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Animal welfare organisations and dog lovers are rejoicing this morning after Defra announced that it is now considering a ban on third party puppy sales.

A third party ban could help tackle unscrupulous breeding methods, such as puppy farms, where the breeders give little thought to the welfare of the mother and her pups. The RSPCA has reported seeing a year-on-year rise in the number of complaints about the puppy trade in England. Last year, the charity received 4,224 complaints – a 152% increase from 2013 – while officers rescued 295 dogs from puppy farms over the last 12 months.

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner visited London-based charity Mayhew to make the announcement.

Lord Gardiner said, “We have announced today a call for evidence on whether we should ban third party sales because we think this may help to advance welfare. We’re very concerned about unscrupulous breeders and we think this may well be a way of helping tackle the problem.

“That’s why we’re going to ask animal welfare charities and others to come forward with evidence, and then we will give the matter very considerable consideration.”

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner making the announcement. Credit: Mayhew

Mayhew CEO, Caroline Yates, welcomed this step forward and said, “We are really pleased today to hear that there will be a call for evidence on banning of third party sales of animals. It is a real issue that animal welfare organisations are very concerned about. Getting a dog or cat is not a commericial business and the big puppy farms have no regard for the health or welfare of animals.

“Owners are being duped into buying animals from these places and the resulting sickness and poor treatment means there is also an additional burden on animal welfare charities that are mopping up the problem.”

RSPCA deputy chief executive Chris Wainwright said, “We are delighted that Defra is considering a ban on third party sales of puppies. We believe that cracking down on unscrupulous traders, who put profit ahead of animal welfare, will provide much-needed protection for prospective pet owners and puppies.

“We have always said that an end to third party sales alone would not be enough to end the puppy trade crisis so we are pleased that this is being looked at alongside enhanced licensing conditions for breeders which will come into force later this year.

“Together, we hope these moves will offer better protection to puppies and their parents and also reduce the number of families duped by rogue traders in this illegal multi-million-pound trade.”

A ban would help tackle the horrifying practices of puppy farms. Credit: RSPCA

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, who launched their End Backstreet Breeding Campaign in 2015, also welcomed the ban. Their Chief Executive, Claire Horton, said, “The measures the Government propose today have the potential to transform the way vulnerable animals are treated even before they are born. From tackling underage puppy sales, to the deliberate and irresponsible breeding of dogs with genetic disorders, to requiring the new owner to be present when a dog is sold.

“These proposals have the power to raise welfare standards across the puppy trade, which is welcome news for puppies, their mothers and their owners. We hope this important change to new legislation will help end the misery for thousands of breeding bitches that are either killed or cast out by unscrupulous breeders once they are past their sell-by date, as well as the sick and dying puppies sold to unwitting owners.”

Mayhew’s CEO, Caroline Yates, with Defra Minister, Lord Gardiner. Credit: Mayhew

New legislation

The announcement comes as new draft reforms to improve standards are laid in Parliament today.

This legislation includes:

  • Banning the sale of puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks.
  • Introducing compulsory licensing for anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs.
  • Ensuring that licensed dog breeders show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made.
  • Licensed breeders will only be able to sell puppies they have bred themselves.
  • Puppy sales will only be legally completed in the presence of the new owner, meaning sales cannot take place unless the buyer has physically seen the dog.
  • Measures to tackle the sale of weak underage puppies and the breeding of unhealthy dogs and dogs with severe genetic disorders.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said, “We need to do everything we can to make sure the nation’s much loved pets get the right start in life. From banning the sale of underage puppies to tackling the breeding of dogs with severe genetic disorders, we are cracking down on sellers who have a total disregard for their dogs’ welfare.

“This is a further step to raise the bar on animal welfare standards. We are also introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses and increasing maximum prison sentences tenfold for animal abusers.”

All interested parties have been invited to share their views by May 2nd 2018 on how this could best be introduced.

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