To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what information his Department holds on the number of illegal puppy farms have been closed down in the last five years, by jurisdiction.
Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the licence requirements for animal related activities such as pet selling or dog breeding. They therefore hold details of the enforcement activity being undertaken in their area, including information on action they have taken in relation to illegal breeding activity.
This Government takes the issue of the low-welfare and illegal supply of puppies very seriously. The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 require anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs and/or who breeds three or more litters in a twelve-month period to have a valid licence from their local authority. Licencees must meet strict statutory minimum welfare standards which are enforced by local authorities who have powers to issue, refuse or revoke licences.
To support local authorities’ enforcement activity, 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 to 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/
Additionally, 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.
We continue to maintain a close working relationship with the animal welfare sector, enforcement agencies and Governments across the four nations regarding the regulation of dog breeding and pet sales. This will allow us to explore a more consistent approach to addressing any cross-border issues associated with illegal or low-welfare supply.