The SHG response to the Breeding of Dogs Consultation

x The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) is an organisation which was originally set up to provide support and legal advice to people being investigated or prosecuted by the RSPCA.
  We are increasingly being consulted on other aspects of animal legislation, including issues relating to dog breeding and the actions of local authorities.  This puts us in a unique position of hearing how legislation affects individual dog owners and breeders, and their fears and concerns.
  The SHG is concerned that the inevitable effect of more stringent regulations will be to reduce the number of people prepared to keep and breed dogs.
  The SHG believes that this legislation is so badly worded and so patently unfair that it will put many responsible breeders in breach of it by default.   
  As a principle, the SHG does not believe that licensing and inspection is the most cost effective way to improve animal welfare.  This legislation will inevitably push the price of puppies higher as breeders attempt to recover their costs.   It will thus make breeding even more lucrative and attractive to those who to fail to register.
  The SHG has been campaigning for an animal NHS since 1990.  One of the most frequent calls we receive on the helpline is from people who cannot afford vet bills and whose animals are too old to qualify for affordable insurance, if there is insurance available at all.  If all of the animal legislation that has been imposed in that time period had been replaced by funded veterinary treatment, if only for the animals of pensioners, it would have produced a far greater positive impact on animal welfare for the money spent.
  We also note that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA) covers all mistreatment or neglect of animals, and suggest that any licensing system for dog breeding is therefore redundant.  Either dogs, whether commercial or otherwise, are kept in accordance with the requirements of the AWA or they are not.  If they are not the local authority can issue improvement notices or take the appropriate action.
  It would make more financial sense for the Welsh Assembly to remove the requirement for licensing in total since there is no situation that could arise which cannot be dealt with by the AWA itself.


Q1:  Do you believe that the definition and requirements of a licence holder in the proposed kennel conditions is clear?  If not please give your reasons in detail.

9.   The wording of S. 4 is far too vague. 
10.   How is a breeding bitch to be defined (S.4(2))?  A frequent complaint to the SHG arising from local authority inspections is their claim that any female is potentially a breeding bitch unless she has been neutered.  For show breeders who are responsible enough to keep their older dogs to be penalised in this way would be grossly unfair.  There are also serious concerns about the health and behavioural effects of spaying and neutering which many breeders and dog keepers take into consideration. See attached:  The long term health effects of spay/neuter in dogs, Laura J. Sanborn march 27, 2007 and Early Spay-Neuter Considerations for the Canine Athlete One veterinarian’s Opinion, Chris Zink DVM, PhD, DACVP, 2005.
11.   S.4(2)(a), (b) and (c) takes no account of the differences in breed fecundity.  For some breeds a litter may consist of one or two puppies.  For others litters of more than ten are normal.  The hobby breeder who wishes to produce a puppy to show is going to be lumped in with large scale breeders by default if their preferred breed is one that tends to have large litters.  Why should such a breeder be penalised and forced to register if they sell one litter of 10 or more excess puppies who do not meet their showing requirements, or who would be excellent show dogs but cannot all be kept?
12.   S.4(2)(d).  What exactly does this mean?  If a breeder advertises a litter for sale is that within the meaning of this clause?  Is a show breeder who has bred one litter a year or every two or three years to fall within this clause if they advertise their puppies for sale?  Will the fact that they have a KC name for their stud be used to indicate that they are a business? 
13.   S.4(2)(e), and (f).  Of course kennel accommodation is going to be consistent with commercial dog breeding.  Especially if the kennel accommodation is of good quality and provides for the dog’s needs.  Many people who keep dogs keep them in kennel accommodation.  Are they all to fall within the remit of this clause? 
14.   If terms are going to be used that define whether an activity should be regulated it is reasonable to expect the terms themselves to be defined accurately. Far too many hours of expensive court time are wasted each year as attempts are made to define exactly what was meant by the wording of a particular piece of legislation.
15.   S. 4(3).  It should always be the job of an enforcer or prosecutor to prove their case. What happens if someone takes in a stray?  Is it the intention of this legislation to discourage people from helping out lost or injured animals because there would be no way they could disprove the assumption that such an animal was theirs?  If not then this clause needs rewriting.


Q2: Do you think that the scope of the definition of a licence holder is adequate? If not, please give your reasons in detail.

16.   The SHG believes that the definition is far too complex and will lead to confusion and appeals to the higher courts for clarification.  Granting wide ranging powers on the back of terms such as “reasonably believes” (S. 4.(2)(f)) without any guidance as to what is reasonable is a recipe for disaster.
17.   Another cause for concern is the wording of S.5(3).  This is so far ranging that an inspector could refuse a licence for virtually any reason whatsoever.  Is the applicant’s conduct fawning enough?  Did they dare point out an error?  That a suggested course of action would actually be harmful to their dogs?  What circumstances would be so far removed that they would not be relevant?  Perhaps a parking ticket would be considered relevant by some local authorities!
18.   Laws like this provide fodder for neighbour disputes. The vast majority of cases that come in on the SHG helpline are the result of neighbour disputes over other matters. Complaints are made about dogs (and other animals) as an easy way to “score”.  Even if the complaint is unfounded an official calls and investigates, thus using resources that could be better utilised elsewhere.


Q3: Do you consider that the proposed Guidance is sufficiently detailed enough to enable both enforcement officers and dog breeders to understand the standards to be met at a licensed dog breeding establishment?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

19.   Again the guidance is confusing and will actually harm some breeds.
20.   Some dogs such as Northern Breeds find summer weather uncomfortable and prefer to lie on cool surfaces or even damp ground.  A requirement that bedding is provided will reduce their living space unnecessarily at times when those dogs are seeking every opportunity to cool down.  Such a requirement will also make their owners vulnerable to inspectors who do not understand the requirements of the breed.
21.   Temperature and heating is another minefield.  Different breeds are happiest at differing ambient temperatures.  The real measure is whether the dogs appear distressed or comfortable in any set up.
22.   The amount of water needed depends on the ratio between the size of bowls and the size of dogs.  It also varies depending on the type of food, is it dry, complete?  Or mixed?  One large bowl might be more than adequate for half a dozen small dogs but inadequate for one large dog.  It also seems redundant to specify requirements that are already part of the AWA.
23.   The requirements to vaccinate do not take into account the objections many people have against vaccinations.  People refuse to vaccinate their children, so why should they be forced to vaccinate their dogs?  There are alternative homeopathic vaccines available and this should be a matter of personal choice.
24.   There has been much debate over whether puppies should be vaccinated before they are fully weaned, and whether they should be fully weaned before 12 weeks of age.  Until a puppy is weaned it is getting antibodies from its mother’s milk.  Vaccinating at this time can negate both the natural antibodies and the vaccination itself.
25.   The SHG is opposed to compulsory microchipping.  The government has just committed to closing down the ID card database.  Dog microchipping is just another register of people.
26.   Registering microchips to the breeder will mean that the purchaser has to pay to enter their details onto a database they might well object to.
27.   Far more importantly, there are serious health issues with microchips.  They may move within the dog’s body.  There are certainly instances where chips that have been inserted for pet passports have not been found resulting in dogs facing long stays in quarantine. Microchips appear to be associated with the appearance of tumours at the site of the chip.  No responsible pet owner is going to want to risk the health of their animal for a dubious benefit.  Indeed, the procedure might well be in breach of the AWA.
28.   Tattooing appears to be a far less dangerous procedure and at least is visible on the dog, unlike microchipping which needs specialist equipment.  There is already a dog tattoo register.


Q4:  Do you consider that the standards set in the proposed Guidance for a dog’s environment, diet, behaviour, companion and health needs are suitable?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

29.   A requirement to lodge a written exercise programme will be difficult for small hobby or show breeders to put together and will be disproportionately onerous on them when compared to large scale commercial breeders.
30.   Many animal keepers use different vets for different aspects of their animal health care.  For instance they might prefer to use one vet who is good with bitches whelping, another who is better with broken bones, and yet another who happens to be cheaper for vaccines and wormers. Making it a requirement that a breeding establishment should register with a veterinary practice removes that freedom of choosing the best and most cost effective care for their dogs.  The requirement that details of a breeders vet are given to the Licensing Authority puts the right to confidentiality between vet and client at risk.
31.   The public are becoming increasingly concerned about the choice of vets to provide the best care for their animals.  See
32.   If biosecurity measures are deemed important for the breeding establishment there should be a requirement that all visiting local authority inspectors, or indeed anyone they bring with them onto a breeding establishment, should disinfect their footwear and clothing. 
    The SHG believes that there should be a written code of conduct for local authority inspectors and all other visitors to adhere to which is provided to every licensed breeding establishment.


Q5: Do you think that the minimum staff:dog ratio of 1 full-time attendant per 20 dogs and 1 attendant to 10 dogs for a part-time attendant is appropriate?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

34.   The staffing requirements are too restrictive.  They do not take into account size and type of dog.  Indeed, many animal rescue organisations would fall foul of them.  Again, the real measure is whether the dogs appear well and happy.


Q6: At present, the draft Regulations only require a record for all unneutered females and puppies born after the Regulations come into force.  Do you agree?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

35.   The SHG does not believe that females who are not going to be used for breeding should be included at all.  The SHG is opposed to such databases.


Q7: At present the Regulations only require unneutered females and puppies born after the Regulations to be microchipped.  Should there be a requirement to extend this to all dogs kept at a breeding establishment?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

36.   The SHG does not believe that dos who are not going to be used for breeding should be included at all.  As already stated, the SHG is opposed to such databases and has grave concerns about the health and privacy implications of microchipping.


Q 8: Do you agree that all puppies should be microchipped before it is 56 days old or before it leaves the premises, whichever is the later?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

37.   To re-iterate, the SHG is opposed to compulsory microchipping.  The potential health problems mean that it should be a decision made by the owner, not one forced by government.  For example, see
38.   If there is to be enforced microchipping, is the Welsh Assembly going to foot the bill for any resulting health problems in the affected dogs?  Might there not be a human rights implication involved in forcing people to damage their property?


Q9: Do you agree that the first registration of a puppy should be to the licensed breeder?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

39.   Only those dogs which are part of private registration schemes, such as dogs registered to the Kennel Club or the Greyhound Stud Book, should be required to comply with such registrations.  Why should the ordinary purchaser of a puppy be forced to have a registration that is not required by law for the ordinary pet owner?  This is the creation of a dog database by the back door.


Q10: Are there any premises such as sanctuaries, hunt kennels and licensed boarding kennels that should be exempt from the requirement outlines?  If so, why?  Please give your reasons in detail?

40.   Hunt Kennels should be exempt as their main function is not to breed for sale or profit.  Likewise boarding kennels who are supplying a service.  Small breeders should also be exempt.  Perhaps a better way of defining who should be included would be to determine whether the profit made would support the business and its employees.  If not then it is in no way commercial.

There should be no exemption for animal sanctuaries.  Indeed, most ought to be registered for a Pet Shop licence as they are clearly flouting the regulations by selling animals under the guise of asking for a “minimum donation”, i.e. a selling price.  Allowing such contortions of the law that should apply to everyone is not in the public interest and if the argument is that Local Authority inspections are necessary to monitor the health and well being of animals for sale commercially then such inspections should clearly apply to all. 


Q11:  Do you agree that as currently drafted, the Regulations require that puppies cannot leave the breed premises until they are at least 56 days old? (Previous legislation allowed puppies to be moved off the breed premises earlier as long as it was direct to a pet shop owner).  If not, give your reasons in detail please.

42.   There appears to be no exemption for puppies whose mother has lost her milk or is otherwise unable to care for the puppies.  What about puppies who need to be moved for other unforeseen reasons, such as damage to the premises?  It is important that every option remains open to cater for the welfare of the puppies.  Yet again, this situation is covered by the AWA.  Either the welfare of young puppies is catered for or there has been a breach of existing legislation.


Q12:  Do you agree that as currently drafted, dog breeding licenses should be issued for a period of up to 3 years, subject to a local authority considering the frequency of inspections and risk, and be renewed as appropriate?  If not, please give your reasons in detail.

43.   The SHG does not believe that dog breeding should be licensed.  Such repeated bureaucratic expenditure of resources at a time of recession will only serve to remove resources from real animal welfare issues.


Q13:  These proposals might incur costs to bring dog breeders up to the required animal welfare standards.  Please provide appropriate evidence based information.

44.   Small scale breeders are going to find these requirements disproportionately expensive as compared to large scale breeders.  The inevitable result is going to be fewer people prepared to jump through the bureaucratic hoops and expense with the resulting loss of good dog breeders.
45.   A reduction in the number of people keeping animals is the usual result of such animal rights driven legislation.


Q14: We have asked a number of specific questions.  If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please us this space to report them:

  The cost of enforcement and licensing officers.

Anne Kasica & Ernest Vine
The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA.


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