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Monday, September 30, 2019

Time to ban puppy farming

This investigation by the BBC which found wide-spread suffering and mistreatment of dogs in West Wales puppy farms was no surprise to those of us who have sought to have these institutions closed down.

The inquiry concluded that vets are part of a "broken" system that has failed to address poor welfare at puppy farms in Wales, with dogs being kept in "filthy" conditions at establishments approved by councils. Some breeders were continually re-licensed despite their dogs suffering "serious health conditions":

Selling dogs is big business in Wales. BBC research found there were 260 licensed dog breeders in the country as of August 2019, producing an estimated 24,000 puppies every year.

According to expert vets, the dogs are conservatively worth more than £12m.

Welsh Government regulations mean anyone who breeds three litters or more per year must be licensed by their local council.

But as part of a year-long investigation BBC Wales visited many approved sites and found dogs suffering from infections and kept in poor conditions with little access to exercise.

In annual health checks seen by the BBC, vets also recorded significant numbers of dogs with serious health conditions at approved sites, but breeders were allowed to continue operating, year after year.

The fact is that councils have failed to get to grips with this problem, despite calls by campaigners for a more proactive and rigorous approach. Vets too have failed the animals:

The BBC showed footage from all the puppy farms it visited to a panel of vets with more than 100 years' experience between them.

They said some vets failed to question the environment in which dogs were being kept, despite a long list of dogs with serious health problems, such as matted fur, rotten teeth and skin conditions.

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at the Dogs' Trust, said: "It's hugely saddening and really quite upsetting to see the number of dogs that I've seen kept in those sorts of environments, and that's their life.

"It's just so wrong on so many levels.

"The system is definitely broken and vets are absolutely an integral part of it. We as a profession have a part to play."

Back in January I moved a motion in Swansea Council calling on the Welsh Government to move quickly to introduce 'Lucy's Law' that would ban and outlaw third party puppy sales and farming. I told council:

“The sale of puppies through commercial third-party dealers both sustains and is dependent on the existence of puppy farms, where puppies are bred for maximum profit and with minimal regard for animal welfare. Although very few high street pet shops sell puppies these days, the third party trade remains significant with dealers operating from a diverse array of premises, including private homes and puppy superstores.

“Puppy farming is effectively the battery farming of dogs. Animals are often kept in appalling conditions behind the doors of sheds, barns, caravans, and any number of inappropriate buildings across Wales. The dogs are treated like livestock rather than the domestic companion animals they are. They are often afforded less respect than the sheep, cattle or pigs on those same farms.

“Puppies that are not sold are often killed by hitting them over the head or drowning them. Some have been sold to laboratories for experimentation, others end up in dog fighting rings. The indiscriminate breeding of dogs has led to an overpopulation crisis in the UK, with more dogs being surrendered to pounds and rescues than ever before.

“Licensing these breeders has not worked. Local councils do not have the resources to check on the welfare of every animal and prevent harm from occurring to them. Stress, increased risk of disease, poor breeding practises and irresponsible selling tactics have all taken their toll."

We cannot wait much longer for this legislation. The Welsh Government should make it a priority and get it on the statute book as soon as possible.
Fight For Fudge on Facebook held a protest outside a house in Crays Hill yesterday afternoon. 50 odd people who have been duped into buying puppy farmed dogs through a rather dodgy seller. Many people have sadly lost their dogs.
Legislation is clearly not enough. Both private members acts (Diana Maddox, now Beith's, comes to mind) and Welsh legislation have been passed over the years since RSPCA first drew attention to the scandal. The problem as the recent BBC report shows is the failure of local authorities to take the necessary action on negative inspection reports. There is also a suggestion that some vets. face a conflict of interest.
Legislation needs to have teeth, it needs to be applied consistently and in a timely manner. The Welsh Assembly has poor track record of making laws without enforcement powers and then not applying those laws. Just look at s55 of Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 as an example.
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