Schedule 3 - Minor and consequential amendments

Animal Welfare Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 26th January 2006.

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Amendment proposed: No. 141, in schedule 3, page 39, line 28, at beginning insert—

‘(1)Section 2 of the Pet Animals Act 1951 (pets not to be sold in streets etc.) ceases to have effect.’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 142 and 144.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac PPS (Rt Hon Alun Michael, Minister of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Although the Minister has moved the amendments formally, I have some concerns about them and wish to pose some questions to him. On my reading, a repeal of the Pet Animals Act 1951 could create a problem by removing the restriction on

“selling animals as pets in any part of a street or public place, or at a stall or barrow in a market”.

If the amendments’ intention is that that repeal will not take place until regulations on the sale of animals have been introduced, the Minister needs to make that clear today.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 142, in schedule 3, page 39, line 28, leave out ‘the Pet Animals Act 1951’ and insert ‘that Act’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendment No. 189, in schedule 3, page 42, line 9, at end insert

‘Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (c. 11) 13AIn section 8 of the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (Sale of dogs)— (a)in subsection (1)(c), for “to the keeper of a licensed pet shop” substitute “at a licensed breeding establishment”; (b)in subsection (2)(c), for “to the keeper of a licensed pet shop” substitute “at a licensed breeding establishment or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment”.’.

13AIn section 8 of the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (Sale of dogs)—

(a)in subsection (1)(c), for “to the keeper of a licensed pet shop” substitute “at a licensed breeding establishment”;

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 12—Sale of dogs—

‘(1)A person commits an offence if he exposes, offers or displays for sale or supply or sells or supplies a dog in the course of a business at premises other than—

(a)a dwelling;

(b)a licensed breeding establishment or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment within the meaning of section 8 of the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (sale of dogs).

(2)A person commits an offence if in the course of a business he sells a dog which is less than eight weeks old.’.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Amendment No. 189 would ensure that puppies of less than eight weeks old could not be sold to pet shops. To promote the welfare of dogs effectively, as the Bill is designed to do, we need to amend the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 to guarantee that puppies aged less than eight weeks are supported in breeding establishments where their welfare needs can be better administered than in a pet shop. In their first eight weeks puppies need extra support. They need to be kept warm, they can sleep for 90 per cent. of the time and their movements are weak. It is not until the age of about eight weeks that they begin to exhibit the full range of characteristics of an adult of their breed. At that age, a puppy can begin to be house trained and groomed and can understand feeding regimes. It is only at about that time that it is appropriate for a puppy to be separated from the specialist care that it needs. The amendment would reinforce that point in law.

The subject of puppy farms was missed in the Bill, which is a great shame. Although a lot of work is being done to stop the mass production of puppies, we could have tackled the issue effectively in the Bill. We have missed that chance, but I hope that the amendment will go some way towards stopping pet shops selling puppies of less than eight weeks.

Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud

I apologise for arriving late; I wished to be called in the Chamber on the Afghanistan statement.

New clause 12 fits in reasonably well with the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Leominster. I wish to probe the Government on their position on this largely unexplored issue. Some   investigation is needed, if not greater regulation. I know that regulation already applies to the area in question, but we need to know a bit more about how puppies are weaned in pet shops and other establishments, and about when they are taken away and other transportation issues. On those matters, I hope that the Government will clearly state that they will introduce either a code of practice or, more particularly, secondary legislation. For reasons that we know about, they are not keen to address the issue in the Bill.

It is likewise vital that we find out what information is available to those who wish to make purchases. Most people who take on a puppy for the first time would admit their ignorance of the rudimentary hygiene and care measures to be adhered to. It is vital that commercial owners trading in pet animals are apprised of the need to give information to their customers. I know that that is mentioned in annexe E of the regulatory impact assessment, but it should be laid down as a vital requirement.

There are those such as the Kennel Club who are willing to engage in a partnership so that appropriate information is brought forward and so that DEFRA does not have to do it alone. I hope that can be done in a spirit of partnership. I hope that new clause 12 helps to achieve that, and that the Government will look at it seriously, even though they will not want the clause pressed at this stage.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

I shall respond first to my hon. Friend and his new clause 12. We accept that the legislation on breeding and sale of dogs is long overdue for an overhaul, and we shall prepare and consult on new regulations after evaluation of the accredited breeder scheme set up by the Kennel Club. It would be premature to speculate on the impact of any new regulations on the breeding and sale of dogs through pet shops, but I hope that my hon. Friend will take on board the fact that the Government are thinking carefully about it, and we intend to proceed as I outlined. On that basis, I urge him not to press his new clause.

I turn to amendment No. 189, tabled by the hon. Member for Leominster. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary, because the sale of under-age puppies is already illegal under existing legislation, and will remain so under the Bill.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Good. That is a very positive start to what I was seeking to achieve. There is quite a lot of merit in what the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) has suggested in his new clause. I, too, want the accredited breeder scheme to succeed; I am worried that there will be people who seek to bypass it. However, having put those comments on the record, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.