Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Puppy law needs more bite

Big Issue in the North magazine. 

Record number of calls about illegal trading 
RSPCA wants national database of dealers 
Amid RSPCA claims that the sale of scrap metal is taken more seriously than the
sale of dogs the government has indicated it will not be introducing legislation to regulate the country’s puppy dealers. 
To ensure puppies are adequately cared for before being sold, the 1999 Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act forces every UK puppy seller to obtain a local authority license. But since January 2011 the RSPCA has responded to over 10,000 calls – including a record 3,232
so far this year – concerning illegal dog trading and breeding. 
In October three Stockport puppy dealers – Peter Jones, Grace Banks and Julian King – were jailed after a lengthy RSPCA investigation revealed they were dumping sick and dying dogs in buckets. 
It was estimated the dealers were making £35,000 a week puppies imported from Ireland. 
Jones, imprisoned like Banks for five months, and King, given a six-month sentence, had both breached their 10-year bans on keeping dogs after earlier being prosecuted for similar offences. 
Stronger penalties 
The RSPCA believes many puppy dealers import dogs from the Continent and Ireland. Costing around £100, they sell for six to 10 times as much. 
With many puppies bought as Christmas gifts, the organisation has started campaigning for a Puppy Dealers Act. This would mean stronger penalties against dealers failing to get a license, a national database of puppy sellers funded by license fees, all internet and offline adverts having to display the seller’s license number requirement, and all sellers having to produce their license when they sell a puppy. 
The RSPCA believes such legislation would remove a huge layer of unregulated trading and give local authorities the tools they need to protect puppies and their buyers, many of whom, it argues, are unaware they are purchasing sick, under-age and dying puppies. 
The RSPCA states: “Current laws fail puppies and their parents. They are being traded like scrap with no regard for their welfare. The government should treat puppy dealing in England as seriously as they did scrap metal when it introduced new laws to tackle the criminal scrap metal trade in 2013.” 
Medical attention 
Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge and former shadow animal welfare minister, backed the RSPCA campaign. 
“When I was minister in 2014-15 I asked the coalition government to deal seriously with puppy farms that ignored animal welfare,” she said. “Now the present government should advance plans to stop puppies and kittens being either brought into the country illegally or bred in poor conditions. Animals are suffering and so do potential owners of these animals, which often need medical attention.” 
The website of Pets4Homes., which carries dealers’ advertising and has over five million monthly visitors, states: “It is the buyer’s responsibility to make any necessary checks on the advertisers before buying or adopting a pet.” 
It also says: “We do our best to prevent puppy farmers trying to use our website by monitoring the number of adverts we allow each advertiser to place, and check advertisers’ local authority breeding licenses to make sure they are valid.” 
A Pets4Homes spokesperson said: “We fully support any act or legislation that can help combat the illegal puppy trade and importing of puppies. We would happily incorporate checks against a national database of puppy sellers into our current approval process. 
“Our concern is legislation may target genuine, honest dealers and illegal traders would advertise on websites that don’t check licenses. The agency maintaining a database – would they enable access to allow for the checking of names and addresses or will there be data protection issues? 
“We clearly need better checks to prevent puppies being imported in vans and tougher penalties for those convicted of puppy dealing, many of whom carry on after being punished.” 

A spokesperson for Defra, the government department responsible for animal welfare, did not answer questions about the RSPCA’s campaign but said: “We are committed to tackling the illegal trade of pets in the UK and there is a stringent compliance checking regime for pets entering the country. Anyone with pet smuggling information should inform the local authorities or the police.” 

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