The number of dogs born each year in the UK far exceeds the number of loving homes that can be provided for them. That is why the Dog Rescue Federation vigorously advocates the introduction of compulsory spaying and neutering of dogs to:
· deal with the problem of over-breeding;
· tackle the resultant suffering and needless loss of life and;
· reduce the huge demands on the charitable and voluntary dog rescue sector and cost to the taxpayer.
The Federation recognises that by controlling the dog population in this way there should still be an opportunity for responsible breeding of pedigree and crossbreed dogs to continue, provided that it is undertaken by properly licenced breeders under the strictest of controls.
However, there can be no place in our society for the activities of unscrupulous pedigree/puppy farm and ‘backstreet’ breeders who churn-out puppies for profit and have little or no regard for the welfare of animals under their control, or their future well-being.
The Federation believes that these people are the main cause of over- breeding in the UK and that until they are placed under stricter controls, through better enforcement of existing laws or new legislation, the number of unwanted and stray dogs will remain unacceptably high. In particular, we feel that local authorities must become far more proactive by ‘weeding out’ irresponsible breeders through stricter licensing activities and inspections.
The Dog Rescue Federation also believes that better education of the public will help them to make well-informed decisions about where to buy puppies from and on choosing a dog with a temperament and behaviour that best matches their own life styles.
1. Dog Population
The Federation wants to see a change in the law to control the national dog population by the introduction of compulsory “BREEDING LICENCES” that must be obtained for any owner who wants to breed a litter
2. Licensing of Breeders
Under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (which amended and extended the provisions of the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding of Dogs Act 1991) people who are not in the business of breeding dogs for sale are allowed to produce up to five litters in any period of 12 months without a breeder’s licence.
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.
While small breeders might not produce many dogs individually, collectively they make a large contribution to the overall UK dog population. It seems right, therefore, that they should be placed under some form of control; it is equally important that the same standards of welfare should be required of everyone not just the larger breeders.
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.
Until such a change in the law is made, the Federation will actively encourage breeders to observe the existing licensing arrangements and will work with local authorities to help them adopt a more consistent and proactive approach towards enforcement.
We agree entirely with the views expressed in a report to the Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare on Dog Breeding1 in which the need for local authorities to become more proactive is underlined.
‘ Too often local government is forgotten about as regulation is sought yet animal welfare legislation is in practice implemented and enforced by these authorities. The dog wardens and licensees sitting within councils see the breeding premises and pet shops first hand and are often the ones picking up the results of irresponsible breeding and ownership.
Local authorities must implement legislation within their current frameworks, or develop new structures to support their duties and these can vary, meaning different standards of breeding practice going on across the country. Additionally, the degree of relevant knowledge and expertise of local authorities varies, as does their experience of implementing animal welfare legislation. A more consistent approach to implementing legislation would make things clearer for breeders and the public and assist with educational messages too.’
The Federation supports the general concept of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme and sees this as something that could potentially be expanded to all other forms of breeding and be linked to the local authorities as part of their licensing arrangements.
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.
1 Healthier Future for Pedigree Dogs – Update Report (2012)
3. Welfare of Bitches and Puppies
The Dog Rescue Federation is totally committed to a system whereby breeders must prove their ability to care for the welfare of animals under their control. We believe that this is of paramount importance and should be strictly controlled by local authorities as part of the dog breeding licensing arrangements.
In addition to the requirements already imposed by local authorities, the Federation would welcome the introduction of the following demands on all breeders:
o Proper veterinary care should be sought for the bitch before and after birth.
o All puppies should remain with their mother for 8 weeks. During this time the breeder must ensure that puppies complete the initial stages of a structured socialisation programme.
o As part of this programme, the breeder must keep a diary of the programme and pass this to the new owner as a record of the puppy’s development.
o At 8 weeks the breeder should encourage the puppy’s new owner to complete the remaining elements of the socialisation programme. However, if the breeder retains a puppy beyond 8 weeks, particularly if the puppy is kept in a kennel environment, they MUST ensure that the puppy’s socialisation programme is continued in full and that records are maintained accordingly.
o Pups must receive a first vet check at 6-8 weeks of age for the purpose of a health check, vaccination schedule, de-worming, etc. The choice of appropriate vaccinations and the timing of their administration, should be discussed with the vet at the initial health check.
o Pups must be micro chipped and rehomed to checked approved homes with the stipulation the new owner must continue the vaccination course, if applicable.
o The breeder should follow-up pups to ensure that the new owner neuters them at the appropriate age i.e. not less than 6 months and no more that 10 months old.
The Dog Rescue Federation also supports the legislation being adopted in Holland that introduces the following conditions on all breeding of dogs:
o The way in which dogs are bred may in no way affect the welfare nor the health of the dog or its offspring.
o With regards to breeding, the following need to be prevented:
a. Passing on of severe hereditary defects and illnesses to offspring;
b. Passing on or developing of phenotypical characteristics that harm the dogs’ welfare or health;
c. Breeding dogs with severe behavioural issues; ie interbreeding
d. Breeding dogs in an unnatural manner;
e. Too many litters relative to a certain time period, if this compromises the health or welfare of the dog
o The number of litters per year is not to exceed one litter per 12 consecutive months for dogs and a maximum age for a bitch to be mated.
Furthermore, if a dog resides in a place during a time where it is receptive to socialisation, necessary measures need to be taken to ensure that the dog grows accustomed to being around humans, to being around relevant animal species and to being kept in certain conditions, and has sufficient opportunity to learn and portray its most natural behaviour.
The Federation also endorses the new policy of the Kennel Club not to register puppies from a bitch that has previously had 2 caesarean sections as well as refusing to register puppies from a bitch that has had more than 4 litters. In offering this endorsement, the Federation remains concerned about the welfare of ‘spent bitches’ and would want to see adequate safeguards introduced to prevent the unscrupulous disposal of these animals.
4. Identification of Puppies
The Federation wants to ensure all puppies are identified before leaving the breeder and also that the registration is amended as ownership changes, similar to the DVLA system for motor vehicles (see the Dog Rescue Federation’s Position Statement on Micro chipping).
In essence, the Federation believes that micro chipping needs to start with the breeder who then has it changed to the puppy buyer. We feel that this would make breeders accountable for un-spayed and unneutered dogs and therefore, reduce the problem of unwanted puppies. It might also discourage bad breeders from selling puppies with health problems, as the puppies would then be more easily traced back to them. The Federation firmly believes that measures of this type must be introduced, making it increasingly more difficult for the unscrupulous pedigree and backyard breeder and those selling puppies in random locations, including the Internet, with no traceability.
5. Educating the Public and Breeders
The Federation would argue that if the public is well informed and aware, the pressure will mount to breed puppies that are healthy, well socialised and come from responsible and communicative breeders.
It is in everyone’s interests, and most certainly in the interests of dog welfare, that the public is persuaded not to buy a puppy from a source that gives:
· no opportunity to see the parents;
· no record of health checks;
· no record of a socialisation programme, or;
· from kennels with a myriad of different puppies living in sub-standard conditions.
The Federation supports the concept of puppy contracts to enable the public to make properly informed decisions when buying a puppy. We also agree with the introduction of puppy plans, as a supplement to the puppy contracts, to provide further information on the socialisation and habituation of a puppy.
The Federation strongly opposes the sale of puppies on the Internet unless the Internet sites involved demonstrate a far more responsible attitude towards vetting breeders who are advertising with them. Until then we urge all potential purchasers of puppies not to buy puppies advertised on these Internet sites.
Whilst the Federation would regard educating the public on responsible dog purchase and ownership as its highest priority, we recognise that it is also important to educate breeders. We say this because breeders making the wrong choice of sire or being ignorant on the need for screening are causing some of the problems relating to hereditary diseases.