Dogs: Animal Welfare

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that breeders selling puppies provide adequate protection for the (a) well being and (b) breeding of the dogs.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to protect domestic animals from cruelty through the on-line sales market.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of trends in the size of puppy farms in England and Wales.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This Government takes the issue of low-welfare and illegal supply of puppies very seriously. Significant steps have already been taken to improve and update the laws on dog breeding in England to crack down on unscrupulous breeders who breed dogs purely for financial greed at the expense of animal welfare.

Under The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (the 2018 Regulations) anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs and/or who breeds three or more litters in a twelve-month period needs to have a valid licence from their local authority. Licences must meet strict statutory minimum welfare standards, including provisions to protect dogs from being bred from too often or at an early age, which are enforced by local authorities who have powers to issue, refuse or revoke licences. Any licensee advertising dogs for sale will need to include their licence number in the advert and specify the local authority who issued the licence. Additional requirements placed on advertisements include that the age of the dog for sale must be displayed along with a recognisable photograph.

We banned the commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England from 6 April 2020. This ban aims to disrupt the low-welfare trade that supports puppy farming by preventing pet shops, pet dealers and other commercial outlets from selling these animals in England unless they themselves have bred them. It means anyone looking to get a puppy must buy direct from a breeder or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead.

The 2018 Regulations require Local Authorities to maintain a record of the number of licences in force for each activity in their respective area. Furthermore, as Local Authorities are responsible for enforcing animal related activities which are licensed, such as pet selling or dog breeding, they will hold details on the level of enforcement activity being undertaken in their area.

Meanwhile my department maintains a national communications campaign (Petfished) to raise awareness of issues associated with low-welfare and illegal supply of pets. This includes providing clear signposting on where responsible breeders and rehoming centres can be found and encouraging prospective buyers to research the seller thoroughly before they visit and decide to purchase. The campaign provides a list of red flags for buyers to look out for when searching for a pet online. More information can be found here: https://getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk/

We have also endorsed The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) which was created to combat growing concerns about the irresponsible advertising of pets for sale, rehoming and exchange and backed a set of Minimum Standards that PAAG developed which several of the UK’s largest classified websites have agreed to meet.

Furthermore, the Government has a manifesto commitment to crack down on puppy smuggling and one of our key reforms in the Action Plan on Animal Welfare is to end this abhorrent, cruel practice and low-welfare pet imports. Through the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill currently before Parliament, we will introduce new powers to tackle the unethical trade of puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) that can travel under pet travel rules. The Bill will also include powers for the Government to bring in further restrictions on the movement of pets on welfare grounds, for example by increasing the minimum age of imported puppies and restricting the import of pregnant dogs and dogs with mutilations such as cropped ears and tails.

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