MINISTERS IN the Scotland Parliament are set to introduce legislation to help combat puppy farmers and stop their lucrative trade in pedigree puppies.
Crime gangs, with alleged links to loyalists in Northern Ireland are transporting hundreds of young dogs a week into Scotland on ferries from Belfast to Stranraer and Cairnryan.
The animals, which sell for hundreds of pounds each, are often bred and transported in appalling conditions. Many of them die of disease a few weeks after being sold.
Under new regulations expected to come into force next year, all dog dealers in Scotland, including those buying dogs from puppy farms in Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, will be required to have a licence.
The licences, which are expected to cost several hundred pounds, will mean the dealers must be registered with a local authority and have their premises inspected by animal health officers.
The pups will also have to be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned, unless they are sold with their mothers. They will also have to be checked by a vet and the dealers must have documents to say the dog is in full health.
Animal rights campaigners have welcomed the legislation, which forms an amendment to the Scottish Animal Health and Welfare Bill, and is based on a private member’s bill drawn up by Christine Grahame MSP, SNP member for the south of Scotland. The MSP’s Bill was drawn up with support from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which believes a full ban on pups coming into Scotland from across the Irish Sea is necessary.
Ross Minett, the director of Edinburgh-based animal charity Advocates for Animals, said: ‘While we welcome moves that will help to tackle and reduce the import of farmed puppies into Scotland, we believe an outright ban is the only acceptable solution.
‘This will be much simpler to enforce than complicated new regulations and send a clear message to breeders and importers that Scotland will not tolerate this kind of unnecessary suffering in the name of profit.’
The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) has recently uncovered puppy farms in Northern Ireland and suspects that paramilitaries have become involved in the trade because of the sums involved, with dealers often making between £50,000 and £100,000 a year.
Breeders in Northern Ireland and the Irish republic often own up to 60 bitches, each producing 15-20 puppies a year, with different breeds commanding prices between £200 and £800 apiece.
David Wilson, a spokesman for the USPCA, welcomed the legislation, but added that people needed to be vigilant when they bought pups.
‘Criminal elements are becoming involved in setting up puppy farms in Northern Ireland. We and the police suspect some have links to loyalist paramilitaries,’ he said. ‘People buying a dog need to be patient, find a proper recognised dealer and see the pup with its mother.’
The Scottish Kennel Club was unavailable for comment, as their offices were closed until August 31st due to their Championship Show. However, Caroline Kisko, the Secretary of the Kennel Club, said: ‘We welcome these regulations in Scotland, which we hope will push up welfare standards among dog breeders and dealers. We don’t think they will lead to an increase in the price of puppies, as normally there is an agreed cost for each breed.
‘The Kennel Club runs an accredited breeders scheme, which is our response to puppy farms.’
A great deal of the hard work in exposing the Irish/Scottish puppy farm trade was carried out by the anti-puppy farm group WAG, who hardly ever warrant a mention by the larger charities and politicians for all their hard work, although OUR DOGS has reported on their hard-fought campaign over several years.
WAG Secretary Ken McKie welcomed the planned legislation, and told OUR DOGS: ‘Whilst we could take the moral high ground and say that we have been asking for this for the past three and a half years, we are only delighted that at last someone is listening.
‘This legislation can only be a positive move towards banning the horrendous trade in dogs that has been carried on, unchecked, for many years.’
There is also evidence to suggest that large numbers of pedigree dogs that are stolen in the UK each year are, in fact, ‘stolen to order’ and shipped over to Ireland for use in breeding on puppy farms.
Margaret Nawrockyi, Co-ordinator for Dog Theft Action commented: ‘This is excellent news. Anything that may restricts the activities of dog thieves and puppy farm traders is very welcome to Dog Theft Action.
‘We congratulate the Scottish Parliament for their foresight and determination to tackle this highly sensitive and important issue. It would be a positive step forward if the Westminster Parliament adopted a similar measure for their own Animal Welfare Bill, which applies to England and Wales.
‘It is very gratifying to see the hard work and determination of organisations like Advocates for Animals and WAG being brought to fruition in such a visible manner.’