The Environment Bill 2019-21 has completed it Committee Stage and had day one (of two) of its Report Stage in the House of Commons. This paper is a summary of what happened in the Committee and day one of Report Stage and how the Bill has changed. It considers key Government and Opposition amendments. It is prepared in advance of the Bill's next stages expected in the next Parliamentary session.
The petition had reached over 140,000 signatories on 17 May 2018 and states:
Removing puppies for sale from litter & mum often creates sick, traumatised, dysfunctional dogs. Puppies should be seen with their mum & transporting them to a different place for sale harms welfare. Regulating commercial 3rd party sales is ineffective to prevent harm & a ban is therefore necessary.
In response to the petition the Government highlighted the announcement in December 2017 of stricter licencing rules and conditions for anyone who breeds three or more litters a year, and those selling puppies. These will be introduced through The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, which come into force in October.This was followed in February 2018 by a call for evidence on a possible ban on commercial third party sales of puppies and kittens in England, which would mean “anyone looking to buy or adopt a dog will either deal directly with the breeder or with one of the nation’s many animal rehousing centres”. The call also highlights that less than 100 third party sellers are currently licensed in England. It refers to a lack of data on the number of puppies bought and sold each year but points to an estimated demand for 700,000 puppies a year in the UK, of which 80,000 (in Great Britain) may be sold through third party sellers.
Previous to the Government’s proposals, the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee report Animal welfare in England: domestic pets, published in November 2016, made a recommendation on similar lines and concluded that:
Responsible breeders would never sell through a pet shop licence holder. The process of selling through a third party seller has an unavoidable negative impact upon the welfare of puppies. It also distances the purchaser from the environment in which their puppy was bred. Banning third party sales so that the public bought directly from breeders would bring public scrutiny to bear on breeders, thereby improving the welfare conditions of puppies. It would also bring a positive financial impact to breeders, allowing them to retain money that is currently lost in the supply chain. We acknowledge that difficulties of public access, due to a rural location, security issues and diseases, may be challenging for some breeders. On balance, however, we consider it is more important that animal welfare standards are ensured across all breeders.
The wide range of estimates of the number of puppies sold in the UK was also discussed during EFRA Committee inquiry. The Committee recommended that the Government ban third party sales of dogs and that dogs should “only be available from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations”.
At the time, in its response published in February 2017, the Government raised concerns that a ban would in effect be a statutory requirement for puppies to be sold only by breeders. It also highlighted difficulties for local authorities with enforcement and the risk of a ban driving puppy sales underground. Instead it would “support the robust licensing of all pet sellers including third party sellers”.
The Dog Trust supports a ban but is concerned that the measures will not be UK wide as animal welfare is devolved. It would like the new licencing requirements to apply to those breeding one or more litter. It also called for regulation of dog homes and shelters, which currently do not require a licence, in a similar way to measures being discussed in Scotland. The Kennel Club also supports a ban but has wider concerns about the enforcement of the new licencing regulations.
A Westminster Hall debate on the 'Effect of the covid-19 outbreak on animal welfare' has been scheduled for Tuesday 16 March 2021 from 2:30pm until 4:00pm. Alex Davies-Jones MP will open the debate.
In February 2020, The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2019-21, was reintroduced as a Private Members Bill with Government support. The First Reading took place on 5 February 2020 with Second Reading taking place on 23 October 2020. On 3 February 2021 the Bill passed Committee Stage unamended. Report stage is scheduled to take place on 12 March 2021.