Today I have sent an updated version of my open letter to governments and press. I feel that the least that should be done to end this trade in misery is for the creation of independent teams to be able to do spot checks. The team would be a vet, a behaviourist and a licensing official and be a compulsory part of breeding.
I first sent this over a year ago and nobody took me up on it. This slightly updated version has today been sent to the coalition government, the Welsh Assembly and the press and media. Please share it to put pressure on the governments at a time when the Welsh Assembly has again delayed discussions to change legislation and end this trade.
Please find copied here my open letter being sent to the governments today. As an animal behaviourist based in Wales and fighting puppy farming for over 20 years, the growth in illegal breeding is alarming and dangerous. A start to a solution would be independent assessments of these places with a professional team. In the UK dog ownership is in crisis. Fatal and serious attacks weekly, a black economy of dog breeding, illegal imports and more fuel the aggressive behaviour and anti social owners.
Open Letter to the Coalition Government, Welsh Assembly and puppy farmers
In celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Dangerous Dogs Act, we have more dog problems now than ever before so as a professional in animal behaviour, the irony is not lost on me when in just one week Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly First Minister announced: “We will be bringing forward new legislation to ensure that irresponsible breeding in so called ‘puppy farms’ is brought to an end.
“We aim to bring forward revised legislation for further consultation by the National Assembly this autumn.”
And further news reported that Carmarthenshire County Council is hearing a retrospective planning application for a 196 dog breeding unit on 18 August, which is supported by Councillor Mrs L Davies Evans.
Since this one, several others have successfully gone through planning and the discussion on stopping puppy farming with new legislation is again put off by the Welsh Assembly.
In my mind and many of the general public, the factory farming of a companion animal is in itself immoral, breaks welfare regulations and has been campaigned against for over 20 years. Yet numbers grow because people still buy them mostly in ignorance, but often deliberately.
To buy a farmed animal that shares an intimate relationship, living in our homes and sleeping in our children’s beds is dangerous as well as cruel. Is it any wonder that because dog breeding is so badly done, we still have cases of children and adults killed and injured by dogs?
Vets visit most of these puppy farming premises before the licenses are issued, so surely a professional should not approve of this practice? Yet they do. There is no requirement for any kind of behaviour assessment or visit to these places, yet we have the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 which clearly outlines the five basic welfare needs for an animal: somewhere suitable to live, a proper diet, including fresh water, the ability to express normal behaviour, for any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals and protection from, and treatment of, illness and injury.
There is absolutely no way that these five basic criteria are satisfied in puppy farms, yet they still get licensed. For many years it has rightly been said that Carmarthenshire has the most puppy farms in the UK, closely followed by Ceredigion. The findings in my recent Freedom of Information requests on breeding licenses show this claim to be true. We need to ask why.
Apart from the pre-planned licensing visit, no other visits are made unless there is a complaint made, of which there are few. Only then is another pre-planned visit made. I was disappointed to discover that despite thousands of comments on the internet about the purchase of sick puppies, only a handful of complaints were ever made, so stopping this trade is difficult. Why do people draw attention to themselves and their truly sad story online, yet don’t actually do anything to stop this?
The licensing and dog breeding regulations in this country are a disgrace and unless there is an independent means of drawing this together, we will continue to see more deaths and injuries as the result of poor breeding and ownership. The disparate versions of recording, awarding licenses and checks simply allows this trade to continue.
I challenge the puppy farmers to prove they are meeting welfare and licensing regulations. I propose to do this by offering to visit, accompanied by a vet and assessing behaviour needs. I also challenge the Governments to set up an independent body to implement a behavioural assessment like this for all breeding premises.
Independent teams of out of home area vets, trainers and licensing officials should make regular, unannounced visits and make these findings public. One day someone will trace back a dog that has killed a human being back to being bred in one of these places and we will then see who exactly has the guts to stop in, when it is again too late.
It will be interesting to see who responds to my challenge!