Dog Rescue Federation opposes licensing changes for dog breeding

A proposal announced by Defra to change one of England’s most important dog breeding licensing laws has been criticised by the Dog Rescue Federation, an animal welfare organisation representing voluntary dog rescuers across the UK.

The proposal forms part of a wider series of changes that Defra wants to make following a review of animal establishment licensing in England. With it the government department is intending to reduce the statutory licensing threshold from five or more litters per year to three or more.

However, the federation, which also works with local authorities across the UK on a variety of national surveys and campaigns, claims the new compulsory licensing would be virtually impossible for local authorities to enforce. It states such licensing would also make it too easy for so-called ‘backstreet breeders’ to operate outside the law.

Instead, the federation wants to see dog breeding laws tightened up by the introduction of compulsory licensing to cover all forms of dog breeding, irrespective of the number of litters produced or purpose.

It sees this as a more sensible approach in tackling the problem of over breeding by such backstreet breeders, who in recent years have caused a significant rise in the number of unwanted dogs and added to the pressure on local authorities and dog rescue organisations to care for them and find new homes.

With over 100,000 stray dogs being handled by local councils each year, the high number of stray and abandoned dogs is an increasing national problem with large numbers of healthy dogs being put down. Following the 2014 federation’s UK’s stray dog population survey the federation was concerned that as many as half the dogs unaccounted for in the survey had been put to sleep.

Commenting on Defra’s proposals, Denise Boardman of the Dog Rescue Federation says, “The current animal licensing laws in England are out-dated and very confusing and so we welcome many of the changes being proposed by Defra. However, on the issue of dog breeding, we think that they have got it badly wrong and that they should take this opportunity to make real changes to help curtail the excessive over breeding.

“Defra’s proposal to reduce the statutory licensing threshold would simply perpetuate the enforcement problems associated with current legislation, and still relies upon local authorities being able to prove that a breeder is operating above the threshold or, alternatively, is in the business of breeding dogs for sale.”

Denise added that the introduction of compulsory licensing would help create an understanding among the general public about when a breeder is legal or not and might also prevent puppies being sold before they are properly vaccinated and micro chipped.

The federation does however recognise that its proposal to licence all dog breeding activities might not be welcomed by more responsible breeders who occasionally produce a litter of puppies without currently being required to hold a licence.

“We can see that this may be unpopular,” explains Denise, “but although these breeders do not produce many dogs individually, collectively they make a large contribution to the overall UK dog population and it seems right, therefore, that they should be placed under some form of regulation and control.

“It is also equally important that the same standards of welfare should be required of everyone casually considering breeding a one-off litter; and not just the prolific breeders who produce more than a prescribed ‘threshold’ number of litters per year, or those who carry on a commercial business of breeding dogs for sale.”

The Dog Rescue Federation has submitted a detailed response as part of Defra’s consultation exercise on the proposed changes to the animal establishment licensing laws in England.

To read the federation’s full written submission please go to

Dog owners warned about new tick disease

Dog owners in the UK are being warned about an outbreak of an animal disease that is carried by ticks.

It is the first time that experts have established an outbreak of babesiosis in the country.

In Essex, two dogs have died and three others needed blood transfusions after contracting the disease.

Experts say that it will be impossible to stop the spread of the disease, which is caused by a single-celled parasite.

The ticks carrying the Babesia canis parasite have been found in fields in Harlow, Essex. The local council has put up a sign with a map defining the area and advising dog walkers not to enter.

Two government agencies are now investigating the outbreak: the Animal and Plant Health Agency and Public Health England.

Read live updates on this story

Clive Swainsbury is a vet at the Forest Veterinary Centre in Harlow. He has been treating some of infected dogs, including the one that died.

“The parasite enters the bloodstream, enters the cells, and in the process of trying to kill the parasite the dog will actually destroy its own blood cells. So they become very anaemic.”

The expectation is that it will spread throughout the country.

Easy to miss

“At present we have a very well defined area. The problem in the future is that every female tick will lay a couple of thousand eggs and all those offspring from that disease will also carry the disease.

“As mammals move around they will start spreading the disease. Although you can advise dog walkers not to go there, it’s possible that foxes and other animals will transport these ticks.”

The symptoms of babesiosis within dogs include weakness, lethargy, pale gums, red urine and fever. A serious problem is that Babesia can be mistaken for other less dangerous diseases.

“It’s easy to miss it. And because it’s a new disease to this country, we as a profession aren’t used to looking for this disease on a regular basis.”

TickImage copyrightOther

The tick acts as a vector. In the same way that a mosquito transmits malaria by sucking the blood from a person, the tick does the same to an animal. It also sucks blood and in the process of feeding the disease will transmit from the tick to the dog. It’s not contagious between dogs themselves.

The Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association estimates that there are more than nine million dogs in the UK – almost a quarter of households.

It’s dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in rough and wooded areas, that are most at risk.

Tip of the iceberg?

“The only solution is to kill the ticks quickly,” says Mr Swainsbury. “Some of the tick products available will kill the tick quick enough to prevent the tick spreading the disease to the dog, because the tick needs to be feeding for 24 hours at least before it transmits the disease.

“But not all tick products do that and you need to seek advice from your vet.”

The tick found in the UK carrying the Babesia canis strain is called Dermacentor reticulatus.

Prof Richard Wall is professor of zoology at the University of Bristol. He is helping to conduct the largest every veterinary study of ticks and tick-borne diseases, called the Big Tick Project.

“People who work on ticks and tick-borne diseases are concerned about this outbreak. It could be the tip of the iceberg. If it spreads quickly throughout the UK then it is going to be a very significant problem, but we don’t have enough info at this stage to make a prediction about how quickly this will happen.

“It’s highly unlikely that the problem will now disappear, we have the vectors, we have the pathogens established in the UK.”

TV naturalist Chris Packham says: “The population of ticks is getting bigger year on, year on. That’s because there is better over winter survival of the adults – it’s warm and mild through our winters and that means they can breed more quickly in the spring and there are a lot more of them.

“These animals are very good at what they do, and they need to find hosts to suck its blood to reproduce, and they do it brilliantly. So if you walk in an area where there are ticks, with a dog, they will get on to your dog.”

There are several species of Babesia and some of them affect humans. In parts of the world including the United States, human babesiosis is transmitted by the same tick that carries Lyme Disease, caused by Borrelia bacteria.

“The first thing that dog owners can do to protect their animals is to be aware of the problem. Your dog could become very seriously ill or die, and if you get Lyme disease then the same could be the case for you.”


Changes to Microchip Registration

From April ALL dogs HAVE to be microchipped and the details 
of their current owners registered on  the microchip database,
Obviously this, although sensible, is an administrative 
nightmare for rescues which normally keep the dogs' details
registered to the rescue.
For some rescues it will be hundreds of dogs that have been 
rehomed and are affected by this change in the law, and 
we suspect it will be an impossible task for rescues
to contact them all. 
Simplest way would be to put a message on rescues FB pages 
and their website for everyone thats adopted a dog to check 
the dog's microchip is still working (most vets will have a nurse do this for 
free), make a note of the number if you've not already got it
saved on your paperwork, and then contact the relevant 
microchip database to  get it changed over. Sadly the
microchip  databases ARE charging for this service, 
from £6 to £16 per dog, depending on which company.

Firework Abatement

Fireworks are a major source of distress and suffering to animals in the UK. In October 2015, we launched a petition on the official UK Government petition website calling for reform of the Fireworks Act (2004) and asking for increased restrictions on the times of the year when the general public can use fireworks So far, this petition has been signed by more than 83,000 individual voters and our aim is to achieve 100,000 signatures by the 2nd April which should ensure that there will be a debate in Parliament on fireworks regulation in the UK.

In addition to the petition campaign, we administer a large Facebook Group with more than 18,500 members which actively campaigns for reform of the Fireworks Act (2004).

Our campaign was triggered by the increasing and indiscriminate use and abuse of fireworks throughout the year and our petition specifically calls for fireworks use to be restricted to certain specified traditional dates in the year.  Our objective is to promote animal welfare and we believe that our aims and the aims of your charity coincide on this issue. The anti-social use of fireworks is now widespread and commonplace and we believe that each year there is increasing public concern about fireworks. We have examples of numerous letters in the local press complaining about the excessive use of fireworks and some local councils and councillors in both England and Scotland have called for additional restrictions or even complete bans on fireworks. We believe that this upsurge in concern about the excessive use of fireworks means that there is now a real chance that we can achieve a Parliamentary debate leading to stricter control and regulation of fireworks in 2016.

The dates we would like usage restricted to are;

  • the week of the 5th November,
  •  Diwali,
  •  New Year Eve
  • Chinese New Year.

This will bring the number of days fireworks are used in a domestic back garden capacity from the current 365 to approximately 10 days per year.

We are writing to animal charities and businesses involved with animals. We think it is essential that all charities and organizations concerned with animal welfare should express a united view on this major animal welfare issue. We therefore hope you will support this campaign and will publicise our petition at

We have already achieved the backing and publication of our petition on the RSPCA Face Book site with shares coming on board from the branches. The Scottish SCPCA Face Book site also publicised and backs our campaign.  The MP for Crawley Henry Smith has openly backed and signed our petition.  The Deputy Mayor of London Baroness Jenny Jones has also signed and tweeted about our campaign.   We have had a meeting with representatives from the office of Anna Soubry MP who as the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has the remit for fireworks within her portfolio.

We feel that the animal charities of the UK joining forces with us along with businesses that revolve around animals would also demonstrate to Government that there is a broad consensus of opinion demanding fireworks reform in the UK.

Please let us know if you will be able to help us in our campaign for these important reforms to the Fireworks Regulations Act (2004).  If we miss this opportunity to trigger a debate in Parliament in 2016, it may be difficult to motivate campaigners to achieve this level of dedication and commitment in future years.

We look forward to hearing from you confirming your support and hope that you will help by sharing our campaign on your Facebook, Web Pages and within your Rescue Centres. Help us to improve animal protection and animal welfare.

Kind regards

Jill S Cutsforth

Firework Abatement Campaign

A Statement re Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

The Mail on Sunday ran a story on 3 January implying that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home were needlessly euthanising hundreds of healthy dogs instead of finding caring new owners for them. The story was based on allegations from a ‘well placed source’ at Battersea saying that nearly a third of dogs brought into the home are killed and that dogs which show anxiety or nervousness when suddenly placed in kennels are often earmarked for being put to sleep. Battersea subsequently confirmed that in the year to the end of November 2015, 1,309 dogs were destroyed, representing more than 30 per cent of the Home’s intake for that period.

Arising from this article, the Dog Rescue Federation was asked by various press and media contacts to comment on the situation at Battersea. We gave our views as openly and honestly as we could but certain comments may have been misinterpreted as being critical of Battersea and its policies. This is clearly not the case so we are now taking this opportunity to explain our  support of Battersea and the other larger dog charities who care for and successfully re-home many of the nation’s unwanted and abandoned dog population. Here is our position.
The Dog Rescue Federation has continually questioned the accuracy of the official figures for the number of unwanted dogs euthanised each year. We believe that these figures considerably understate the true extent of dog euthanasia in the UK and that’s why in 2014, we recommended to the government that a national database should be introduced to track the eventual outcome of each and every stray dog.
Battersea is undoubtedly traumatised by the number of healthy dogs that it has to put to sleep and we sympathise with its management for the unenviable task  that they feel forced to perform. But the sad fact is that wherever large quantities of unwanted dogs are being handled, life or death decisions are having to be taken on a daily basis and this will continue until there is a fundamental change in our ‘throwaway society’ attitude towards dog breeding and ownership.
No one involved in dog rescue wants to be making decisions that will result in the death of dogs they care so passionately about. But whilst unscrupulous breeders continue to churn out endless litters of puppies without any regard to their welfare or the suitability of future owners, tens of thousands of dogs will end being dumped each year and a large proportion will be destroyed.
The Dog Rescue Federation blames only the irresponsible breeders and owners for this situation, not the people and organisations faced with picking up the pieces.
Charities such as Battersea perform an absolutely essential role in providing shelter and care for the thousands of unwanted and abandoned dogs in need of loving new homes. Without the intervention of charities such as Battersea the number of dogs that would otherwise be put to sleep simply doesn’t bear thinking about. The Dog Rescue Federation recognises this vital role and fully supports all the charities fighting to secure new and happy lives for the thousands of dogs they handle.
If we do have any suggestions to make, our main plea would be for all the charities to become far more transparent about the number of dogs they euthanise and the reasons why. Without this transparency no one will ever really know just how many of the UK’s unwanted dogs end up being put to sleep and that is clearly not a helpful position to be in. Our other plea would be that they review their policies towards dogs who show aggression and are deemed unsuitable for re-homing resulting in them having to be put to sleep. In our opinion too many dogs are categorised in this way when in fact, they are genuinely stressed by the kennel environment they have been forced into as newly abandoned dogs. Friendly and otherwise re-homeable dogs can be needlessly destroyed and we would like to see a new approach to help alleviate this issue.
We estimate that as many as 20,000 unwanted dogs may be put to sleep each year, that’s three times the number officially reported. This is a tragic situation and one that simply cannot be allowed to continue. The breeding of dogs must be brought under much tighter control to stem the flow of unwanted dogs into the marketplace. Unless this happens, rescue centres will continue to be overwhelmed and thousands of young, healthy dogs will be destroyed simply because the ‘system’ is unable to cope with society’s latest throwaway commodities.

DEFRA Reviewing its Licensing

New news in – DEFRA reviewing its licensing by modernising the current animal licensing system in England

Please see the consultation on the link – Document Review of Animal Establishments Licensing in England.pdf

RSPCA Petition on Licensing Breeders

News from the RSPCA about a petition on licensing breeders called Puppy dealers act please see the petition here (link)………….

DRF is very pleased to hear about this development because over breeding is something we feel  very passionate about and should be controlled. We have long been advocating that this is the key to reducing unwanted dogs bred from back street breeders.

These are a few extracts from our policy we published in 2012 which is included on the DRF website:

We believe that this law wrongly provides the opportunity for excessive and uncontrolled breeding and that, generally, it is interpreted differently and is inadequately enforced by local authorities.

The Federation advocates a change in the law making it a requirement that any person who intends to breed one or more litters, irrespective of whether that person is carrying out a business from these activities, must obtain a licence from their local authority. And to aid the scrutiny of law-breakers, we would like all licences issued by local authorities to be made public.

We recognise that licensing all dog breeders would initially cause enforcement issues, but we feel that licensing should be triggered at one litter to provide legal clarity and reduce indiscriminate breeding.

In this way, anyone intending to breed from a dog would be in no doubt that they must be licensed to do so. Similarly, anyone buying from a breeder would be assured that the breeder has met the standards required under the terms of the local authority licensing arrangements.

The Federation believes that by bringing all breeding under the control of proper licensing arrangements there would be less scope for irresponsible breeders to operate and, overall, the dog population would substantially reduce.

We would also want to see all breeders issued with a licence number that they would be required to include when advertising puppies for sale. In addition we would want the government to give clear advice to the public not to purchase a puppy from breeders who do not possess such a licence number. This would improve the accountability of breeders and also provide the opportunity for good breeders to be endorsed by their local authority.

Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council are looking for ways to save money and what better than to ditch front line Animal Welfare non statutory services.

The largest Local Authority in the UK and the Second City has prided itself in offering an all round service and now the management want to make savings. They want to stop dealing with welfare and cruelty cases. They hope that the shortfall can be picked up by the RSPCA.

Only thing that will suffer here is the animals again, and look at the example this will set to other Local Authorities.

Title of proposal – Cease all investigations into dog cruelty matters

About this service

The Council’s Animal Welfare Team has a legal duty to provide the following services:

  •   Seize and impound stray dogs
  •   Licence Pet Shops, Boarding Kennels, Breeding Kennels, Riding Establishments and Zoos, andissue performing animal Certificates.
  •   Investigate complaints regarding the above licenced premises to ensure licence conditionsare being met.
  •   Licence and prevent the unlawful sale and ownership of dangerous wild animals.
  •   Seize and quarantine illegally imported animals; maintain emergency plans and have trainedstaff to tackle notifiable animal related diseases such as Rabies, Foot and Mouth and AvianInfluenza.
  •   Inspect animals in transit; enforce the law on injured animals illegally transported; check thedisinfection and other records associated with animals delivered to Birmingham’s slaughterhouses, to prevent spread of disease, and liaise with other local authorities on this.The team also provides services that are not a legal duty for the Council:
  •   Patrols to catch people who do not clear up dog mess and issue fixed penalty notices.
  •   Investigate complaints of dog fouling in public spaces and put up signs to prevent this.
  •   Inspection of domestic residential properties on behalf of social services where children inthe care or supervision of the local authority are to have pet dogs.
  •   Control dogs at evictions or forced entries by Environmental health and Housing.
  •   Investigate complaints of animal cruelty related to privately owned dogs – this service is the subject of this proposal.

Proposed changes

The proposal is that the Council will no longer investigate or accept complaints relating to the ill treatment of dogs from the 1st April 2016.

It is not our legal duty to provide this service. In most other areas of the country, this is done by dog charities, in particular the RSPCA. We will refer people who have a complaint to Animal Welfare Charities.

We will be able to save money and retrain staff to carry out other duties in Environmental Health. The amount currently spent on the service and the proposed reduction is shown below.


Total Spend 15/16

Income 15/16

Net Spend 15/16

Saving in 16/17

Saving in 17/18

Saving in 18/19

Saving in 19/20






(£0.024m )

(£0.024m )

 What would this mean?

We will not accept or investigate any complaints relating to the mistreatment of dogs. We will signpost people to animal charities.

We will try to reduce the impact by:

Where possible, we will signpost people to other providers of this service which will be the RSPCA and other animal charities.

2014 DRF Local Authority Survey (Published July 2015)

DRF_lost_dogs2 (1)

The 2014 Dog Rescue Federation national survey of local authorities has identified major discrepancies in record keeping of the UK’s stray dog population. Results from the survey show that councils handled almost 106,000 stray dogs in the year ending September 2014 but were unable to provide information about how they had dealt with over 12,000 of them. The federation is calling on the government to tighten up the way records are kept and show more interest in the fate of these animals.

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