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Welsh Govt urged to act after ‘mixed bag’ response to dog breeding review

RSPCA Cymru has urged the Welsh Government to ensure a recent review into dog breeding leads to “meaningful change” to better protect dogs and puppies in Wales.

The comments come as the Welsh Government yesterday (18 November) publishes their response to an expert Task and Finish Group published earlier this year by the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group.

RSPCA Cymru inputted into the review via its role as part of the Animal Welfare Network for Wales.

The review made 55 recommendations – covering issues such as improved training for local authorities, amending the controversial minimum staff-to-dog ratio to ensure staff have more time with animals, and support for a ban on the third party sale of puppies.

Additionally, the review recommended the establishment of a Wales Database of Dog Breeders, in addition to consideration of whether there should be a cap on the number of breeding bitches and total dogs based at a single breeding establishment.

The RSPCA has welcomed the Welsh Government’s commitment – outlined in their response – to improve the enforcement of licensing of dog breeding establishments, with a three year training local authority training project now underway. There is also support for plans to review the guidance made available to local authorities – including on what inspectors should be looking for when young pups are socialised by breeders.

However, the charity has expressed concern by an announcement that there are “no immediate plans” to amend the 2014 dog breeding regulations, despite recommendations from the Framework Group urging this to happen. The Welsh Government has also announced that they are unable to provide a timetable at present for a ban on the third party sale of puppies and kittens.

David Bowles, RSPCA head of public affairs, said: “The review into Wales’ dog breeding laws was a hugely important piece of work, and made some really important recommendations which could improve dog welfare and help shake off Wales’ sad reputation as the UK’s puppy farming capital.

“Positive recommendations included proposals for a National Database of Breeders, and calls for evidence-based amendments to the current regulations, including how many dogs staff at breeding establishments may provide care for at one time.

“Clearly, it is vital that the outcome of this review is seizing the opportunity to bring meaningful change to our dog breeding laws – ensuring better enforcement, and laws which better protect the welfare of the bitches, stud dogs and pups in breeding establishments – but today’s response to the review is something of a mixed bag.

“The RSPCA welcome the Welsh Government’s commitment to improve enforcement, and the launch of a three year project to build expertise among our increasingly-stretched local authorities. A promise of updated guidance for local authorities is also welcome – and could ensure more emphasis is placed on robust socialisation, enrichment and health plans by breeders.

“But it’s concerning to hear there are no immediate plans to amend Wales’ dog breeding laws – given the urgent need to, for example, amend the current, controversial staff-to-dog ratio; which currently allows one staff member to care for 20 dogs at once, excluding puppies.

“The RSPCA continues to call for an holistic approach – and while we appreciate the difficulty of the current climate, we hope a timetable for a ban of the third party sale of puppies and kittens will be announced as soon as possible; as this law will act as another important tool in preventing poor welfare outcomes in Wales. We also look forward to hearing how this ban will address some of the imperfections of the third party ban in England, so it is as effective as possible.

“We urge the Welsh Government to use this opportunity to be bold and enthusiastically back changes that would improve enforcement, traceability and guidance, so we can continue to improve standards of dog breeding in Wales.

“RSPCA Cymru also urges Ministers in Wales to work with the UK Government to raise the legal age for importing puppies from fifteen weeks to twenty-four weeks, and to consider changes to planning law to make animal welfare a material consideration – so that local authorities could consider local demand and the number of breeders already based locally when considering applications for breeding kennels.”