First, I congratulate all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in today’s debate on the important contribution they have made to moving this issue forward. I hope that the weight of feeling we have heard expressed in this Chamber sends a clear message—I think the Minister has heard it—that more needs to be done now. I welcome the clarification that local authorities can act where they feel it is inappropriate for pet shops to sell puppies and kittens. If I heard correctly, they can use the powers under the 1951 Act, if they decide to do so, to stop that. May I urge him to write to those local authorities, perhaps in conjunction with the Department for Communities and Local Government, to point out to them that they have that ability?
Let me use the 1951 Act to highlight something. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have said that the legislation is fine and that this is just a matter of enforcement, but the legislation is not fine. The 1951 Act does not talk about socialisation—the guidance might, but the Act does not require socialisation. It also does not make provision in respect of emotional needs, although the guidance mentions a total of 80 minutes a day. The Act does not talk about those things, and it does not deal with puppies and kittens being taken from their mums at four weeks—certainly earlier than eight weeks—or with the question, “Where’s mum?” One message I want to get across is, “If that genuinely is not the mum of the litter of kittens or puppies, do not touch it with a bargepole. Think very carefully about where you are doing your shopping.”
The debate has covered a wide spectrum of issues: irresponsible breeders, microchipping, the internet, foreign imports, the requirements of legislation and the requirements of enforcement. I know from my conversations with Labour’s Front-Bench team, and with a host of the charities that have been talked about today, that there is a willingness to work with the Government and alongside DEFRA to get this right and get it sorted.
Finally, may I close by paying tribute to the fantastic work done by Marc and Pup Aid and to all the charities that have been cited today? This is the start; this is the foot in the door. We need to do a lot more for the sake of all the puppies and kittens—and their mothers—that are leading horrendous lives and being raised in the most cruel conditions. Although this is just the start and there is much more to do, I thank everyone for today’s debate and I thank the Backbench Business Committee. I look forward to pestering it in future for yet more debates on this issue, although I hope I will not need them because the Minister will hear what we have said and make sure that we work further together.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the e-petition relating to the sale of young puppies and kittens; notes that puppies produced at large-scale commercial breeding establishments, known as puppy farms, and irresponsibly-bred kittens are separated from their mothers too early and often transported long distances, and as a result often suffer serious life-threatening problems including impaired immune systems, poor socialisation, infectious diseases and shorter life spans; calls on the Government to review existing legislation to ensure that it is consistent with its own guidance that prospective owners should always see the puppy or kitten with its mother, and to ban the sale of puppies and kittens from retail centres such as pet shops, garden centres or puppy supermarkets; further notes the support of the Blue Cross, Dog Rescue Federation, Dogs Advisory Council, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, RSPCA and others for such a ban; and further calls on the Government and welfare organisations to work together to raise awareness among the public about choosing a dog responsibly from only ethical breeders or by adoption from legitimate rescue organisations, and to consider further steps to end the cruel practice of irresponsible and unethical breeding of puppies and kittens in the UK.