When Chancepixies, a tiny independent charity in Kent, decided it was time to take legal action against the council responsible for licensing the biggest puppy farming operation in the UK, it was real life David vs. Goliath.
The founders and trustees of Chancepixies, driven to despair over the number of unwanted dogs circulating through the UK's pounds and rescues every year, wanted to do something to prevent overbreeding, and challenge the public's attitude towards buying puppies. Contacting all of the local authorities in England and Wales, they discovered a licence for a puppy farmer in North Kesteven, and were horrified by the numbers it allowed.
'Swindells' is the breeding establishment in question, licensed to hold 200 breeding bitches and therefore capable of churning out over 1000 puppies a year. It trades under the name 'Little Rascals', and advertises numerous breeds and 'designer' crossbreeds for sale on its website, from as little £295. With so many animals, it's impossible to think all are being given the individual love and care that dogs so desperately seek.
Co-founder and Trustee Heidi Anderson says, “Local authorities have control of dog breeding in their areas. They have the power to grant or refuse dog breeding licences and to set out conditions attached to licences. On 20 January 2016 North Kesteven District Council granted a license to a Lincolnshire puppy farm to keep 200 breeding bitches and 59 stud dogs, and in so doing they completely ignored the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
"We visited the establishment in 2013, the first year its licence allowed them to hold 200 breeding bitches. The puppies/litters on display were on clean wood-shavings and appeared outwardly healthy, but the sad truth is that this is not a suitable, natural environment for a domestic pet dog to live in; this was very much a farmyard environment. The premises is an old dairy farm; the buildings in use were deigned to keep cattle. The public are not allowed access to the majority of the buildings, a small number of the 60 stud dogs were ‘on display’ (eight small males of various breeds in a small pen in the yard), [and] other than that there were no other adult dogs on view. The dogs are clearly not cared for, raised or treated as the domestic pets that they were designed for and are sold as, despite the basic rights of a suitable environment, ability to exhibit natural behaviour and to be free from suffering, pain or disease being protected under the AWA.
"The licensees are farmers, and possibly do not see that they are doing anything wrong; indeed they have held such a licence for in excess of 10 years. The council however have been given the power to enforce legislation and this premises does not care for these dogs in the proper manner under AWA requirements which has been in place since 2007 - the responsibility lies at their door..."
In April this year, Chancepixies decided to act, and launched a legal challenge against North Kesteven District Council and its decision to licence Little Rascals, on the grounds that the Animal Welfare Act was being ignored. In a hurried response, the council cancelled the breeding licence and reissued it under new terms, correcting several mistakes. But it wasn't good enough. On 28 June, a High Court judge agreed with Chancepixies that re-determining the breeding licence was not allowed.
"Where does this leave our Animal Welfare Act challenge?" Heidi explains, "Well, we will be monitoring the actions of the Council very closely and at the right time, in the next few weeks, we will bring a new judicial review challenge to the new licence. Round one to us. Round two to follow!"
It's hoped that the council will simply concede and quash the licence, but the fight will continue, as the licence will be granted again without some of the flaws. Chance pixies therefore continue to need money to bring a new judicial review. You can help contribute to ending the suffering in this landmark case here.
Little Rascals were contacted to comment but have not as yet.