Holyrood Committee welcomes ‘further regulation’ of dog sales

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puppies breeding licence

The Rural Affairs & Islands Committee said in a report that “further regulation of the process for buying dogs should be welcomed” – but that registering unlicensed litters is “unlikely” to make a difference when it comes traceability issues.

The Committee’s report concludes its stage one scrutiny of the Welfare of Dogs (Scotland) Bill, which aims to establish “a more responsible and informed approach to acquiring and owning a dog” and “regulate the selling or transferring of puppies from unlicensed litters”.

The Committee stated that further measures are needed to promote the more responsible acquisition of dogs

Launching the report, Beatrice Wishart, Deputy Convener of the Committee, said, “This is an extremely well-intentioned Bill, introduced at a time when dog welfare issues are, as we heard from stakeholders, almost at an unprecedented level.

“We were told that a fifth of people spend less than two hours researching whether to get a puppy and a third say they wouldn’t know how to spot a rogue breeder. Clearly measures are needed to promote the best chances for a dog’s happy and healthy life and to support buyers in making responsible decisions for their families, lifestyles and their finances.

“We support the Bill’s aim of influencing unscrupulous breeding by educating prospective dog owners and that is why publicity should be maximised around the strengthened regulation this Bill would create.

“It is also vitally important that a solution is found to reassure buyers about the origins, health, and well-being of puppies they are buying, and we will continue to press the Scottish Government on this.”

The Kept Animals Bill was meant to crack down on puppy smuggling among other things

As the rest of the UK, Scotland has been grappling with a pervasive problem – members of the public unknowingly buying sick puppies bred in puppy farms. In January, a gang of puppy farmers and traders was sentenced for conspiracy to commit fraud and animal welfare offences after selling sick puppies to members of the public, with one puppy dying within hours of arriving in their new home. Overall, the puppy farming group made over £500,000 from the sales.

The Committee stated that further measures are needed to promote the more responsible acquisition of dogs, so that members of the public can avoid the pitfalls of purchasing through unscrupulous breeders – and get the right type of dog for their lifestyle.

“To this end, the Committee agrees with Part 1 of the Bill which would establish a code of practice and require both buyers and sellers to sign a certificate to confirm they have thought through the practicalities of owning a dog before taking on the responsibility,” reads a Scottish Parliament statement. “It also agrees that a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the code of conduct is essential and calls on the Scottish Government to do all it can to ensure the campaign is more effective than some previous campaigns which have had a limited impact.”

The Committee calls on the Scottish Government to continue to explore whether a UK-wide single microchip database would help solve the problem

However, the Committee “does not agree with Part 2 of the Bill and the proposed requirement to register unlicensed litters”, due to a lack of resources allocated to local authorities to enforce the new regulations – as well as doubts on whether this approach would give “any indication about a dog’s welfare or whether it had been bred by a responsible breeder”.

Instead, the Committee calls on the Scottish Government to continue to explore whether a UK-wide single microchip database would help solve the problem. If this is not possible, the Committee asks the Scottish Ministers to detail what other measures they will take to improve the traceability of dogs.

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