The British are a nation of pet lovers, yet despite this, there are significant pet welfare problems. Some are due to enforcement issues of laws already in place. Some are due to legal gaps where expansion of the law is needed.
Pet Breeding Problems:
- Puppy Farming - up to 400,000 farmed puppies are sold to the British public every year - Naturewatch.
- Unplanned Kittens - an estimated 4.3 million unplanned kittens are born to UK households. One unspayed female cat could be
responsible for 20,000 descendants in just five years - PDSA, The National Animal Trust.
- Illegal Pet Trade - the EU’s most profitable illegally traded commodities are drugs, arms and puppies - Newsweek.
- Abandoned Pets - a Dogs Trust survey shows in the last year 47,596 dogs were heartlessly left unclaimed by their owners in council
pounds. Cats Protection estimates that there are 9 million stray and 1.5 million feral cats in the UK.
- Healthy Pets Euthanised - 98% of vets are asked to euthanise healthy pets - British Veterinary Association.
- Dog Fighting - the League against Cruel Sports estimate that there are hundreds of organised dog fighters in the UK.
- Animal Cruelty - RSPCA inspectors investigate more than 149,000 complaints of cruelty and neglect every year.
- Tax Evasion - criminal gangs make up to £35k a week by selling dozens of fashionable breeds - RSPCA.
Current Animal Welfare Regulations:
- The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into effect on 1st October 2018, introducing statutory minimum welfare standard requirements for dog breeders and pet sellers.
- #LucysLaw is a proposed new schedule to these new regulations, banning commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England.
- Our PAWS policy document was created in 2016 and delivered to Government and 10 Downing Street.
- PAWS provides further suggested steps to improve and fully enforce Animal Welfare Law (AWL).
- dog licensing was discontinued in 1987 after it was estimated that less than 50% of owners complied.
- compulsory microchipping currently faces significant enforcement issues.
- PAWS additional AWL enforcement guidelines include:
- stronger enforcement via ring-fenced tax revenue, national training for animal welfare inspectors, education of the courts especially magistrates, and more regular use of the Proceeds of Crime Act in conjunction with AWL.
- consolidation/linking of council dog breeder databases and pet microchip databases.
- PAWS further government legislation includes:
- regulation of cat breeders.
- Option to Breed Licence for unspayed/unneutered pets.
- the creation of an Independent Animal Inspectorate.
- a National Pet Register and requirement for breeders register pets before their sale.
- a Minister for Animals.
Pet Breeding Solutions:
National Pet Register
- A pet database would aid AWL enforcement - a new national database could be created (e.g. Central Equine Database/National Dog Register in Sweden) or local authority breeder databases could be expanded to register pets.
- Every breeder would be required to pay a nominal pet registration fee e.g. £25-£30 for each animal that they breed:
- this would be via an easy online process (e.g. as per UK car tax).
- the fee would be waived for pets registered by an approved animal charity.
- Breeders would be responsible for transferring ownership as per the registration of car ownership with the DVLA.
- Owners would be required to update the National Pet Register with veterinary proof that their pet was spayed or
neutered between six and nine months of age for dogs and at four months of age for cats.
- The National Pet Register would include a tracking system for each animal linked to the breeder, current owner etc.
- a new national microchip database could be created or existing schemes could continue to run.
Expanded Breeder Regulation
- PAWS would require licensing of cat breeders (currently not included in the Animal Welfare Regulations 2018).
- the cat breeder licence fee (e.g. £100-£175) would be manageable compared to the sale price of a kitten.
- Owners of unspayed/unneutered dogs over the age of nine months and cats over the age of four months would be required to buy a modestly priced Option to Breed Licence (e.g. £50 per dog/£30 per cat) or register as a breeder.
- PAWS would enforce the declaration of taxable income from the sale of each pet.
- breeders of pedigree puppies and kittens often make several thousand pounds of income per litter without paying tax. The average Chihuahua costs £1500. The average Persian costs £500-£700.
- A ring-fenced percentage of the tax revenue collected would cover the employment of an Independent Inspectorate of Animal Officers (AOs) and a national reporting helpline. Each local authority would be assigned at least one AO.
- a 2016 government report noted that “in some council areas dog-breeding premises were regulated by staff whose expertise lay primarily in inspecting taxis, restaurants or other non-animal premises”.
- This ring-fenced revenue could also support partner organisations in delivering other animal welfare improvements e.g. ensuring that no healthy pet in a UK animal rescue centre is ever put to sleep.
Independent Animal Inspectorate
- Animal Officers would:
- check that all newborn puppies and kittens have been registered on the National Pet Register.
- report and fine breeders of any single animal that gives birth to more than two litters per year.
- conduct regular unannounced spot-check visits to breeders to ensure high standards of animal welfare.
- conduct regular checks on pets whose records have not yet been updated on the National Pet Register.
- AOs could be deployed in partnership with animal welfare charities.
- Large fines (e.g. £5000) would be enforced for owners and breeders who breach animal welfare standards, abandon animals, fail to register for a licence or fail to update the National Pet Register.
- Appoint a Minister for Animals. The UK government has a Minister for Children and Families, and for Women and Equalities. It stands to reason that the UK’s 51 million pets must have a Minister too.
- Introduce a legal requirement for pet euthanasia to only be carried out by veterinary surgeons, thereby closing the current legal loophole which under certain circumstances means it is currently not necessarily illegal for a pet to be shot in the back of the head and killed by their owner, provided it is considered to be done without causing suffering.
- Require DNA records to be held on the National Pet Register to prevent misrepresentation of pedigree pets.
- Expand the scheme to include Wales and N. Ireland and cover: all breeders (currently only dog breeders who have more than three
litters per year are required to register) and all pets (e.g. rodents, lagomorphs, avians and reptiles).
- Re-introduce the mandatory dog licence for all owners, not just breeders.
Benefits of PAWS
- Full enforcement of The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 including the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act in relation to Animal Welfare.
- Stopping cruel practices such as puppy mills and backstreet breeders.
- Tracking pet immigration to stop the illegal pet trade and puppy smuggling.
- Curbing the breeding of dangerous dogs and, therefore dog fighting.
- Improved tracking system for all registered animals.
- Reductions in the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens. This in turn would stop high levels of euthanasia.
- Feed into the development of a National Abusers List which can help predict and prevent further abuse of animals as well as of
children and adults.
- Stopping tax evasion by pet breeders.
- Initial revenue estimate is in excess of £350 million p/a from dogs and cats alone.
- Increased funding for a National Pet Register.
- Grants from tax revenue for partner charities.
Co-created by Cher Chevalier & Judith Clegg, 2016-2018.