Last week I attended the debate in the House of Commons on the sale of puppies and kittens. It is a matter which I know concerns many of my constituents particularly in relation to the mass commercial production of animals which are sometimes kept in appalling conditions.
The debate was extremely interesting and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at DEFRA George Eustice gave a full reply when the debate drew to close. He referred to “backstreet breeders” being supported in puppy sales through the internet. However following the creation of a voluntary code devised by Lord de Mauley Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for natural science and environment at DEFRA, there has been a substantial reduction in the number of internet adverts offering puppies and kittens for sale. He also referred to the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 which requires anyone carrying on a business of breeding and selling puppies to have a licence, irrespective of the number of litters they have bred. Apparently there has been some ambiguity for local authorities about this in the past, but George Eustice promised that DEFRA would write to local authorities to provide clarity so that the Act is interpreted correctly.
I was particularly pleased to hear about the work DEFRA has been doing in relation to model licence conditions which have been provided to local authorities drawing up licences for dog-breeding premises. Apparently there were 50 recommendations about the sorts of conditions which should be included in a licence for such an establishment, one of which covered the amount of contact time and social interaction a puppy should have with pet shop staff and humans. The recommendation states are that at least four times a day, a human should spend at least 20 minutes with the puppies for sale.
At the end of his response, the Minister reminded the House that we are a nation of animal lovers and although this is true, it is important that there are regulations in place to ensure kitten and puppy breeders look after their litters correctly. I hope that my constituents will take heart from the fact that DEFRA is fully committed to addressing this issue.