As the owner of two dogs myself, please be assured that recognise the importance of this issue. This country has a long history of leading the way on animal welfare. I am encouraged that ministers are committed to further raising our already world-leading standards by delivering a series of ambitious reforms, outlined in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
Through the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, new powers will be introduced to tackle the unethical trade of puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets that can travel under pet travel rules. The Bill will also include powers to bring in further restrictions on the movement of pets on welfare grounds, for example by increasing the minimum age of imported puppies and restricting the import of pregnant dogs and dogs with mutilations such as cropped ears and tails. I welcome that this Bill has now passed its Committee stage, and I look forward to supporting this Bill as it continues to make its way through Parliament.
After a change in the law in 2018, anyone who is breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs and/or who breeds three or more litters in a twelve-month period needs a licence from their local authority. All licensees must adhere to strict minimum animal welfare standards and local authorities have powers to grant, refuse or revoke a licence.
The ban of commercial third-party sale of puppies and kittens in England came into force in 2020. This prohibits pet shops, pet dealers and other commercial outlets from selling these animals in England unless they themselves have bred them. It means anyone looking to get a puppy or kitten must buy direct from a breeder or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead.
I also welcome that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched the national campaign “Petfished” in 2020 to raise awareness of the issues associated with low-welfare and illegal supply of pets. This includes providing clear signposting on where responsible breeders and rehoming centres can be found and encouraging prospective buyers to research the seller thoroughly before they visit and decide to purchase. I know that the campaign provides a list of red flags for buyers to look out for when searching for a pet online.
If you suspect that any pet sellers are being deceitful, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of dogs in any dog breeding establishment, you should report them to the RSPCA or your local authority. You can find more information here: https://getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk/