A ban on puppy sales by pet shops and other third-party dealers is being considered by the government of Wales and a recent debate in the UK parliament on the illegal trade in puppies has raised hopes that similar bans might be instituted right throughout the country.
A ban would mean that people buying a dog would be compelled to deal directly with the breeder. This would deal a blow to the illegal puppy trade which has sprung up in the UK since 2012 following a change in the law governing the transportation of domestic animals. The law was supposed to make it easier for people to travel around Europe with their pets but, according to a report compiled by the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), it has provided an opportunity for unscrupulous puppy dealers to increase their trade into the UK. For example, imports of dogs from Romania and Lithuania rose by 7 700 percent and 852 percent respectively between 2011 and 2015. Large increases in the importation of puppies from these countries have also been seen in other European countries such as Belgium, Germany and Italy.
The RSPCA says that welfare problems are evident at every stage of the puppy trade. On puppy farms, female dogs are kept in totally unacceptable conditions and often spend their entire lives producing litter after litter of puppies for profit. Puppies are usually taken away from their mothers at a very young age because there is an imperative to sell them before they lose their “cute” appeal. But early separation makes puppies susceptible to both behavioural and health problems.
Puppies are often transported hundreds of kilometres across Europe without adequate ventilation, food and water.
“We will be watching very carefully to see whether new legislation is in fact passed in the UK and whether it helps to close the loopholes that are exploited by puppy dealers,” said David Barritt, a spokesperson for the Animal Survival International (formerly Political Animal Lobby).
According to Barritt about 30 percent of puppies sold in the UK are traded via the internet and in some cases, dishonest pet shop owners use their licenses to facilitate the illegal trade in puppies. They operate from private houses in an effort to re-assure potential buyers that puppies come from a normal home environment, when in fact they come from a puppy farm.
“We would like to see a public education campaign instituted to highlight the serious health implications and terrible cruelty that is associated with puppy farming,” said Barritt. “People must be discouraged from buying puppies on the internet and in no circumstances should anyone buy a puppy without seeing its mother and questioning the breeder very closely about the welfare of both mother and baby.”