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Minister to tackle puppy farming


FOLLOWING IMMENSE pressure from several charities and other animal welfare groups, the Welsh Rural Affairs Minister has called for stricter licensing for dog breeding in Wales.

Elin Jones last week announced a review of the law in a speech after new evidence of unlicensed premises was uncovered. The assembly government is also considering whether to introduce compulsory microchipping of all dogs in a bid to try and regulate reported cases of intense puppy farming.

Ms Jones also said that she intended to impose a blanket ban on the sale and use of electric shock collars for dogs in Wales. Previously there had been a suggestion some exemptions would be permitted.

The assembly government has funded projects at local authority level to look at animal welfare issues including neglect and cruelty inpuppy farms, which it said was a ‘serious concern’.
In last week’s issue we reported on one woman’s plight to stop the trade of dogs in Wales.
Patricia James runs a website called Puppy Alert, and exclusively invited OUR DOGS to look at a paper she had written and sent to the Welsh Assembly. The evidence collected by Ms James seemed to suggest that thousands of puppies are farmed in Wales each year, and that the dogs, bitches and puppies are raised in appalling conditions. Data gathered from Ms James’ and other projects showed there were 249 unlicensed dog breeding premises in Wales.

The RSPCA and Dogs Trust Wales welcomed the moves, saying the suffering some dogs endured was "terrible".

Investigation

Ms Jones also said in her speech that while there was no specific evidence of welfare issues associated with those premises, the figure still warranted further investigation of the licensing requirements.

She said: ‘While the breeding of dogs for sale is a legal and legitimate trade, the production of puppies on a commercial scale with little or no consideration of welfare issues, is unacceptable. I will be establishing a task and finish group to review existing guidance on the licensing of dog breeding establishments, and look at whether existing legislation should be amended.’

Ms Jones also said that in order to improve the traceability of dogs, she would be encouraging voluntary microchipping while we consider the need to make microchipping compulsory.

Gethin Russell-Jones, of RSPCA Cymru, welcomed the two reviews and the prospect of a shock collar ban. ‘It all looks good to us, and it's going to improve animal welfare, so we're delighted. There's a huge issue with puppy breeding or puppy farms in Wales, particularly in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. The environment in which these animals is kept is very often terrible and the suffering they endure is terrible.

He said microchipping would help to address the issue of lost and stray dogs: ‘Microchipping is a very simple cheap procedure which means an animal can be traced within minutes or hours. A lot of heartache is resolved.’

The areas of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion were the same areas cited in Ms James’ findings.

Figures from the Dogs Trust charity showed the number of stray and abandoned dogs in Wales had risen by over 25% between 2008 and 2009, up to 12,232.

Staff

Sian Edwards, from Dogs Trust Wales, said at present people who were breeding from five dogs or more were supposed to be registered with their local authority. However, she pointed out if the dogs were not chipped, there was no way of knowing if the same animals were being used when the council came back to check on them.

She said staffing levels at breeders were a concern, adding: ‘A couple of litters is a hell of a lot of work and there are issues of manpower to make sure there are enough staff to be able to care for the dogs.’

Kennel Club Communications Director Caroline Kisko welcomed the review, saying: ‘We are very concerned that there are a number of breeders with poor standards of care, both licensed and unlicensed, who are getting away with putting profits in their pockets above the health and welfare of their dogs.

‘The Kennel Club has nothing but praise for the Welsh Assembly Government's pledge to ban electric shock collars in Wales – we have led the campaign on banning electric shock collars and have lobbied the Assembly extensively.

‘We hope that Assembly Members and the Welsh Assembly Government will work with the Kennel Club and others to take an equally robust stand in relation to puppy farms and poor breeding practice.’



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