Over the past few weeks I have received a large number of emails from constituents wishing to express their concerns about the breeding and selling of kittens.
Although distinct legislation exists to regulate the breeding and selling of dogs, there is no equivalent for the breeding of cats. Irresponsible breeding is a growing problem and poor breeding practices contribute greatly to the number of abandoned animals rescue centres have to deal with.
My shadow frontbench colleagues are currently reviewing the regulations for both dogs and cats and are committed to ensuring that animal welfare standards can be applied to modern trading practices such as online trade.
Evidence shows that kittens should not be sold under 8 weeks of age and the shadow DEFRA team are investigating whether a requirement for the kitten to be sold with its mother present could be one way of ensuring kittens are in good health and not experiencing the consequences of over breeding. They are also looking at whether a limit on the number of litters a cat has in any given year could be enforced. With regards to microchipping, as you may be aware this was made compulsory for dogs in April 2016. If this scheme delivers the desired outcome, I believe we should look at how this could be extended to other animals.
The Government is in the process of reviewing animal establishments licensing in England and is looking at the Pet Animals Act 1951 with a view to updating the laws on the breeding and selling of pet animals. I welcome this review.
The Government has proposed creating a single “animal establishment licence” for dog breeding, animal boarding, riding establishments and pet shops. Ministers say that the law will be clear that online and home-based businesses must also be licensed and plans to update the legal requirements for each licensed activity. The Government consulted on this from December 2015 to March 2016 and in September 2016 published a summary of the responses it had received. Regulations regarding the specific proposals will be drafted over the next few months, taking into account the views expressed in the consultation.
I understand that Cats Protection made a submission to the consultation and I hope the Government will carefully consider the charity’s views when setting out its response. I also note that the Government has recently indicated that it will be looking, as part of the current licensing review, to make it a requirement that both puppies and kittens should not be sold if they are under 8 weeks of age.
I wrote to the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs to raise constituents' concerns about this issue and have now received the below response.