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Councils must end farming

A DOG owner from Essex is calling on the government, the Welsh Assembly and the media to take immediate action against puppy farmers across the UK and Ireland.

Patricia James, who single-handedly runs Puppy Alert, has asked for backing against what she describes as the over-breeding and supply of puppies in the UK through puppy farms, both licenced and unlicensed commercial breeders, dealers and pet shops, and says that it is governments and councils who are lacking in responsibility by granting licences to unsuitable premises, and by not enforcing existing licensing conditions which is leading to very low standards within many kennels.

Since Patricia lost her own dog through illness in 1994, she estimates that adverts in newspapers and websites amount to millions of pounds in the sale of puppies, including puppies who are sold through ‘middlemen’, people who buy puppies from licensed commercial breeders and sell them via websites from their own homes, many granted a licence by their local Council under the Pet Animals Act 1951 to enable them to 'buy in' and resell puppies at a huge profit. She also feels that many councils are interpreting The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 and the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 ‘too loosely, offering too much leniency and allowing the breeders to flaunt the regulations’.

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The RSPCA who although they have no right of entry or inspection and none of the statory powers of the police or an Animal Welfare Act Inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They do however have the same status as any private individual as the AWA is a 'common informers' Act' and could bring a private prosecution. Fail in that they could at least issue their own informal 'improvement notices' even if they do not have any force in law. But to take no action when undercover video footage has clearly shown neglect, taking no responsibility at all, therefore allowing much of this to happen on their own doorstep they have to take some of the blame.
As well as this, many breeders and others involved in selling puppies pocket large amounts of money without declaring these earnings, despite information being frequently passed to local tax evasion officers by concerned welfare groups.

Wales appears to top the list for active puppy farming and Puppy Alert believes that some Welsh councils appear to ‘protect’ the licensed breeders from any individual enquiries. Patricia told OUR DOGS: ‘Initially, inspection reports were obtained by Puppy Alert (via the Freedom of Information Act), with names and addresses of premises and Inspecting Officer, now all such information has been deleted! The reason we were given was that it was to 'protect dog breeders from animal activists and criminality' also 'personal data that could identify the individual'. Puppy Alerts argument is that these are licensed commercial premises operating a business, many with other business such as working farms, boarding kennels, pet shop licence holders as well as dog breeding from the same premises. Their addresses many would be in the public domain already for these other legitimate businesses. Why then do licensed dog breeders’ premises in Wales need anonymity when this does not occur elsewhere in the UK?’

‘Three Welsh Councils have the largest concentration of dog breeding establishments supplying the pet trade. They regularly grant dog breeding licenses to inferior premises such as disused agricultural buildings and barns, cow sheds, pig styes and chicken sheds, even converted refrigerated vehicle trailers! These buildings are not purpose built for kenneling dogs, nor a good basis to start a dog breeding programme. Whelping pens are often not available for bitches to give birth in, though when Carmarthenshire County Council was questioned, they replied with ‘some dogs prefer to whelp on concrete!’

However, many Welsh Councils have accepted these types of premises as ‘suitable’, granting licenses to breed from 20 to as many as 150 bitches in each establishment.

Councils although they can place 'extra conditions' on licences providing they are 'expedient to the purpose of the Act'll, fail to do so. This would be particularly important when Councils allow breeders to have such a large numbers of breeding bitches and do not ensure the breeders employ staff to care for the dogs.

A conservative estimate concludes that in just three counties in Wales, a staggering 26,000 puppies can be born in just one year. This figure only includes ‘licensed’ breeders, so the figure is likely to be much higher.

Carmarthenshire has nearly 90 licensed breeders, a total of 3,364 breeding bitches, Ceredigion has 49 premises with an estimated 1,095 bitches and Pembrokeshire 23 licenses with 675 bitches. This amount must then be added to the remaining counties in Wales and the UK who are involved in supplying dealers and pet shops throughout the country. It must also be taken into account the numbers of puppies imported from Eire to dealers which itself has no legislation for dog breeding.


Patricia’s concerns are not only about the conditions that the dogs are born in, but also the aftermath of such intense breeding, such as inevitable illness, contempt of hereditary disease and euthanasia of possibly hundreds of dogs which are riddled with disease or else abandoned by owners who have been taken in by a sweet puppy and then tire of the responsibility and end up in rescue.

She continues: The dogs are kept in small concrete pens, unable to see over walls out of doors. Some are in overcrowded premises, whilst others are completely isolated. There is no temperature control and inadequate ventilation and lighting. If beds are provided, they are likely to be in the same areas as the dogs eat, sleep, urinate and defecate, and there is no provision for exercise.

‘The lack of human contact or any socialisation means that the dogs are often seen to be suffering from kennel stress, circling and jumping frantically at the walls, a condition which owes itself to fear and boredom. I have witnessed dogs crouching in fear when approached by humans.’

Another legislation is that bitches should not be mated if less than one year of age. ‘How can this be determined by Council inspectors when there is no legal requirement for breeding bitches and stud dogs to be permanently identifiable?’ asks Patricia.

‘The right idea would be to stop puppies being sold by third parties such as dealers and pet shops but until that happens we must find a simple solution.’

Patricia has now written to the Welsh Assembly with her findings, and has also suggested the idea of a Casual Dog Breeding License to be introduced, following similar calls by the Animal Advocates Society of BC, a charity based in Canada.

‘The idea is quite simple,’ says Patricia. ‘If a person wishes to breed from their family dog, it must identifiable by DNA, tattoo or microchip and they must purchase a casual breeding licence which would be issued by their local Council. The bitch must be certified healthy by a vet and health screening for known conditions in pedigree dogs must be organised before breeding can commence. The licence, health certificate numbers and the puppies microchip number would have to be included in any sale of the puppies. The licence number would accompany all advertising. The licence would also stipulate visits from vets and inspectors should their be any belief that the animals were not being cared for.

‘The bitch must then be spayed and proof of this should be forwarded by the vet to the issuing Council.’

What now?

The second idea would be to have a Commercial Multiple Dog Breeding Licence. This would allow larger scale breeding, with simple rules to guide the breeder, including a ‘maximum’ amount of bitches being bred from at any one time, health screening for known diseases and health checked by the vet.

‘In this one I would like to see no breeding until a bitch is two years old, and then she must only be bred from once a year, and only three times in total, then spayed. Again, certificate numbers would be issued and would have to be used by the breeders. All breeding dogs would have to be identifiable by tattoo, DNA profiling or a microchip. A suggested fee for the licence would be 500. All puppies when sold must be identifiable and sold with all relevant paperwork that irrefutable links puppy to breeder with licence details on all sales advertising.

Whilst Puppy Alert’s suggestions may be hard to enforce quickly, and while there will undoubtedly be cases where rules can be stretched, the message is quite simple. Until the puppy farmers are stopped, then all dog breeders will be targeted, and pedigree owners and exhibitors will continue to bear the brunt of the backlash.

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