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EFRA committee call for litter threshold reduction

Issue: 12/04/2024

A parliamentary committee has called on the government to reduce the litter threshold from three to two per 12-month period and to take action against canine fertility clinics
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee has produced its report following its inquiry into Pet Welfare and Abuse. In it they call for action on fertility clinics, the import of puppies and cropped dogs.
It has called on the government to “make it priority” to introduce legislation to reform canine fertility clinics.
They say, “The current £100 fine for performing acts of vet surgery illegally is a derisory deterrent. The Government should bring this fine in line with the penalties under The Animals (Penalty Notices) Act 2022.”
The number of canine fertility clinics has grown from 37 in 2020 to over 400 currently. MPs are concerned as these clinics are associated with the breeding of so-called “designer” dogs with extreme characteristics who “have the potential to compromise health and welfare”.

Delays

In its report the EFRA committee said, “The Government’s withdrawal of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill stalled progress on key animal welfare issues. These delays have allowed the continuation of poor animal welfare practices. 
“The Department must ensure that every provision from the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill is brought into force during the current Parliament. We welcome the introduction of Private Members’ bills that will take forward vital animal welfare measures, but note that the Government was relying heavily on Members who were successful in the Private Members’ bill ballot being willing to take on its handout bills to deliver its manifesto promises, rather than committing to bringing forward the legislation itself. While on this occasion it may prove successful, it was nonetheless a risky strategy.”
Less than half of all puppies entering the market come from licensed breeders. They call on the government to close the loophole which allows ear cropped dogs to be imported into the country. “Alongside this, the Government should legislate to restrict the possession, hosting, sale and supply of DIY ear cropping kits, which are all too easy to purchase online,” they write.
In line with the current Animal Welfare Bill which is making its way through Parliament they want the government to take action against puppy smuggling by reducing the number of dogs and cats that can be imported by an individual into the UK from five per person to five per vehicle, and three per foot or air passenger.
They also call for a ban on the importation of puppies under six months and a ban on the importation of pregnant dogs and cats in the last 30% of gestation.
Breeders have expressed concern over these proposals as they argue it will impede those breeds who want to improve their lines and their breed health.
Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club, commented: “We are deeply concerned by unscrupulous breeders who produce large volumes of puppies with no concern for welfare, and agree that urgent action needs to be taken, but the recommendations in this report fail to adequately address the problem of high volume, low welfare breeders, and both demonise and disincentivise responsible breeders.

EVIDENCE

“The Kennel Club submitted evidence to the EFRA inquiry, and while we welcome the action outlined into practices such as ear-cropping, we are concerned to see certain recommendations made relating to breeder licensing, such as lowering the litter licensing threshold, without sufficient evidence to support or indicate how this would be beneficial for either dog welfare or protecting puppy buyers.
“It is clear that the existing breeder licensing framework is not fit for purpose and is failing both responsible breeders and puppy buyers. Many high-volume breeders are operating under the radar, while high welfare breeders, who breed less frequently – and therefore do not require a licence owing to their low volume – face much higher scrutiny, which would only be reinforced by these recommendations. The report’s recommendations, if taken forward, would likely reduce domestic, low volume, high welfare puppy breeding, while simultaneously enforcing stricter measures around puppy imports, potentially leading to a dangerous bottleneck where demand is filled by irresponsible and profit-driven breeders operating under the radar.
“We also have concerns around the recommended six month import restriction. While we of course recognise the risk of rabies, and other zoonotic diseases, evidence suggests that existing rules which aim to manage the risk of the disease being imported into the UK are not currently being enforced as robustly as they should be. The existing rabies prevention framework should take a risk-based approach and strike an appropriate balance between managing the risk of rabies with the freedom to travel. Imposing a titre test for someone travelling to and from Ireland or France with their dog, as recommended in this report, would place a significant burden on pet owners – most of which simply want to take their family pet on holiday with them.
“This restriction, if taken forward, also poses potential risk to those breeds which are heavily reliant on the importation of new breeding lines to expand gene pools, and we would like to ensure there is provision for a ‘permit’ mechanism that will allow for breeders to import on grounds of genetic diversity, so that we don’t end up with genetic bottlenecks in the smaller and less genetically diverse breeds, or discourage those who are bringing in new genetic material in order to improve a breed’s health.
“Following this report, we will continue to work with Defra and stakeholders to ensure that measures to control puppy importation and breeder licensing, which are being promoted on animal welfare grounds, don’t have unintentional and damaging consequences for the responsible breeding and care of dogs.”
To see the report, go to - https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5804/cmselect/cmenvfru/161/summary.html


Comment(s):
Name: Ellen Minto
Comment: It seems that most laws these days penalise the law-abiding and not the criminals. First of all some breeds only have 1 or 2 puppies in a litter, while other breeds can have 10 or more. How is it fair to put the same restrictions on the breeds with small litters as on the breeds with large litters? Good breeders should be rewarded and not punished. The criminals always seem to get around the laws. Secondly, I have a breed that depends on importing new lines as there are so few Canaan Dogs in this country. They need early socialisation and waiting until they are 6 months or older to import them will be detrimental to their socialisation. Stop picking on breeders.