Dogs Trust

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Dogs Trust comment on animal establishments licensing

Dogs Trust has been campaigning for many years for the legislation surrounding dog breeding, pet selling and animal boarding establishments to be updated and strengthened. The current legislation is outdated and measures are urgently needed to bring the number of establishments operating without a licence under control.

Under new proposals announced by Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom, there will be a legal requirement for licensed sellers of pets to display their licence number when advertising. This will provide further transparency and as this will apply to pets advertised online, this is an important step forward in protecting the welfare of the many thousands of animals that are advertised for sale on classified websites every day. However, the public will need clarification as to how they can validate a seller’s licence such as a publically accessible list of all licensed breeders and sellers.

Revised laws to make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks old are welcomed by Dogs Trust. However, the charity is disappointed that the government did not take on our recommendation to set the statutory licensing threshold for dog breeders at one or more litters which would have brought more breeders onto the radar of the local authorities.

Whilst Dogs Trust supports the commitment from Defra to update the current legislation, the charity will continue to work with the government to ensure the final regulations are fit for purpose and in line with the current knowledge of dog health and welfare. It is vital that the new legislation requires anyone breeding and selling puppies to have structured socialisation and habituation plans in place, as is already the case in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden, comments:

“As the UK’s largest dog welfare charity Dogs Trust welcomes the government’s review of animal establishments licensing in England as it is a step in the right direction.

“We are particularly pleased that it will be illegal to sell a puppy below the age of eight weeks and that there will be tighter licensing rules which will require licensed sellers to display their licence number when advertising, including online. We also applaud the move towards a risk based single licensing system which will incorporate those breeders that have gained UKAS approval rather than exempting them.” 

Defra have not moved forward with a ban on third party sales. Although Dogs Trust would want to see a world where third-party sales are not happening, the charity does not believe that it is in the best interests of animal welfare to rush into a ban that would have unintended consequences for dog welfare at the current time. Therefore, a better route is a robust regime of licensing and inspection for breeders backed with increased enforcement of the law. If puppy breeding and selling are driven underground, enforcement will only become harder. The simple fact is that there are too few puppies to meet demand in the UK and as long as the supply of puppies from responsible breeders falls woefully short of meeting the demand, unscrupulous breeders will breed dogs for profit even if they have to circumvent or flout the law.

Our own investigations highlight the high numbers of puppies currently being brought into the country illegally which show the lengths people will go to in order to make profits. A ban on third party sales would encourage more such criminal activity as commercial breeders and sellers go underground.

The new reforms will explore new parameters to set guidelines and training for local authority inspectors which Dogs Trust strongly believes is a major step forward in developing tighter inspections on breeding, pet selling and animal boarding establishments by those who are trained in animal welfare. We believe that Local Authority Inspectors need support to enforce these tighter licencing rules. As such, moves to mandate the use of Model Conditions and for inspectors to be offered training and standards are most welcome. The charity believes that inspection and regulation are key to improving the lives of dogs and, as such, would also encourage extending regulation to sanctuaries.

Read the full Dogs Trust investigation into Puppy Smuggling, here.