Many residents of Lewisham Deptford have contacted me to share their concerns about the welfare of dogs being bought and sold and the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices. My Labour colleagues and I have long believed licensing requirements should be tightened in this area and that enforcement actions should be better targeted across the board.
While it has no plans to ban the sale of dogs by third parties, the Government is reviewing animal establishments licensing and has proposed tightening up the standards of welfare that apply to these sales. I welcome this review, which includes plans to update the legal requirements for each licensed activity, including clarifying standards around the sale of puppies, the licensing threshold for dog breeding, and the provision of information alongside pet sales.
Concerns have been raised in recent years about the growth in online sales and I know there have been some shocking cases of mistreatment by abusive owners who acquired their animals through UK websites. It is proposed that any new legislation will make it clear that online and home-based businesses, as well as all domestic commercial pet sales, must be licensed.
The Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) has agreed, in conjunction with several Internet sites, a set of minimum standards for animals sold over the Internet and 130,000 inappropriate adverts have been removed as a result of this code. However, the standards are voluntary and I am concerned that there has been much less success with websites that have not signed up. Compliance is also difficult to enforce. The Government should consider how it can improve the take-up and enforcement of minimum standards for online adverts.
There are no plans to introduce a licensing system for dog owners but compulsory micro-chipping of dogs began in England from April 2016 and is designed to make it easier to reunite stray dogs with their owners, to tackle the problem of dog theft and to track down irresponsible dog owners.
The Government has said it will publish, in due course, a document setting out its final proposals for modernising the animal activities licensing schemes. I hope that the Government will listen carefully and respond to the concerns that have been widely raised by organisations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the RSPCA, and act now to address the issue of puppy farming and to deter illegal dog breeding.
Breeding regulations must be brought into the 21st century and animal welfare standards should be applied to modern trading practices such as online trade. We also need to promote better education to encourage responsible dog ownership and breeding.
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.