where, as my hon. Friend Mr Amess mentioned, rabies and other diseases are a problem. We must act on all those issues to protect people from buying the wrong type of puppy or kitten.
I am not against designer dogs such as Cockapoos or Labradoodles, but they are expensive. People decide they want this type of dog, they look on the internet and they see a puppy that is half or a third of the normal price of a Cockapoo or Labradoodle. Naturally, people buy the cheaper puppy, which has probably come in from central or eastern Europe. Therein lies the problem.
I welcome the Government’s introduction of microchipping, but we have to make sure that it happens. Will those who breed puppies in their backyards and should not be breeding puppies be the sort of people who will microchip them? No, they will not.