Dogs Trust’s Public Affairs team works across a variety of issues in Westminster, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure the welfare of dogs is always taken into consideration by policy makers.
Dogs Trust chairs the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (otherwise known as PAAG). The group was created in 2001 to combat growing concerns regarding the irresponsible advertising of pets for sale, rehoming, and exchange. It comprises animal welfare organisations, trade associations and veterinary bodies. Defra, DAERA in Northern Ireland, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government have endorsed PAAG’s work.
Dogs Trust is also the Secretariat for the EU Dog & Cat Alliance, chaired by Dogs Trust Ireland, through which we engage with EU policy makers, and call for EU action to build a better Europe for cats and dogs.
Find out more about the issues we're campaigning on in the UK by downloading our pawlicy documents below.
Since 2014 Dogs Trust has been calling for immediate action to address the abuse of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) and the number of dogs illegally imported into the country. The UK’s pet travel rules are derived from EU legislation; we are also calling for pet travel legislation to be amended on exit from the EU. The following are just some of the changes we would like to see implemented:
- Increase maximum penalties for those caught illegally importing dogs, together with the introduction of Fixed Penalty Notices;
- Raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable and deter deceitful puppy smugglers.
Read our puppy smuggling reports: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/puppy-smuggling/ps-media
Whilst our work on this issue has focussed on exposing the trade from Central and Eastern Europe, we are aware of dogs also being illegally imported into the country from the Republic of Ireland. We remain concerned that this route could become much more prevalent as we exit the EU.
Since December 2015, Dogs Trust has supported efforts to disrupt and tackle the illegal trade by funding the quarantine of any puppy seized at the border.
Dog Breeding and Sale
We believe an improved and robust registration and licensing system is required to tackle unscrupulous breeders and sellers.
We believe that anyone breeding, selling or transferring the ownership of a puppy (a dog up to 6 months old), regardless of any financial transaction or gain, should be required to be registered. In addition to this, anyone breeding, selling or transferring the ownership, regardless of any financial transaction or gain, of more than one litter of puppies should require a licence. It should then be a mandatory requirement for any advert to include the individual’s unique registration or licence number.
Due to our serious concerns around the sale of dogs, we believe that all forms of advertising, including online, should be verifiable. We are calling for the introduction of registration of dog breeding alongside the licensing system and the creation of a centralised, publicly accessible list of all registered and licensed breeders and sellers. These measures would allow buyers to be able to check the legitimacy of any breeder or seller. This would allow a simplified system that would be easily accessible for purchasers to verify where they are buying a dog from in an increasingly online, nationwide marketplace.
Licensing of Rehoming Organisations and Sanctuaries
The Scottish Government has led the way by introducing regulation of the rehoming activities for the first time in the UK through The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Regulations 2021, in force in Scotland from September 2021. Elsewhere in the UK, however, there is currently no legislation in place to regulate the rehoming sector, so anyone can set up their own rehoming organisation or sanctuary. This means there is little to proactively safeguard the animals involved as the Local Authority is not required to and so does not inspect these premises. Worryingly, poor welfare can have a knock-on effect when the animal is rehomed as a result of these failures.
We would like to see all such establishments licensed, with regular inspections against mandatory minimum standards to ensure the welfare requirements of the animals are met. We believe licence fees should be proportionate to the size of the rehoming centre or sanctuary. As with any welfare organisation, if introduced, Dogs Trust would also be subject to such regulation. We see this as a positive move to improve overall standards across rehoming organisations and animal sanctuaries and truly protect the animals involved.
Easy access to fireworks and poor enforcement of existing legislation is having a detrimental impact on dog welfare. Dogs Trust wants to see restrictions around the sale of fireworks, limiting them to licensed, public occasions and organised events only. We recommend the introduction of a licensing system whereby fireworks can be sold for use at licensed venues only . Local Authorities should take the location of public displays into consideration when granting them a licence and require that they are well publicised in the surrounding area.
Aversive Training Methods
Dogs Trust believes that the use of electronic shock collars as well as other aversive training devices, such as sonic and spray collars, is detrimental to the welfare of dogs. This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. As well as distress at the time of use, dogs can develop anxiety and other problem behaviours as a longer-term consequence.
Under no circumstances do we condone the use of equipment or techniques that use pain or fear to train a dog. Dogs Trust cares for approximately 14,000 dogs each year using reward-based training methods only. For these reasons we have long been calling for a full ban on the use and sale of aversive training devices.
Read the ‘Welfare Impact and Efficacy Canine Training Methods’ here.
Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project is a free dog fostering service for people who are fleeing domestic abuse. The service operates in Greater London and the Home Counties, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne & Wear and across the whole of Scotland. People fleeing domestic abuse are usually unable to take their pets with them into a refuge, so in many cases they are reluctant to and will delay leaving their home until they know there is somewhere safe for their pets.
Dogs Trust calls for perpetrator’s behaviour towards pets to be recognised as a tool of coercive control within any future domestic abuse legislation.
Read more about the project here.
The Welfare of Racing Greyhound Regulations 2010 were introduced in England after huge pressure from charities, MPs, media and the public to ensure that the welfare of the dogs was better protected. However, the legislation only focuses on welfare measures at the track, failing to provide any legislative protection for greyhounds during breeding, kennelling (where greyhounds spend the majority of their time), transportation, and retirement.
Dogs Trust calls for the introduction of amendments to the current legislation on greyhound welfare to cover all aspects of racing greyhounds’ lives including during breeding, kennelling, transportation, and retirement. We are also calling for a compulsory levy of bookmakers to fund improvements to greyhound welfare.
Dogs Trust also calls for the introduction of regulations to support improved greyhound welfare in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Breed Specific Legislation
There is a vital need to overhaul the existing Dangerous Dogs legislation. One of the biggest failures of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland, is the emphasis on breed specific legislation, which evidence suggests is not effective in reducing the number of dog bites.
Dogs Trust has serious concerns about:
- How subjective the interpretation of the standard for identifying Pit Bull Terrier types can be, and how a dog can be deemed ‘dangerous’ based on conformation alone;
- The impact of the current legislation on dog welfare. This includes concerns about the protracted periods seized dogs can spend in kennels during the court process, the conditions for the keeping of exempted dogs and the number of prohibited dogs that are euthanised because they cannot be rehomed.
Dogs Trust calls for breed specific legislation to be repealed and replaced with preventative legislation on dog control which is breed neutral.
We greatly welcomed the introduction of compulsory microchipping for dogs. Having now been in force for a number of years, we have some concerns we would like to see addressed:
- It is essential that all puppies can be linked back to their breeder for full traceability purposes. Enforcement of the obligation for the breeder to always be recorded as the dog’s first keeper needs to be improved;
- We have long stressed the fact that a microchip on its own is meaningless. Whilst the number of dogs microchipped is increasing, in 2019 only 3,245 reunions of stray dogs were as a result of their microchip, this was down from 5,775 in 2018. It is imperative more is done to raise awareness of how vital it is that owners keep their details up to date on the relevant database;
- Due to financial pressure some Local Authorities struggle to find adequate resources to implement and enforce this legislation. Financial support to assist the effective enforcement of these Regulations, in order to reduce variation across different Local Authorities in both enforcement and levels of fines imposed, is needed.
It is an offence for a dog to “worry” livestock i.e. (a) chase livestock, or (b) attack livestock, or (c) not be on a lead or otherwise under close control in a field or enclosure in which there are livestock. By law, farmers are permitted to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals, so prevention is key to ensure all animals remain safe.
Dogs Trust is calling for the introduction of mandatory reporting and standardised data gathering to help build a better understanding of the prevalence and circumstances of incidents and what interventions might work to prevent attacks, recognising that these may vary between areas.
Read our advice for dog owners who walk their dog in the countryside to minimise the risk to both dogs and livestock.
Enforcement of Companion Animal Welfare Legislation
We have serious concerns that inspections of animal establishments, such as breeding premises and dog boarding facilities, are currently often conducted by Local Authority officials with limited resources and no or limited knowledge of animal welfare. We strongly believe that anyone inspecting animal establishments should be appropriately qualified in animal welfare.
Dogs Trust calls for a central unit of suitably trained inspectors to be developed, which can be utilised by any/all Local Authorities to carry out inspections of animal establishments. This inspectorate unit would have to have no profit-making commercial interests in order to ensure that the goal is not on profit but on animal welfare. Licence fees should be set by Local Authorities to allow full cost recovery for this.
"Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has been caring for dogs in need for over 125 years. Founded in 1891 and formerly known as the National Canine Defence League, our mission, “to bring about the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction”, continues to be at the heart of everything that we do."
- Owen Sharp, Chief Executive
Northern Ireland Policy Document JPG 1.57 MB
Other news & events
Dogs Trust Cardiff
We recently held an event at The Senedd which was sponsored by Paul Davies AM, to unveil our plans for a new state-of-the-art Dogs Trust rehoming centre in Cardiff. Due to open in 2021, Dogs Trust Cardiff will help save 1,000 dogs a year and help us to continue our work to promote responsible dog ownership in Wales through education, neutering and microchipping. Dogs of all shapes and sizes will be offered all the help they need to find a new home.
Westminster Dog of the Year 2019
The winner of the ‘paw-blic’ vote was Jean, belonging to Glasgow North West MP Carol Monaghan.
Westminster Dog Of The Year 2018
Paw-fect canine candidates, Boomer and Corona, crowned our 2018 Westminster Dog of the Year!
Their owner, Nottingham North MP Alex Norris, was very proud.
Westminster Dog Of The Year 2017
A storming success for Rocky, a seven-year-old Labrador belonging to Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin!
Holyrood Dog of the Year 2019
Nine-month-old Cavapoo, Sadie, belonging to Jeremy Balfour, MSP for Lothian, was named top dog.
Holyrood Dog of the Year 2018
The top dog for Holyrood Dog of the Year 2018 was Cocker Spaniel, Leo, belonging to Maurice Golden, MSP for West Scotland.
Holyrood Dog of the Year 2017
Paw-fect canine candidate, Maya, belonging to Emma Harper, MSP for South Scotland, is crowned the first ever Holyrood dog of the year!
If you would like to find out more, or get in touch with a member of our Public Affairs team, please click here or call 0207 837 0006.