• Illegal breeding of dogs

    I share constituents concern about the welfare of dogs that are bought and sold and about the detrimental impact that poor breeding practices have on the welfare of dogs. I believe it is very important that all breeders follow the high animal welfare standards enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act (2006) which was introduced by the previous UK Labour Government and which applies to England and Wales. This Act made it an offence to cause physical or mental suffering to an animal and made owners and keepers responsible for ensuring the welfare needs of their animals are met. It is vital that the standards enshrined in this act are properly enforced. As you may be aware, most elements of animal welfare, including welfare standards for dog breeding establishments, are devolved to the Welsh Government. I am pleased that the Welsh Government has passed legislation, which came into force on 30 April 2015, to improve welfare standards and to introduce tougher licensing conditions for the breeding of dogs. The Welsh Government’s Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 introduced a number of requirements, including a maximum ratio of 20 dogs to one member of full-time staff in licensed breeding establishments. A licence is required if a breeder has three or more breeding dogs and either breeds, sells or offers breeding from their premises. The Welsh legislation also requires that breeders must retain ownership of puppies on their premises for at least 56 weeks (i.e. 8 weeks). This legislation has been welcomed by charities such as RSPCA Cymru, the Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association, who have called for similar legislation to be introduced in England. I welcome the fact that the UK Government is reviewing animal establishments licensing in England. The UK Government has consulted on this and its proposals are similar to the requirements of the Welsh legislation. For example, the UK Government proposes the prohibition of the sale of puppies under eight weeks old in England and a requirement for a licence for anyone producing three or more litters from their dogs in a 12 month period. I believe the UK Government should follow the lead of the Welsh Government and act to drive out unregulated breeders and dealers, in order to improve and safeguard animal welfare. I am pleased that my Shadow Frontbench colleagues in Westminster are calling on the UK Government to tighten current licensing requirements in England and to better enforce higher welfare standards and better target enforcement actions across the board. I hope the UK Government will now act to bring breeding regulations in England into the 21st century. In addition, the UK Government needs to promote better education to encourage responsible dog ownership and breeding.