Sales figures of puppies sold by pet shops and dealers: although only 2% of pet shops sell puppies (around 70 UK outlets), of the current dog population of around 9 million, 16% were sold via pet shops, equating to approximately 1.5 million dogs (2014 local authority survey and Kennel Club 'Puppy Awareness Week' (PAW) survey 2014). These dogs are most likely to have been bred by 'puppy farmers'. In total 41% of people who bought a puppy in the last year did not see the puppy with its mother and 53% did not see its breeding environment, meaning those puppies are highly likely to have been bred by puppy farmers and sold by third parties (2014 Kennel Club PAW survey).
Health of puppies sold by puppy farmers: 20% of puppies (four times more than the average) bought from pet shops or directly from the internet suffer from parvovirus, an often fatal disease which can cost up to £4,000 to treat (2014 Kennel Club PAW survey).
A puppy farmer is defined as a high volume breeder who breeds puppies with little or no regard for the health and welfare of the puppies or their parents.
A puppy farmer's main intent is profit. As a result they typically separate puppies from their mothers too early (8 weeks is generally recommended), ignore guidelines about the maximum frequency of litters (the Kennel Club will not normally register more than four litters from any one bitch because of concerns that the current legal limit of six litters per bitch can be potentially detrimental to a dog's welfare), provide inadequate socialisation of puppies, sell puppies through third parties i.e. away from the environment in which they are raised, keep puppies in poor husbandry conditions and fail to follow breed specific health schemes or to apply basic, routine health measures such as immunisation and worming. As a result, the puppies bred by puppy farmers are more likely to suffer from common, preventable, infectious diseases, painful or chronic inherited conditions, behavioural issues and shorter life spans.
According to the most recent Kennel Club Puppy Awareness Week (PAW) survey, one in five dog owners spend a lot more on vet's fees than they anticipated when first buying a dog. This increases to more than one in three (38 per cent) when the puppy is supplied by a pet shop. In total 41% of people who have bought a puppy in the last year did not see the puppy with its mother and 53% did not see its breeding environment, meaning those puppies are highly likely to have been bred by puppy farmers and sold by third parties (2014 Kennel Club PAW survey).
The Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 (as amended by the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999) licences breeding establishments and the sale of dogs. This legislation set out a regime for local authorities to license and inspect dog breeding establishments within their jurisdiction which should have gone some way to tackle puppy farming.
However, problems with enforcement have meant that it has not curbed the activity of puppy farmers as local authorities lack the resources and expertise to properly address poor breeding practices and current guidance on selling puppies in pet shops is unclear.
As current legislation has not had the intended effect of curbing puppy farming, due to the lack of proper enforcement, it is important that both the Kennel Club and Government take steps to ensure good breeding practices are adhered to.
As the largest organisation in the UK devoted to dog health, welfare and training, the Kennel Club recognises its responsibility to improve breeding standards in the UK. Now in its tenth year, the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme has around 7,000 members. In 2013 Kennel Club Assured Breeders bred over 31,000 puppies.
Amongst other requirements, to become an Assured Breeder, breeders must follow Kennel Club policy regarding minimum age and number/frequency of litters, must socialise puppies, and must make use of health screening schemes relevant to their breed on all breeding stock. These schemes include DNA testing, and testing for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and inherited eye conditions. In addition to this, and as a result of the scheme receiving UKAS accreditation, Assured Breeders must also be inspected prior to receiving accreditation and thereafter, at least once every three years.
Alongside the scheme, the Kennel Club also runs an education campaign about the 'do's and don'ts' of puppy buying. We always advise puppy buyers to see the puppy in its breeding environment and with its mother and do not believe puppies should be sold in pet shops or by third parties.
The Kennel Club recommends the following to Government for dealing with puppy farming and improving breeding standards:
Update guidance under the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the sale of puppies in pet shops or retail premises, as current guidance on selling puppies in pet shops is unclear. The Pet Animals Act 1951 states that a local authority shall have 'discretion to withhold a licence (to pet shops) onothergrounds'. However, the Pet Industry Federation believes no such restrictions can be applied on the animals that can be sold.
Work with the Kennel Club and other dog welfare organisations to promote advice about the 'do's and don'ts' of puppy buying.
Make the principles of the Assured Breeder Scheme mandatory for anyone breeding dogs to ensure breeders are breeding to an acceptable standard of health and welfare. As a consequence of this, it would be illegal for puppies to be sold without their mothers being present, since proper socialisation is a requirement under the scheme.
Issue further guidance and training to local authorities that sets out clearly what the minimum requirements should be to ensure a more consistent and effective approach to licensing and enforcement.
Issue local authorities with guidance enabling them to make use of Assured Breeder Scheme Inspectors to carry out inspections on their behalf and to share data with the Assured Breeder Scheme in order that they are aware of who is breeding dogs in their area, and that they have been inspected