After section 23

Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:00 pm on 31st May 2006.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:00 pm, 31st May 2006

Group 11 is on the sale of animals. Amendment 51, in the name of Richard Lochhead, is grouped with amendments 52 and 53.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Amendment 51 is about the need to regulate the sale of animals on the internet. We all recognise that the growth of the internet brings massive opportunities, but it also brings some challenges. One challenge that has been highlighted during the past few months of debate on the bill is the challenge to animal welfare. Some people believe that the trade of animals on the internet is detrimental to animal welfare. Amendment 51 seeks to persuade ministers that there is a need to regulate that trade.

I draw members' attention to the briefing from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which mentions a survey that it carried out on the web. It found that among animals for sale on the internet, there were 146 primates, including a gorilla and four baby chimps, as well as a Siberian tiger and a giraffe. That raises various issues. How do we ensure that such animals are kept in the best conditions and that the people who facilitate the trade of animals on the internet are held responsible under the bill?

At present, internet service providers and people who own websites in Scotland are not covered by the bill. At stage 2, the issue was raised with ministers, who said that they intended to make regulations on the sale of animals on the internet but that those regulations might only reflect those that have been adopted south of the border. In effect, they would regulate only online pet shops but not the internet service providers or the website owners. The purpose of amendment 51 is to go one step further and ensure that those people are regulated, given the potential implications for animal welfare.

The main reason why the Government rejected a similar amendment at stage 2 was that it felt that the regulation-making power would be time limited. That is why in the amendment at stage 3 we are saying that some but not all of the regulations should be brought in within the first year. Given that the time constraints have been removed, I hope that the minister will feel able to support amendment 51.

I am very sympathetic towards amendments 52 and 53, in the name of Christine Grahame, but I know that she is going to speak to them, so I will not do so. I hope that members will support all the amendments in this group.

I move amendment 51.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

We go from the modernity of the internet to the old-fashioned pet shop. I am pleased to say that many pet shops no longer sell puppies and kittens.

Many parts of amendment 52 refer to "a dog" because there is no definition of "a puppy" in the bill, but I am talking about puppies, because very few adult dogs are sold in pet shops. I am seeking an outright ban on pet shops selling puppies.

Subsection (2) of the section that amendment 52 would introduce says:

"A person who, in the course of a business, sells a dog which is less than eight weeks old commits an offence."

The arguments for both amendments are along the same lines. Puppies that are sold in pet shops are taken away from their mothers before they are eight weeks old and have learned the dog rules, as it were. Some of those puppies become psychological wrecks because they do not know how to behave.

Also, pet shops do not have staff there 24 hours a day to look after the animals. Anyone who has had a young animal knows that it is just like a baby; it has to be cared for. Puppy farmers who sell puppies to pet shops do not undertake the same duties as they do with responsible breeders who sell them. I hope that all members feel sympathy with all those issues. Pet shops should no longer be able to sell puppies, especially those that are less than eight weeks old. The other issues in the amendments are concerned with the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999.

If members do not agree with amendment 52, their fallback position could be amendment 53, which proposes that if, in the course of a business, anyone sells a dog that is less than eight weeks old, they must provide certain information

"as the Scottish Ministers may by regulations specify."

To some extent, that would bring the bill in line with my Transportation and Sale of Puppies (Scotland) Bill. I hope that the days remembered in the old song "How much is that doggy in the window?" are going to be dead and buried.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Amendment 52 falls into that category that makes me concerned that it might drive the activities of some dog dealers underground. For that reason, I have a strong preference for amendment 53, which I believe would legitimise and regulate the activities about which we are concerned, rather than forcing them into the dark where we do not want them to go.

On amendment 51, I share Richard Lochhead's concern about the sale of animals on the internet. We should ensure that not just anyone can buy an animal and do as they please with it; that is very much an animal welfare concern. However, I would like to hear whether the minister shares my concern about the effect on legitimate sales of animals over the internet, which are a necessity when auction marts cannot be conducted on site because of restrictions on the movement of animals. Such sales have had to take place in the past and may need to take place in future. If auction marts need to conduct their auctions electronically, as has had to happen in the past, can the minister assure us that they will not be unnecessarily hampered?

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Amendment 51 seeks to ensure that the Executive makes regulations on the selling of animals on the internet within one year of the bill receiving royal assent. The Executive has already made a commitment to introduce regulations on the sale of animals, including internet sales. I reiterated that commitment when Mr Lochhead spoke to a similar amendment at stage 2. However, internet sales are not the only pressing issue on which secondary legislation under the bill will be required. Moreover, given the nature of internet selling, a common approach between Scotland and England and Wales is likely to be appropriate. Our officials will work closely with DEFRA to ensure that a workable proposal is consulted on and brought before Parliament as soon as is practicable. To require that such regulations must be made within one year of royal assent might adversely affect the degree of consultation that could be undertaken on the regulations and, ultimately, the quality of those regulations. Therefore, I strongly urge Parliament to reject amendment 51.

Amendments 52 and 53 are new proposals that Christine Grahame is bringing forward for the first time and, as such, they have not been consulted on. Amendment 52 proposes to make it an offence for a licensed pet shop to sell dogs and for any person in the course of business to sell a dog that is under eight weeks of age. Under existing legislation, it is already illegal for breeding and rearing establishments to sell dogs that are under eight weeks of age except within the pet trade. It is not legal for them to sell a dog that is under eight weeks of age to a member of the public.

I have a number of concerns about amendment 52. First, it would be grossly unfair to make it an offence, without any consultation whatsoever, for pet shops to sell dogs. Before any changes are made to existing animal-selling practices, the pet animal industry and other interested parties must be fully consulted. Secondly, such issues are best dealt with under secondary legislation rather than in the bill. The bill makes provision for such matters to be dealt with in secondary legislation and the Executive has already given a commitment to review the existing legislation on the selling of pets and on dog breeding.

Amendment 53 would provide Scottish ministers with powers to make regulations to require that any person who in the course of business sells a dog that is under eight weeks old must provide the purchaser with information about the care of puppies and about the puppy that is being sold. I have a number of concerns about the amendment. First, amendment 53 is contradictory to amendment 52 and it is unclear whether the information relates to the animal or the breeder. Secondly, on the wider issue, we asked in our 2004 consultation paper whether animal sellers such as pet shops should be required to provide information. It is intended that regulations will require pet shops and other establishments that sell pets to provide to purchasers information on the care of the animals that they provide. The bill already provides Scottish ministers with general powers to make regulations to ensure the welfare of animals, so the additional provision in amendment 53 is unnecessary.

I am sure that the issue that Mr Johnstone asked about will come up in the consultation.

I ask the Parliament to reject amendments 52 and 53.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Briefly, I do not accept the minister's view that there are too many time constraints in amendment 51. The amendment would require that only some but not all of the regulations on the sale of animals over the internet would need to be made within one year of the bill receiving royal assent. On that basis, I will press amendment 51.

On the amendments in the name of Christine Grahame, I urge members to recognise that amendment 53 is an alternative to amendment 52—a softer option. I see no objection whatever to amendment 53 and I hope that members will support it.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 4:15 pm, 31st May 2006

The question is, that amendment 51, in the name of Richard Lochhead, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 13

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Petrie, Dave, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Turner, Dr Jean, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 50, Against 59, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 51 disagreed to.