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Changes in animal welfare law: what you need to know

Whether you’re on the hunt for a new pup or are an established breeder, new animal welfare laws have recently come into play to protect dogs and cats.

On October 1st 2018, The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations were introduced. The rules will affect dog breeders and vendors, whilst assuring prospective buyers that animals are being treated safely.

What do the new animal welfare laws mean?

Animal Welfare Minister David Rutley said: “These regulations will end mistreatment and malpractice of puppies and crack down on unscrupulous breeders so pet owners will have no doubt their new dogs have had the right start in life.”

New licensing laws

First and foremost, licences will now be required for all breeders and vendors. Previously, breeders could produce up to five litters in a 12-month period without needing a licence, but this has been reduced to three. The exception to this is if they can provide evidence that they have sold none within this time.

Likewise, anybody selling these puppies will have to obtain a licence, whether they are a business or an individual. If they can be seen to be making a profit or commission, the rules will apply. The government is also considering banning “third party” sales to ensure that puppies are only sold by reputable vendors.

Welfare for dogs

Breeders must take care to ensure dogs are fed and trained well, kept in a safe and social environment, and protected from disease and injury. Specifically, they must adhere to five standards of care:

  • Puppies must be shown with their biological mother at the buying phase, and sales can only take place in person (not online);
  • Puppies must be housed in a social environment which prepares them for the house in which they are going to live;
  • Licence holders should take care to ensure dogs are in good health, fair temperament and able to see, breathe and exercise freely;
  • Puppies must not be bred from dogs that have required surgery for conditions which negatively impact their welfare;
  • Puppies must not be bred from bitches who have had two litters by C-section.

Regulations and star ratings

The law also states that puppies and kittens must be over the age of eight weeks when being sold. Local authority inspectors will review licensed breeders and will use a risk system to assess the validity of the breeder. All breeders will be awarded a star rating to reflect their standards, with higher standard breeders visited less frequently.

Educating buyers

Advertisements for puppies must now display the seller’s licence number, as well as the puppy’s country of origin and residence. Currently, the pet industry, as well as welfare organisations and veterinary bodies, are doing their best to educate buyers on these minimum standards to ensure they know the origins of their puppies.

What does this mean for me as an owner?

The new animal welfare regulations will provide added assurance – the star rating guidelines have been written by bodies such as the British Veterinary Association and the RSPCA, so we can rest assured that our puppies have been looked after.

Never buy a puppy from an unlicensed seller or breeder, and always enquire as to their star rating. Always ensure you buy in person, never online, and make sure you are happy with the environment the puppy is being raised in. If you have any concerns, you can contact the RSPCA in confidence.

A dog is for life…

If you’re buying a new pet for Christmas or any other occasion, check and check again that you are ready to take on this new responsibility. Dogs can provide a lifetime of companionship and love, but they require hard work and commitment, both financially and in terms of your own schedule.

They can vary enormously in price from Jack Russells, which may cost as little as £160, to rarer breeds, which could easily go into four figures. Rescue dogs are a wonderful way of giving back to the community, but be prepared to have patience helping them adjust, and be cautious if you have young children.

The new animal welfare laws will have an undoubtedly positive impact on puppies and kittens from hereon, and we look forward to seeing even more provisions for keeping our four-legged friends safe in future.