Local authorities could see a ten-fold increase in the number of dog breeders they are required to license under new government proposals, and the Kennel Club is warning that without full collaboration with its Assured Breeder Scheme it will simply become a stealth tax on responsible dog breeders and do little to curb puppy farmers who could continue to sell hundreds of thousands of sick and badly treated pups to the public.
New dog breeding licensing proposals have been put forward by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which looks after the UK’s animal welfare laws, which would see the threshold at which a dog breeder requires a licence change from five to just three litters of pups a year.
The Kennel Club is urging the government to ensure that the Assured Breeder Scheme is fully incorporated into the regulations in order to assist local authorities who would otherwise face an impossible task of enforcing new laws alone.
Currently, fewer than 900 dog breeders are licensed and inspected by local authorities annually. This number will increase dramatically under the new proposals, to 5,800.
Currently around 58 percent of local authorities have two or fewer members of staff who carry out inspections on dog breeding premises.
Normally these staff have no specialist training and are carrying out inspections in addition to their normal ‘day job’, whereas Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme assessors are specially trained and currently inspect around 1,200 breeders per year.
For this reason the Kennel Club is urging the government to utilise its Assured Breeder Scheme to alleviate the burden on local authorities and to protect dog welfare.
This is particularly important now, as Kennel Club research released for its annual Puppy Awareness Week (4-10 September) found that one in five puppy buyers (20 percent) suspect their puppy could have come from a puppy farm and around a third of people (33 percent) said they would not be confident that they could identify that a puppy had been bred by a responsible breeder, before buying.
The Kennel Club has released a report which lays out options to government on how it, as an expert body that is already accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to inspect dog breeders under its Assured Breeder Scheme, can help regulate those breeders who are members of the scheme.
These proposals would free local authority resources to tackle bad breeders, whilst reducing the financial burden on those who are responsible, and prioritise health and welfare while ensuring the local authorities remain in overall control.
This would benefit not only local authorities, but puppy buyers, responsible breeders and most importantly, the long term health and welfare of puppies being bred.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The health and welfare of tens of thousands of dogs is on the line unless we find a way to fix the problems with the current licensing system.
“While we welcome Defra’s attempts to tackle unlicensed breeding, we have grave concerns that without proper enforcement, we may lose out on a once in a life time opportunity to drive puppy farmers out of business.
“It is imperative that bad breeders are exposed, and good breeders are easily identifiable, and in our view, this is only possible by incentivising good breeders to become ‘Assured’.
“This is critical now at a time when illegal puppy trafficking is rife and thousands of puppies are being smuggled into Britain from Eastern Europe to sell to an unsuspecting UK market.”
Bill Lambert, Manager of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, said: “We need to find a way to ensure that good breeders are not penalised, so they can continue to meet the public demand for puppies that won’t suffer from health problems, while allowing local authorities to focus on clamping down on those irresponsible breeders who should be licensed but aren’t.
“After conducting extensive gap analysis, and running trials with local authorities, it has been shown that members of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, who are inspected and certified by us as a UKAS accredited body, are breeding to higher standards than licensed breeders in every area.”
The Kennel Club’s report on proposed dog breeding regulations, ‘Collaboration is Key: The Way Forward for Breeding Regulations’ can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/1159047/collaboration_is_key.pdf.