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Publication - Research Publication

Sourcing of pet dogs from illegal importation and puppy farms 2016-2017: scoping research

Published: 9 Nov 2017
Part of:
Farming and rural, Research
ISBN:
9781788514132

The report describes research into the scale of the trade in imported and illegally bred puppies.

153 page PDF

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153 page PDF

2.0MB

Contents
Sourcing of pet dogs from illegal importation and puppy farms 2016-2017: scoping research
Appendix VII: Summary of Responses to Animals Welfare in England

153 page PDF

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Appendix VII: Summary of Responses to Animals Welfare in England

Response to each recommendation

Secondary legislation

Paragraph 16: We recommend that the Government set out a timetable for the secondary legislation that was foreseen ten years ago in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Government has been reviewing the animal establishments licensing schemes which include dog breeding, pet vending, cat and dog boarding, riding establishments and performing animals. We are currently aiming to have new regulations in place in 2018.

Regulations on racing greyhounds, compulsory microchipping of dogs and welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses were all introduced under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the 2006 Act).

Progeny of dogs

Paragraph 21: We recommend that the Government pass regulations to protect the genetic viability and welfare of offspring as well as adult dogs.

The Kennel Club's Assured Breeder Scheme already includes requirements for genetic screening of breeding dogs to reduce the risk from inherited conditions. We will explore the possibility of further protecting the progeny of dogs within the proposals to modernise the dog breeding regulations.

Breeding of dogs

Paragraph 38: We recommend that anyone breeding two litters or more per year should be licensed as a breeder.

Paragraph 39: We recommend that those falling below the threshold of a licensed breeder should be registered with their local authority.

Following the Government's review of the animal establishments licensing schemes in England, we propose that anyone breeding and selling three litters or more in a twelve-month period would need to be licensed by their local authority. We will retain the existing exemption in the dog breeding legislation for breeders who can show they do not sell any of their puppies as well as the requirement that each breeding bitch should have only one litter per year.

We consider that three litters or more per year provides the right balance of being proportionate and reasonable to enforce, and will help target regulatory effort on those breeders producing dogs on a commercial basis. In terms of the impacts, there are around 600 licensed dog breeders in England at the moment. Taking into account information provided by the Kennel Club, we consider that up to around 5,000 breeders might be breeding either three or four litters per year, and that up to around 10,000 breeders might be breeding two litters per year. These figures should be viewed as indicative estimates.

A requirement for breeders who breed three litters or more per year to be licensed would already increase local authority licensing requirements noticeably

If people falling below the threshold had to register with their local authority this would cover every household which had just one litter of puppies and sold them. We consider that such a registration requirement would be disproportionate and would also be challenging to enforce by local authorities. Evidence from similar regimes, such as the dog licensing regime, which used to exist in the past, are that they are difficult to enforce with compliance rates being low. Such a regime would present a burden on responsible hobby breeders and families who choose to breed from their dog once in its lifetime and in such situations there are far less likely to be welfare concerns that demand a registration or licensing system.

Paragraph 48: Breeders have an important responsibility to provide for the social development and broader welfare requirements for puppies in their care. We recommend that the legislation governing the breeding of dogs should be updated with a licensing regime.

The Government agrees that the dog breeding legislation needs to be updated and proposes that the welfare requirements of the 2006 Act are spelt out in new regulations.

We also propose that many of the standards within the Model Licence Conditions and Guidance for Dog Breeding Establishments 2014, as published by the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, be incorporated into the new regulations and we will work closely with the Canine and Feline Sector Group on this work.

Paragraph 57: We recommend that a national inspectorate should be established to liaise and support local authorities in enforcing the licensing regime, undertaking inspections and dealing with complaints.

We agree with the Committee that bringing all local authority inspection regimes on animal welfare up to the level of the best is the challenge. As noted, some local authorities have been able to specialise in this area and offer support to and share best practice with others, not least through the use of Primary Authority1 which has been employed extensively in some areas, for example by the City of London in relation to the transport of certain animals. Thus if expertise is lacking in one local authority it can be obtained from another area. In line with this approach, and in support of the review of animal establishment licensing, the Government has started work with the local authority led National Companion Animal Focus Group, to develop: standards for competency of inspectors; a risk based assessment framework; guidance and documentation for local authorities; and user-friendly information for licensed establishments. Against that background, Government considers that the principal regulatory entity should remain as the local authority. We consider the creation of a national inspectorate could be confusing for those regulated and may cut across the established licensing system, and this might not support our welfare objectives. The Committee points out (paragraph 54), that the Secretary of State appoints inspectors for the purpose of assisting local authorities administer the zoo licensing scheme A team of inspectors comprising not more than three appointed by the local authority, and two nominated by the Secretary of State, will generally assess the standards in a zoo. One nominated inspector from the Secretary of State's lists will be a competent veterinary surgeon, and it is usual for the local authority to appoint a vet also. This model is required because of the complexity of animal species and their welfare needs within zoos. We would not expect many district councils to possess the necessary expertise to cover this. This situation is quite different to that applying to pet shops and to dog breeding, animal riding and boarding establishments.

Paragraph 62: UKAS accreditation is a good thing, and we encourage its pursuit on its own merits. However, we do not believe that it is a substitution for local authorities' inspection. Therefore we do not support the Government's proposal to establish a complete local authority exemption licensing exemption for businesses accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

Following analysis of the public consultation on our licensing proposals and in the light of comments from key stakeholders as well as this recommendation from the Committee, the Government has decided not to pursue the option of a full exemption from licensing for businesses certified by a UKAS accredited body. Whilst there was some support for the proposal, there was also significant opposition. Instead, the Government proposes to incorporate the concept of earned recognition into the new licensing system. This will include consideration of affiliation to a body accredited by UKAS in the risk-based assessment process that we are currently developing with the National Companion Animal Focus Group. This would ensure a reduced burden on low risk businesses and on local authorities whilst maintaining overall local authority control over the licensing scheme.

Paragraph 73: We recommend that the Government increase spot checks at entry points into the United Kingdom to enforce the rules on non-commercial trade on domestic animals.

Paragraph 74: We recommend increased working between government agencies and charities to understand how the puppy smuggling trade works and how to reduce it effectively.

One hundred per cent of checks are carried out on pet animals entering Great Britain on approved routes under EU Pet Travel Scheme. The checks are performed by carriers, or pets checkers acting on their behalf. Defra's Animal and Plant Health Agency ( APHA) are responsible for training and appointing carriers and pets checkers. APHA undertake random checks of pet animals to ensure the carriers are performing checks to the required standard. In 2015 APHA completed checks on 5,663 animals travelling into GB. Of the 5,663 animals checked, 73 animals were found to be non-compliant with the EU Pet Travel Regulations. APHA work closely with carriers and pets checkers to address any issues identified and provide any additional training required.

Government agencies and charities are working closely together to tackle puppy smuggling.

We are currently considering the lessons learned from the Dover puppy pilot, where APHA worked closely with Kent County Council Trading Standards, Border Force, the Police, and Dogs Trust in tackling puppy smuggling and gaining a better understanding of pet movements under the EU Pet Travel Scheme.

Sale of Dogs

Paragraph 91: We recommend that the Government ban third party sales of dogs. Dogs should only be available from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations.

We have considered the matter very carefully including in light of the views of many welfare charities. The Government agrees that it is sound advice for prospective buyers to try to see the puppy interact with its mother. A ban on third party sales would in effect be a statutory requirement for puppies to be sold only by breeders. It is unclear how well such a ban would be enforced and local authorities are already under pressure to regulate the existing regime as effectively as possible. Given the demand for dogs there is a risk that a ban on third party sales would drive some sales underground, and welfare charities are already concerned about the number of good breeders. We note that a number of established welfare charities with experience and knowledge of the sector have advised against a ban on third party sales. We consider that such a ban has the potential to increase unlicensed breeding in addition to a rise in the sale and irresponsible distribution of puppies, and may be detrimental to our welfare objectives.

The Government still wishes to address issues relating to the sale of dogs other than by the breeder, and we have considered other approaches. We support the robust licensing of all pet sellers including third party sellers. Through the Government's revision to the licensing regime anyone in the business of selling pet animals will require a licence.

Local authorities will be able to ensure that animal welfare requirements are met through the regime, including the application of many of the requirements from the Model Conditions for Pet Vending Licensing 2013 published by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Management which will be incorporated into the regulations. In addition we are encouraging consumers to source dogs from reputable breeders and to see puppies interact with their mothers.

Paragraph 100: We recommend that PAAG's minimum standards should be made mandatory for all websites where pets are advertised and sold.

The Government has endorsed the Pet Advertising Advisory Group's ( PAAG) Minimum Standards which were developed with input from Defra. They provide an important step in improving the way pets have been advertised on line, and the Government encourages all on line advertising sites operating in this country to apply them. However as the Committee recognises, many of those sites operate from premises overseas and some, such as UK Classifieds and Free Ads, have failed to engage with PAAG on improving the advertisements on their sites despite frequent promptings. We would encourage people not to sell or purchase a pet from sites that do not comply with the PAAG minimum standards.

Whilst buying a pet is a serious undertaking, and should not be taken lightly, the Government recognises that people will look to the internet as a source, and reputable breeders do advertise on line, so the internet can be a way to find such a reputable breeder and then make a physical visit to their premises for example see the mother interacting with her puppies in the case of a dog. As the Committee notes, six established online advertising sites seek to apply the minimum standards, and we would encourage PAAG to publicise the existence of these sites for the public. Defra working with PAAG will continue to engage with them and any other site willing to apply the standards, to improve the way pets are advertised. Ministers have already held three round table meetings with the six websites and another is planned for early 2017. In the meantime, we have not been convinced that it would be practicable to legislate to require all websites advertising pets for sale in England to be subject to the PAAG minimum standards, not least because of the difficulties in the enforcement of those operating offshore.

In studying the detail of the standards themselves it is clear that a number of them are relevant to the advertiser as well as the website provider-for example, but not exclusively the need to supply a recent photograph of the pet, that the age of the animal is stated and that all commercial sellers provide their licence details.

To encourage better traceability and assurance for those seeking to acquire a dog, and in support of the recommendation in paragraph 102 (on internet advertisements including licensing numbers), we propose to include in the new licensing regulations a requirement for licensed sellers of pets to display their licence number when advertising. This will allow responsible consumers to check that they are securing a dog from a properly licensed breeder. In addition we will explore the scope for requiring other elements of the PAAG minimum standards to be applied by licensed pet vendors through the application of conditions.

Paragraph 101: We recommend that legislation should state specifically that those advertising the sale of animals on the internet should have a licence. It is essential that legislation remains relevant and effective in the digital age.

We consider that the focus of regulatory attention should be on repeat breeders and on the sellers of animals. Websites and others have access to software that can identify such sellers on line despite attempts by such sellers to evade detection. This has and is being used for example by HM Customs and Revenue to detect any on line pet vendors making substantial sums of money but paying no tax which is covered in more detail below. If everyone advertising an animal for sale on the internet was required to have a licence this might be disproportionate on the one-off seller and on those seeking to enforce the requirement.

Paragraph 97 of the Committee's report implies that in giving evidence, the Minister, George Eustice suggested that anyone advertising animals for sale over the internet needed a licence. However, Hansard records 2 the Minister said: "If you are commercially running a business on the internet then you are a pet shop, you should be licensed as a pet shop". This makes clear that it is only business sellers that need to be licensed.

Paragraph 102: We recommend that the Government make it compulsory that all internet advertisements should include the registration or licence number of the seller. We also recommend that the Government look at the new regime in France where the seller's tax code is included in the advertisement, to see whether such a regime could be put in place in the United Kingdom.

We agree that licensed pet animal sellers should include their licence number in any advertisement they post online or in a publication. We have proposed, therefore, that such a measure be included in the new animal establishments licensing regulations. As stated above, we do not agree that everyone who uses the internet to advertise a pet needs to be licensed.

As regards the use of a tax code, the UK has a different system to France but it is very relevant that HMRC have established a taskforce to target those involved in the breeding and selling of puppies and kittens within the UK. The taskforce is looking at all aspects of this business sector, from registered, recognised breeders including those involved on a commercial basis and those who facilitate this trade, as well as those that trade on line.

HMRC taskforces bring together various HMRC enforcement teams for intensive bursts of activity targeted at specific sectors and locations where there is evidence of high risk of tax evasion and fraud. Task forces often work with other law enforcement agencies to recover tax from the dishonest minority, and there are likely to be significant animal welfare gains from this work as any unscrupulous traders are detected. The Government will review the results from this work.

Paragraph 104: We recommend that Defra establish a publicly accessible list of registered and licensed breeders and sellers.

People can already readily identify and access reputable breeders, including on line, through schemes such as the Assured Breeder Scheme run by the Kennel Club [3] (see below),and we would encourage potential pet buyers to source from this type of breeder. These schemes also establish and promote enhanced welfare standards in a number of ways. Furthermore, if licensed dog breeders and pet sellers are required to publish their licence details when advertising, that will be a significant step forward and lead to greater public scrutiny of the industry. Working with the sector, Government is also looking to develop a risk based approach to regulation of the industry. This could encompass a "scores on the doors" system whereby high performing low risk operators are able to offer more reassurance of the quality of their operation. The Kennel Club has presented evidence on the Assured Breeder Scheme in relation to dog breeding. The scheme requires breeders to go beyond the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the operation and standards in the scheme are subject to close scrutiny by the independent United Kingdom Accreditation Service ( UKAS). The scheme provides a further reassurance to potential dog owners and a means for the public to identify reputable breeders. Furthermore at a basic level, if anyone wishes to know whether a particular establishment is licensed to breed dogs or sell animals they can contact the appropriate local authority. Overall we consider that there is already sufficient public accessibility to registered and licensed breeders and sellers.

Central reporting system

Paragraph 107: We recommend that Defra work with local authorities to investigate the possibility of creating a central reporting system for complaints relating to the breeding and sale of pets.

We understand that the main motivation for people calling for a central reporting system for complaints is to make it easier for them to make such complaints. However regulation of the industry is local authority led. Thus if anyone has any complaints about a pet seller or dog breeder they should report it to the relevant local authority which has powers to investigate or, in the case of a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme, to the Kennel Club.

Sentencing

Paragraph 175: The current penalties for animal welfare offences in England are amongst the lowest in Europe. We recommend that the maximum penalty is increased to five years. We recommend that Defra should start discussion with Ministry of Justice by the end of the year to achieve this.

Defra is in regular dialogue with the Ministry of Justice in relation to sentencing policy for animal welfare offences. Current sentencing practice for offences of animal cruelty in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate. In 2015, 936 people were sentenced for offences relating to animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Of which 91 were given an immediate custodial sentence. The average custodial sentence length is 3.3 months. 202 offenders were given a suspended sentence and 341 received a community sentence. 177 offenders were punished with a fine. The average fine amount in 2015 was £244. Since 2010 the number of prosecutions has fallen but the conviction rate has remained stable at 75%. The average custodial sentence length remains relatively stable.

It should be noted that a suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. The offender is subject to supervision and may be subject to other requirements and if they breach that supervision, any of the other requirements or commit a further offence the presumption is that the court will activate the custodial element.

In addition to the maximum penalty of 6 months' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, the courts can also disqualify offenders from keeping animals for as long a period as they consider appropriate. The use of community orders should also be highlighted. The courts are in the best place to decide whether a community order might be the most appropriate outcome in a particular case. The impact on reoffending is also important from an animal welfare perspective.

The Sentencing Council has reviewed the magistrates' court sentencing guidelines, including those in relation to animal cruelty cases. In their revised guideline, published on their website, the Sentencing Council aims to ensure that the most serious cases of animal cruelty receive appropriate severe sentences, within the available maximum penalty.


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