Backstreet breeders now face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison if found to be breaching new laws around pet breeding in England and Wales.
In a bid to combat illegal puppy farms and selling of pets, new plans from the Government will see the law tighten for breeders and sellers of Britain's pets.
The plans will now require anyone breeding and selling three or more litters of puppies a year to apply for a formal licence. It will also become illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks.
The plans also cover how pet shops, boarding houses and riding stables are licensed, introducing a single ‘animal activities licence’ to improve the process and make enforcement easier.
Puppies born into squalid conditions
The new laws are to be introduced as a result of an increase in the number of poorly bred puppies being brought into vet practices.
Local councils will also now be given the power to take action against offenders explains Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom.
“From smaller operations to larger puppy farms, their first weeks are spent in cramped and squalid conditions without the care and attention they need.
“That is why we are cracking down on the worst offenders by strengthening the dog breeding licence and giving councils the power they need to take action.”
The new dog breeding rules means small and large breeders will have to meet strict welfare criteria to get a breeder’s license. Anyone selling pets alone will need to be properly licensed too. This includes online sales of pets.
Leadsom added, “With more and more pet sales now taking place on the internet, it’s right that this market is subject to the same strict licensing criteria as other breeders and pet shops so that consumers are not misled."
New laws must be fully resourced
The new laws have been welcomed by animal charities across the UK as well as the British Veterinary Association.
Gudrun Ravetz, President of the BVA, says:
“This is a significant step in the right direction to improve the welfare of puppies and dogs in the UK, an issue our members are extremely concerned about as increasing numbers of poorly bred puppies are brought into veterinary practices.
"We particularly welcome the move to make the sale of a puppy under eight weeks illegal, the reduction in the number of litters bred requiring a formal breeder’s licence, and the moves towards a single animal activities licence. In the future we would also like to see that anyone breeding from a dog should be required to register with their local authority."
Despite local councils expected to be given extra powers to combat the illegal breeding and selling of pets the proper resources must be available for it to work, say leading vets.
Gudrun added: “For these new measures to work in practice local authorities must have the necessary resources and support to fully enforce the legislation, supported by local veterinary expertise."
Under the new plans, pet shops will also be required to give buyers written information about the animals they buy, with details of the five welfare needs owners must meet under the Animal Welfare Act around environment, diet, behaviour, housing and freedom from pain.