"Government launches new plans to crack down on so-called backstreet dog breeders
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"Government launches new plans to crack down on so-called backstreet dog breeders

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A government announcement made on the 2nd February in association with DEFRA (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced new plans to crack down on so-called backyard dog breeders, in order to improve the welfare standards of dogs as a whole, and reduce the number of questionable breeding operations in the UK.

However, the government rejected further proposals submitted by EFRA (Environment, Food and rural Affairs Committee) to go further in terms of banning the third party sale of puppies by pet shops and pet shop license holders, a rejection that was also supported by some large dog welfare organisations. This has caused controversy among other charities and lobbying organisations that feel that the crackdown will not go far enough-and naturally, a great many dog owners and dog lovers are confused as a result.

In this article, we will look at the details of the crackdown in more detail, what it will mean for small-scale dog breeders, and why the controversy has arisen. Read on to learn more.

The new laws

Per the government’s announcement on the 2nd February, the new planned laws and regulations that will be introduced are designed to tighten up the existing laws and close some of the loopholes that can be used by unscrupulous businesses and breeders that breed more than two litters per year.

It will soon become illegal to sell a puppy younger than eight weeks of age, and anyone who breeds and sells three or more litters per year will now be required to have a formal dog breeding licence from their local authority/council to do so.

Anyone breaking these rules will face tougher sentencing too, including a potentially unlimited fine and/or a prison term of up to six months.

These laws are designed to provide some monitoring and regulation of small scale breeding endeavours-those that breed dogs for commercial gain, but on a small scale. These multiple smaller-scale breeders fill a lot of the demand for puppies every year, and many animal welfare organisations have expressed concerns about the welfare of some puppies produced in such a way.

Previously, such small-scale operations were virtually unregulated in the UK, which meant that the welfare of pups produced by small scale or so-called “backstreet breeders” was not monitored or policed.

In order to attain the new licence required, smaller scale breeders will need to demonstrate that they are meeting strict welfare criteria for both their breeding dogs and their litters. The introduction of the lower age limit for pups to be sold too will place the onus for the first set of vaccinations and mandatory microchipping onto the breeder as well.

The new laws have also been updated to reflect the ever-growing market of people looking to buy and sell dogs and puppies from advertisers using online websites such as Pets4Homes. Regardless of where you get your puppy or dog from, the internet is now the first place you start your search, whether from a friend, a private individual you do not know, a licensed breeder, a hobby breeder, or a rescue centre. The new licensing rules for small scale breeders willmean that many more of the breeders advertising their puppies online will now need to be licenced and for their adverts to display their local authority dog breeding license number. This will provide an additional level of transparency and reassurance for buyers too, although puppy buyers should still do thorough research and ask the appropriate questions to any advertiser/breeder. The Pets4Homes website already asks for licensed breeders to provide a copy of their license before they can advertise and displays their license number and local authority on their adverts. Many other online pet advertising platforms will also need to adopt a similar approach in the future.

Additionally, the remit of the changes will have implications for boarding kennels, pet shops that sell animals and riding stables too, in order to take a cohesive approach to animal welfare and cut down on red tape.

These conclusions were drawn as the result of a public consultation and input from several large animal welfare organisations, including The Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club.

However, not every animal welfare or lobbying organisation is convinced that the new laws go far enough-and there is also a significant amount of anger over further proposals that were rejected, and their rejection supported by some large welfare organisations too.

This is what we will look at next.

Why the controversy?

Nobody disagrees with the proposals that have been brought in, although as always there are concerns that the remit of the new laws do not go far enough-however, the bone of contention arises in terms of other proposals that were rejected as part of the consultation, and we will look into these now.

These hot topic proposals were concerned with the potential of banning the third party sale of puppies in pet shops and by pet shop license holders, which virtually all of the main dog charities and lobbying organisations discourage, and in fact, widely advise potential puppy buyers to avoid.

However, when it came to the proposals to mandate this into law, concerns were raised by some of the UKs largest dog welfare organisations including Blue Cross, Dogs Trust and Battersea.

All of these organisations are concerned with the welfare of dogs and responsible ownership, including how consumers find and buy pups. The RSPCA, on the other hand, as well as EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee) supported the proposals, causing something of a schism between organisations that are usually on the same page when it comes to welfare concerns.

The organisations that did not support these proposals cited reasons including the potential to drive the trade underground and make identifying poor practice and welfare concerns much harder, as well as the challenges of enforcing any new regulations.

Additionally, the organisations also feel that a ban on the third party selling pups from pet shops would only address that sole issue, and not have far-reaching enough effects on the wider welfare concerns of dogs and puppies.

However, The CARIAD Campaign and of course, many other charities and individual dog owners are disappointed that some large animal welfare organisations have taken this stance. There has also been an online petition created, to try to persuade them to change their viewpoint.

While the objections made by these organisations and the other charities are valid and are certainly worthy of consideration in addressing their concerns, it is a simple fact that if there is not a law to enforce, and framework to follow when it comes to the welfare of dogs and puppies sold in certain situations, there is nothing that can be done about them.

This means that while said charities and organisations by no means support the sale of puppies by pet shops, they have also taken the decision against bringing in regulations that could actually make a meaningful impact on changing the breeding and sales methods used by some large-scale breeders, and provide further regulation.

However, on the other side of the coin, there are a significant number of problems as it stands with the meaningful enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and often, local police and councils are not fully aware of their powers and ability to intervene, and also, of course often have other priorities to cover too and not enough staff.

Ultimately, how you feel about the controversy and which side you fall down on is up to the individual dog owner, and if you feel strongly in favour of supporting the ban of third party sales of puppies, you can sign the online petition.

What can you do?

Simple good advice for all dog lovers when it comes to buying puppies and looking out for the welfare of dogs as a whole includes:

  • Buy directly from a reputable breeder where you can see the dam and talk in depth to the seller about the pups and so, assess their protocols and care.
  • Never buy a pup from a pet shop, and report any concerns about puppies for sale in pet shops to the local council or other relevant organisation.
  • Stay up to date with upcoming consultations that may impact animal welfare, and have your say if you have strong opinions.
  • If you see something that concerns you or is not right when it comes to breeding, puppy sales or anything else concerning dogs and breeders, don’t keep quiet-say something.
  • When browsing online adverts for puppies for sale, always do plenty of research to ensure that you are buying from a responsible breeder.
  • Don’t “rescue-buy” a pup that you feel sorry for-this ultimately simply supports the puppy industry and will do nothing to make life better for dogs and pups as a whole.
  • If you have any concerns about an advert or advertiser here on Pets4Homes, report it to us and we will investigate immediately.
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