Unethical and Illegal Dog Breeding

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th January 2023.

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Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what steps are being taken to tackle unethical and illegal dog breeding, in light of recent reports of high-value extreme breeding programmes operating in Scotland. (S6F-01753)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The recent BBC programmes on illegal and unethical dog breeding paint an alarming picture. The Scottish Government is actively working with a number of Government and key stakeholder organisations, including the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Police Scotland, to disrupt the activities of those involved in the unlicensed puppy trade.

New animal licensing regulations were introduced in 2021, covering the breeding and selling of dogs, to tackle the growing issues linked to puppy farming. We intend to consult on the potential licensing of other activities, including canine fertility clinics, later this year.

Furthermore, several puppy campaigns have been run over the past few years to highlight the cruelty of the trade, raise public awareness and provide advice on how to buy a puppy safely.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

A nyone who saw the episode of the BBC’s “Disclosure”, which I recommend to the chamber, will be as horrified, disgusted and angry about the issue as I am. It is a multimillion-pound pet industry that has been fuelled by consumer demand for designer dogs. It is being run by organised crime and is a pet industry based on nothing but greed. I am afraid to say that those dogs are now more valuable to criminals than drugs. The consequences are often tragic, involving the loss of life. It is happening right here, right now, in Scotland.

Why are there so few prosecutions for illegal dog breeding here in Scotland, relative to the number of incidents reported?

Secondly, what specific legislation is the Scottish Government willing to introduce to crack down on illegal and unethical breeding and selling? That includes closing any loopholes on co-ownership of dogs.

Finally, will the whole Parliament now send the strongest possible message to those involved in this disgusting trade to say that we will not put up with their cruelty any more and that, if they break the law, they will pay a heavy price for it?

The First Minister:

I absolutely agree with Jamie Greene. He is right to bring these issues to the chamber. This behaviour is despicable, illegal and unethical, and people who engage in it should expect to face the full force of the law.

Jamie Greene asked me about numbers of prosecutions. As he understands, prosecution is not a matter for ministers. Decisions about prosecution are matters for the police and the prosecution authorities. I will ask law officers to write to him if there is further information that they can helpfully provide.

I indicated in my previous answer that, having introduced regulations in 2021, we intend to consult on the potential licensing of other activities later this year. Everyone across Parliament will have the opportunity to contribute to that consultation.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I welcome that exchange and, further to that, I welcome the Government’s support for my welfare of dogs bill, which will shortly be introduced. If passed, the bill will require prospective dog owners to consider rigorously and fully all aspects of the welfare of the puppy, including the breeding, before buying.

Does the First Minister therefore agree that if that leads to educated demand, the supply of cruelly-bred puppies will reduce, which will cut off the vast profits—already referred to—that go to criminals who care nothing for the welfare of the puppies, seeing them only as fashionable, marketable commodities?

The First Minister:

Y es, I very much agree, and that point is very well made. We have got to consider the issues of supply and demand and the interrelationship between them. I very much welcome any and all proposals that support animal welfare, and I take the opportunity to applaud Christine Grahame for all her hard work over a long period to introduce the legislation that she refers to. I look forward to the bill’s imminent introduction, which I understand will raise much-needed awareness about the responsibility of owning a dog. I am sure that the bill will have strong support from all parties right across the chamber.