Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet have proposed legislation to abolish puppy smuggling and unlicensed farm dealers who subject dogs to dire living conditions.
May said: “The arrival of a happy, healthy puppy, as I know myself, is a memorable time for a family, but it’s absolutely right we do everything we can to eradicate animal cruelty from our society.” She explained the legislation aims to be "a step forward" towards that.
If you recently got a puppy, check out our guide to the best pet insurance for dogs.
The new rules are due to be consulted on early this year and will affect dog breeders and traders who will have to be more transparent about their litters' living conditions and country of origin.
The puppy farm and trafficking industry is worth £100m, according to the RSPCA.
Michael Ward, interim chief executive of the RSPCA, last year told The Independent: "This year our inspectors, working with the police and councils, rescued hundreds of puppies and breeding dogs being kept in miserable, squalid conditions by heartless people cashing in on the growing market for puppies."
The RSPCA launched its ‘scrap puppy trade campaign’ in 2015 in response to evidence that hundreds of dogs were being bought ‘wholesale’ and transported across the country, at the expense of their health and wellbeing.
Since then, it has received over 4,000 phone calls reporting illegal puppy sales and saved hundreds of dogs, but the unlawful practice continues.
The RSPCA, along with other animal charities, has been calling for tougher rules on animal welfare and breeding, and now the government has stepped in.
The legislation aims to eradicate cruel practices, such as separating a puppy from its mum too early, housing in unsanitary and cramped conditions, not giving the dog access to veterinary services, dogs being transported in bulk across thousands of miles without being allowed to go the toilet, and female dogs being used as breeding machines.
Ward said the proposals are, "good news for the hundreds of thousands of dogs bought and sold in England every year".
The proposed legislation is said to include stipulations such as:
- Puppy sales to be completed in the presence of the new owner
- The puppy to be presented to the new owner alongside its mum
- Licenced dog breeders will have to sell puppies they’ve raised themselves
- Pet sellers to display their licence numbers, puppies’ country of origin and country of residence, when advertising both online and offline
According to a 2015 report by the RSPCA, over 2 million people bought puppies that year and only 63% of pet owners said they were confident about the origins of the dog.
If you think a puppy has been illegally trafficked into the UK or suspect a dealer has been mistreating pets, you can report them to the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
To avoid getting a puppy that was illegally smuggled into the country or was raised by an unethical breeder, it's worth checking if your chosen breeder is Kennel Club Assured.