Dog Control and Welfare - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

3  Dog Welfare

Breeding of dogs

86.  According to the RSPCA, about half of the UK's pet dogs are obtained from breeders, around 30% from neighbours/friends/the internet, 10-15% from rescue organisations and only 5% from pet shops. Recent Kennel Club research found that some 1.2 million people (one in five dog owners) may have bought a puppy from a so-called 'puppy farm'.[171] Canine Action UK noted the lack of accurate commercial dog breeding figures but considered there to be an "overproduction of dogs bred for the pet market" and criticised the ease with which dogs could be purchased.[172]

87.  Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 an owner of a pet is obliged to:

  • provide a proper diet (including fresh water);
  • provide somewhere suitable to live;
  • cater for any need to be housed with or apart from other animals;
  • allow it to express normal behaviour; and
  • provide protection from and treatment of illness and injury.[173]

88.  In addition to these welfare protections for all dogs, anyone who carries on a business of breeding dogs for sale must obtain a licence from their local authority and meet certain conditions, such as providing suitable accommodation, food, water and bedding.[174] The law also limits the timing and frequency of breeding from a bitch: bitches cannot be mated before they are a year old; should have no more than six litters in a lifetime; and can only have one litter every 12 months. Dog breeders should keep records to show compliance with these requirements. Puppies bred at licensed breeding establishments can only be sold at those premises or at a licensed pet shop. So-called 'hobby breeders' who are not in the business of breeding dogs for sale and produce fewer than five litters in any 12 month period do not need to obtain a licence.

89.  Professor Patrick Bateson conducted an independent inquiry into dog breeding partly in response to public concern about the ease by which puppies bred under poor welfare conditions may be sold in the UK.[175] Professor Bateson's report, published in January 2010, focused on the problems of negligent or incompetent management of breeding bitches; failure to socialise puppies; the sale of dogs that are unsuited to the conditions in which they will be kept; and issues related to breeding of pedigree dogs (which we consider separately below).

90.  The Bateson report noted the high level of concern about the welfare implications of large-scale commercial breeding of dogs. It concluded that, while many breeders "exercise the highest standards of welfare, are passionate about caring for their dogs properly and take great trouble to ensure that their puppies go to good homes," nevertheless "current dog breeding practices do in many cases impose welfare costs".[176] The report noted that welfare concerns often arose when breeders regarded dogs as "tradeable commodities".[177] Professor Sheila Crispin, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding,[178]—an independent body established following the Bateson review—stated that there are "real and immediate" challenges from both "neglectful large-scale dog breeding for profit" and "ignorant breeding by well-meaning owners who are poorly prepared to do the task well".[179]

91.  The current dog breeding legislation was criticised by many witnesses both in the terms of its provisions and enforcement. The BVA, the BSAVA and the Dogs Trust, amongst others, advocated stronger controls and regulation of dog breeders.[180] On the other hand, the Countryside Alliance argued that further dog breeding legislation was not required because the existing framework provided a "good framework of regulation".[181] Nonetheless, the Alliance accepted that there might be a need for further codes and/or regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 1986 setting out issues on welfare and breeding practices in greater detail.[182]

92.  The Advisory Council has recently devised a Breeding Standard setting out essential elements of good practice on a raft of issues related to breeding which it has sent to Defra and the Devolved Administrations for their consideration. The Council developed the Standard since, in its opinion "no other current standard published in the UK [is] comprehensive enough to fully protect the welfare of both breeding stock and their puppies". The Standard states that a dog's "specific experiences early in life and the relative complexity of the environment have a profound influence on behaviour throughout life". It further notes that:

These issues are as true for cross-bred dogs as they are for Kennel Club registered and so-called pure-bred puppies. It is therefore important that only physically and temperamentally healthy dogs are used for breeding and that their puppies are reared in an appropriate environment.[183]

93.  The Welsh Government has consulted on amendments to the dog breeding regime in Wales. It is proposing amendments to the Animal Welfare (Dog Breeding) (Wales) Regulations 2011 to change the threshold so that a person who has three breeding bitches and who breeds three or more litters a year will need to be licensed.[184] A number of witnesses to this inquiry supported such an approach. The BVA and the BSAVA told us that "five litters is an awful lot. You could produce 40 puppies from that in a year," and they therefore supported a limit of no more than two litters per year before a breeder needed to be licensed.[185] The Blue Cross went further, recommending that any owner of two or more un-neutered dogs should be licensed as a breeder.[186]

94.  The current threshold for licensing breeders, which is set at five litters per year, could equate to some 40 to 50 dogs being produced by each breeder each year. We consider that threshold is too high and therefore recommend that anyone breeding more than two litters per year should be licensed as a breeder.

Sale of dogs

95.  The Pet Animals Act 1951 (as amended in 1983) protects the welfare of animals sold as pets. The Act requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local authority. Before granting a licence the local authority must be satisfied that the animals are kept in accommodation that is both suitable and clean; that they are supplied with appropriate food and drink; and are adequately protected from disease and fire. The local authority may attach additional requirements to the licence, may inspect the licensed premises at all reasonable times and may refuse a licence if the conditions at the premises are unsatisfactory. Non-compliance can lead to removal of the licence. The Kennel Club noted that enforcement of the legislation varied across the country and, along with other witnesses, proposed an end to the sale of puppies from pet shops.[187]

96.  Despite public concern about puppy farming and the health and welfare implications for breeding bitches and their puppies, there is little public awareness of the basic precautions that should be taken when buying a puppy. For example, Professor Crispin told us puppies should always be seen with their mother.[188] She considered it was "absolutely essential" that the public be better educated about welfare when buying a puppy.[189] The BVA has supported the introduction of a puppy contract setting out requirements on both sellers and purchasers in order to safeguard the basic welfare of puppies.

97.  We recommend that Defra and other agencies such as local authorities and dog welfare charities work together to publicise puppy contracts and make buyers aware of the need to buy only from reputable sources and to ensure basic conditions are met, such as always seeing a puppy with its mother.

98.  We received a great deal of evidence expressing concern over the sale of dogs via internet advertisements. In the absence of even basic guidance on the purchase of pet animals online, the Dogs Trust advocated banning the sale of pets online and recommended urgent work with websites to improve the ability of their systems to "filter out unscrupulous advertisements".[190] Canine Action UK also drew attention to the lack of any "real regulation" of pet advertising and the anonymous nature of internet adverts. It noted that few internet sites carry any advice for buyers, meaning a "vital opportunity to educate on good purchasing protocol is lost".[191]

99.  Some companies are taking steps to improve their sites. Gumtree stated that animal welfare was "at the heart" of changes to its process for listing animals for sale. For example, an advertiser of a pet for sale must now register with the website and agree to abide by certain rules—such as not selling a dog sourced from commercial breeders or a puppy aged under eight weeks.[192]

100.  The Advisory Council stated that the Government should be "ready to update the legislation controlling the advertising, sale and supply of dogs" since, although already regulated, current controls were "old and outdated" and needed to be replaced with ones which were both effective and resource efficient.[193]

101.  The internet is making it easy for disreputable breeders to find a market for dogs and puppies and to operate without appropriate traceability, transparency and accountability due to the anonymous nature of an online transaction. This could have grave consequences for the health and welfare of the animal being sold, as well as causing buyers distress and cost. We welcome the work of those websites and agencies attempting to find solutions, but not all websites are taking steps to improve and, as Gumtree's evidence highlighted, there are means by which an unscrupulous trader could circumvent the processes designed to protect animal welfare.[194] We recommend that Defra works with websites and with other Government departments, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, initially to develop a voluntary Code of Practice to which it should encourage any internet site offering dogs or puppies for sale to adhere. This Code should establish minimum requirements for any listing of a dog or puppy for sale on the internet, such as pre-registration of the seller so that they can be identified at a later date if necessary and setting a minimum age of eight weeks for any puppy sold.

Pedigree dogs

102.  Professor Bateson's inquiry included pedigree dog breeding and explored a number of concerns about health and welfare raised in a 2008 television documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed.[195] This documentary criticised some pedigree dog breeders and the Kennel Club for allowing Breed Standards, judging standards and breeding practices—such the mating of dogs closely related to each other—to compromise the health of pedigree dogs.

103.  Professor Bateson concluded that some of the main reasons why some breeders continued to breed unhealthy animals included the owner's early exposure to a breed and opportunities for them to care with animals with a health problem. However, he also said that "it cannot be denied that some recognise an opportunity for making money....irrespective of welfare issues".[196] Professor Bateson's report made a number of recommendations addressed to the Kennel Club, the veterinary profession, the research community and local and central government. They included tackling:

  • the use of closely related breeding pairs which had led to an increase in already high levels of inbreeding;
  • the use of breeding pairs carrying inherited disorders; and
  • the artificial selection for extreme characteristics that were "directly responsible for the failure to meet one or more welfare criteria".[197]


104.  The Kennel Club told us that "significant and effective steps" had been taken, [198] both before and since Professor Bateson's report, and that it recognised that the Club was in a "strong position to influence, help and work with relevant parties," since its registered breeders were "obliged to follow its rules". However, there remained irresponsible breeders who operated outside the Club's sphere of control.[199]

105.  The Kennel Club has a General Code of Ethics by which all breeders who register their puppies or dogs must abide. This includes a statement that a breeder should agree not to breed from a dog or bitch which could in "any way be harmful to the dog or to the breed".[200] However, the Club does not appear to collate data on compliance with this requirement. The Club also has an Assured Breeder Scheme under which breeders must make use of health screening schemes relevant to their specific breed stock (including DNA testing, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and inherited eye condition schemes). The Club would like to see principles and standards similar to the Assured Breeder Scheme made mandatory for anyone breeding dogs.[201] Nevertheless, the Club continues to accept registration of dogs not bred under this scheme. Furthermore, as Professor Bateson's report notes, there is no requirement under the Club's Assured Breeder Scheme to apply the results of health tests to breeding decisions.[202]

106.  Dog welfare charities considered that the Kennel Club and the veterinary profession had made "some progress" in prioritising the health and welfare of pedigree dogs,[203] with some witnesses praising the "significant strides" made by the Kennel Club "pushing quite hard" on the Assured Breeder Scheme and vet checks at dog shows.[204] Yet these charities, as well as the BVA and the BSAVA, considered that there was still much to be done to protect the future health of dogs.[205] In 2011 the Advisory Council stated that it was unlikely that the Bateson report had had "any impact on irresponsible breeders, in part through ignorance, but also because some aim to make as much money as possible without any consideration for animal welfare".[206]

107.  Whilst we recognise that the Kennel Club and individual breed clubs do not have a remit to control the actions of all pedigree dog breeders, let alone all dog breeders, these bodies have a vital role to play in influencing the opinions of breeders and buyers. In particular, those considering purchasing a pedigree puppy or dog will be influenced in their decision by the fact that the animal may be registered with the Kennel Club. The Kennel Club has a vital role in shaping the culture of the dog breeding community and must make far greater efforts to ensure that it pursues every opportunity to communicate the need for high health and welfare standards to be at the centre of all breeding practices. We recommend that the Kennel Club refuse to register puppies that do not meet the conditions of its Assured Breeder Scheme so as to send a strong signal to breeders about the need to adopt high health and welfare standards. The Assured Breeder Scheme should require key tests for heritable health problems to be undertaken and the results of these tests applied to breeding decisions as a condition of membership of the Scheme.

Tackling inbreeding and inherited disease

108.  The pedigree dog breeding community places a value on 'line breeding'—mate selection based on genealogy. Many breeders make a distinction between line breeding and inbreeding, but, as Professor Bateson notes, this is a distinction without a difference.[207] Although there can be positive outcomes from inbreeding if it leads to the loss of some deleterious genes and thus improve the health of a breed, Professor Bateson highlighted a range of health problems linked to inbreeding. These were also a focus of the Pedigree Dogs Exposed television programme. The Kennel Club has now banned first degree matings (ie parents to offspring, siblings to each other). However, in some breeds there has been such a level of inbreeding that the genetic pool is very limited and the number of genetically distinct individuals of certain breeds is so low as to pose a potential threat to the continuation of that breed.[208] Research published by Imperial College London based on Kennel Club data found "extremely inbred dogs in each breed except the greyhound" with an "effective population size of between 40 and 80" for all but two of the breeds studied.[209] The BVA and the BSAVA recommend increasing the diversity of the gene pool by a) limiting the use of popular sires, b) prohibiting the breeding of puppies where the co-efficient of inbreeding is greater than 12.5%,[210] and c) by outcrossing.[211]

109.  Outcrossing has improved the genetic diversity of some breeds, but there are those in the breeding community who oppose breeding away from the 'pure lines'. As the Bateson report notes, whilst respondents stated that breed purity should under "no circumstances take precedence over welfare" there was "little support among current breed societies" for outcrossing.[212] Professor Crispin highlighted the lack of knowledge of many breeders, stating that many of those who run breed clubs knew "very little science" and were "ignorant about the effects of inbreeding".[213] The Kennel Club said that it was "willing to look at crossbreed programmes as long as they are scientifically based" and that the Club would register these crossbred dogs and allow them to be shown. It has undertaken work on outcrossing including with Dalmatians, Bloodhounds, Otterhounds, Foxhounds, Poodles, Miniature Bull Terriers, Dachshunds and Belgian Shepherds.[214]

110.  Professor Bateson acknowledged the need to develop breeding strategies specific to individual breeds to prevent ever smaller gene pools leading to worse problems or creating new ones. He referred to the work occurring internationally on breed issues noting that as much collaboration as possible should be pursued, particularly since some countries such as New Zealand, Sweden and Finland were "way ahead of us".[215]

111.  We recommend that the Kennel Club and breed clubs work with the veterinary and research communities to co-ordinate action to develop outcrossing strategies for those breeds which have the most pressing health issues linked to inbreeding and narrow gene pools. These bodies should ensure that they liaise with international counterparts to learn from the experiences of those countries with similar breed problems.

Data gathering

112.  The Advisory Council stated that "only with good data on incidence can disease be tackled effectively by identifying those individual dogs who are affected or may be genetic carriers".[216] The Council considered that the veterinary profession should have a role in collecting data on inherited defects. Professor Crispin noted that data gathering to date had been "pretty grim".[217] Professor Bateson's report concluded that, while a long list of heritable diseases affected dogs, "little or no hard data" was available on their prevalence amongst the UK dog population.[218]

113.  The BVA and the BSAVA recommended improving data gathering so as to identify individuals with heritable diseases or exaggerated characteristics and that this information should be made available to those seeking to breed from or buy progeny from these animals. They welcomed the DNA testing programmes largely funded by the Kennel Club and run by the Animal Health Trust.[219] There have been some significant new programmes aimed at filling the data gap which have been welcomed by the Advisory Council—in particular the SAVSNET project run by the BSAVA and Liverpool University, [220] and the VetCompass project, co-ordinated by the Royal Veterinary College. The latter aims to develop online surveillance of inherited and acquired disorders in dogs and cats through collecting data from vets. The Royal Veterinary College retains the data securely and it noted that veterinary practitioners had been "very positive" about the project with the sharing of data covering over 125,000 dogs.[221] Furthermore, initiatives such as the Kennel Club's Mate Select, which provides information on health test results and on the co-efficients of inbreeding for breeds, helps to provide data on the implications for the health of offspring of potential matings.[222]

114.  Nevertheless, Professor Crispin was concerned about the lack of co-ordination, stating that "what happened after Pedigree Dogs Exposed was that people decided they would collect data, but they all went running off in different directions rather like a bunch of ferrets. We need good quality, robust data". She was also concerned about the need to secure funding for such research.[223]

115.  The most effective approaches to improving the health of pedigree dogs will be those based on good data so that breed-specific assessments can be made and strategies developed for overall breed health. We endorse the work of academics, veterinary professionals and breeders who are working to provide sufficient data to develop strategies to improve the health of breeds, including outcrossing where relevant. However, it is vital that there is proper co-ordination of research and data gathering and that adequate funding is secured.

116.  The insurance industry in countries such as Sweden collects health data to enable a full picture of health problems in pedigree dogs. Some witnesses advocated this approach for the UK. Professor Bateson told us that he found that:

it was impossible to get data out of the insurance companies. In Sweden there is a big insurance company that has readily given data on health problems in dogs. We really need this here. I do not know how one could apply pressure to the insurance companies, but it would be very important to have that information, because they are collecting it all the time. That would be yet another way of trying to get information about the prevalence of diseases.[224]

117.  The Association of British Insurers (ABI) accepted that in theory it would be possible to gather such data but noted that there could be practical issues, such as sample size affecting reliability, and data would need to be extrapolated to industry level to avoid commercial objections from insurance companies.[225] Sue Ellis, Defra's Deputy Director, Animal Welfare Team, told us that Defra had had no discussions on the possibility of requiring insurance companies to provide data. Nevertheless, the Minister told us that he recognised the logic in this approach but was "mindful of the data protection controls" and had asked Professor Crispin to consider the issue further.[226]

118.  We note the potential value of data held by the insurance industry on claims related to dog health which could be used to inform the development of health improvement programmes. We recommend that Defra investigates with the insurance industry the potential for aggregated, anonymised data to be provided to researchers on the incidences of inherited and other diseases in dog breeds.

Breed Standards

119.  It is clear that the morphology of some breeds has changed significantly over time. Professor Bateson's report included pictures to show how appearances had changed, for example in Basset Hounds and Dachshunds.

Figure 1 shows: left, the Basset Hound in 1901 (top) and 2004; and right, the Dachshund in 1930 (top) and 2004. Figure 1

Source: Patrick Bateson, Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding, p 32

120.  The Kennel Club determines Breed Standards for some 210 pedigree dog breeds. These set out in a detailed "picture in words", the desired physical characteristics which are used by judges at all licensed breed shows. The Kennel Club owns the standards and all changes are subject to approval by the Club's General Committee.[227] Both the television documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed and the Bateson report noted that the change in physical characteristics to meet idealised appearances as set out in Breed Standards has had negative impacts on the health of some breeds. The Pedigree Dogs Exposed programme linked extreme conformity to these standards in some breeds to a range of health issues, including those related to skull and back structures and problems with skin and eyes. The Bateson report stated that "in some instances, the Breed Standard and selection for specific characteristics contained within it, can be demonstrated to be directly threatening to health and welfare".[228] It stated that "selection for form rather than use has created in specific breeds a number of welfare problems that need to be addressed".[229]

121.   The Bateson report also referred to the fact that both dog owners and the veterinary profession have become "desensitised" to the difficulties suffered by dogs bred to reflect extreme traits.[230] For example, in May 2012 the Royal Veterinary College published a study which found that "many owners of short-nosed dogs consider breathing problems to be normal for the breed".[231] The Chief Executive of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare stated that "it is likely that many other genetic welfare problems, caused by selective breeding for particular physical characteristics are also perceived by pet owners as normal". He added that a lack of information was a problem for pet owners which the Federation was trying to address by provision of an online resource describing welfare conditions on a breed by breed basis.[232]

122.  In recent years, the Kennel Club has introduced a number of measures to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs, including revisions to some Breed Standards. It has targeted a number of key breeds such as Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. The Kennel Club's website states that the Club wants to ensure that:

the show-ring is a positive force for change—as Professor Bateson said that it could be—and that it acts as an incentive for breeding healthy, happy dogs—in order to achieve this it has to ensure that dogs are bred without exaggerations.[233]

123.  According to the Kennel Club, it has reviewed the Breed Standards to ensure that none contains "any wording that could be interpreted as encouraging exaggerations and to make it absolutely clear that health must always come first". However, the Club notes on its website that "sadly all of this is no guarantee that some irresponsible breeders will stop breeding their dogs with exaggerations that are dangerous to their health".[234] The Dachshund Breed Council argued that, since only 16% of Miniature Smooth-haired Dachshund litters registered with the Kennel Club were bred by people involved in showing, then "any argument that the dog-showing breeder community is responsible for the ill-health of pedigree dogs has no basis in fact for Dachshunds".[235] The Dachshund Breed Council, which represents 18 Dachshund breed clubs, told us about its work as a co-ordinating body to promote health and welfare in Dachshunds through education and research. It had made a number of amendments to the Dachshund Breed Standard to emphasise the need to avoid exaggeration, and made this a "key message" in educational events.[236]

124.  However, some commentators remain concerned that too little has been done to address the consequences of the Kennel Club's Breed Standards on the health of pedigree dogs. The RSPCA cited the fact that of 22 recommendations made to the Kennel Club on Breed Standards only eight had so far been implemented.[237] The Dogs Trust considered it unacceptable for dogs with genetic health problems to continue to be held up as a "pinnacle for good breeding" at dog shows.[238] The BVA and the BSAVA wanted Breed Standards to emphasise health and not aesthetics, and in a rebuttal of the arguments made by the Dachshund Breed Council, referred to the "disproportionate influence" of show dogs on the desired phenotype and genotype of a breed.[239] The Associations urged "greater pressure" on those showing and breeding dogs to improve the health and welfare of their dogs and called for an independent review of Breed Standards led by vets.[240]

125.  Nonetheless, the Kennel Club states that "there will be no place for such dogs at Crufts ... or other championship dog shows".[241]

126.  Whilst we recognise that the Kennel Club and some breed clubs have taken steps to address the consequences of Breed Standards on the health of some pedigree dogs, progress has been slow and many problems remain. Those involved in breeding dogs, including the Kennel Club, breed clubs and individual breeders, must redouble their efforts to eradicate health problems caused by conformation to Breed Standards.

127.  We recommend that the Kennel Club commission an annual review of Breed Standards to be undertaken by an independent panel of experts led by relevant representatives from the veterinary profession.

Vet checks at dog shows

128.  A further measure the Kennel Club has introduced to improve pedigree dog health and welfare is the requirement for any dog from one of 15 'high profile' breeds winning 'best in breed' category at certain dog shows to undergo a veterinary health check.[242] At Crufts and other championship shows held in 2012 several dogs awarded best in breed failed these vet checks and were not allowed to proceed any further in the show. Many witnesses, including dog welfare charities such as the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust, welcomed these checks which the Trust considered to be a "positive step" to discourage the showing of unhealthy dogs.[243] The BVA and the BSAVA also welcomed vet checks but wanted them extended to cover more breeds. They also urged the publication of health and genetic test results before a dog is awarded champion status.[244] The Associations responded positively to our suggestion that random checks could be made on any dog being entered in a dog show ahead of the event.[245] Professor Crispin told us that the Kennel Club's proposed extension of checks beyond the current 15 'high profile' breeds would make it "fairer all round". She noted that the resistance to the checks from breeders had diminished over time.[246]

129.  We welcome moves by the Kennel Club to introduce vet checks at dog shows. Extending these checks to other breeds will be a helpful step. The Kennel Club should also consider the feasibility of performing additional checks on dogs before their entrance to show is accepted, perhaps through selecting dogs at random to reduce the burden of conducting a large number of checks.


130.  There are mixed views as to whether the types of voluntary approaches discussed above are sufficient to drive timely improvements in dog health or whether there needs to be additional regulation. The Dogs Trust would like the Government to introduce legislation to help prevent "inappropriate breeding practices" particularly the intentional inbreeding of closely related dogs or those with "known debilitating genetic illnesses".[247] The RSPCA noted that, since Defra preferred other means, such as accreditation schemes or education programmes, "no progress has occurred in England on dog breeding legislation".[248] Professors Bateson and Crispin told the Committee that they considered that Defra should take a more proactive role in driving through change.[249] Professor Bateson labelled Defra's approach "a bit reactive" and noted that change could be effected by amending the Animal Welfare Act.[250]

131.  Professor Bateson's report led to the setting up of the Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding to develop "evidence-based breeding strategies that address the issues of poor conformation, inherited disease and inbreeding, as appropriate to the specific breed and to provide advice on the priorities for research and development in this area".[251] The RSPCA told us that it welcomed the Council's establishment since it had "undertaken a lot of good work on agreeing breeding standards and recommendations for the top eight priority welfare issues".[252] While Defra has committed to considering the Advisory Council's recommendations, a majority of those submitting evidence to the All Party Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW) considered the Council should have "more statutory power to apply recommendations immediately" and be given increased resources in terms of "both manpower and money".[253] The BVA and the BSAVA considered that the Council was "on the right track" since it could bring stakeholders together to take a more co-ordinated approach, but urged Defra to redress the lack of funding so that the Council could "work properly".[254]

132.  The Advisory Council itself has argued that the Government should consider providing some financial support for a specified period since the body is currently funded through charitable donations. A match-funding arrangement would enable it to work "more closely with Government and to undertake more complex research and projects with confidence".[255] Professor Crispin regretted the Council's lack of power and told us that at the moment the Advisory Council could "recommend as much as we like, but our recommendations can be totally ignored".[256] The Minister told us that an advantage of the Council was that by working through consensus its recommendations "carry consequent weight and influence", however he could not commit to providing it with financial support.[257]

133.  We were not convinced by the Minister's evidence to us that Defra places a high priority on tackling health and welfare issues linked to dog breeding. He was unable to provide us with detailed information at our oral evidence session in October 2012. Asked whether Defra had assessed the effectiveness of local authorities in relation to their dog welfare role, the Minister said it had not and had no plans to do so formally.[258] On the issue of establishing minimum criteria for breeding, he considered this was something it was "less appropriate to regulate for" but when pressed he was not "able to elucidate why I think that but it is the view I have".[259] On the matter of inbreeding and Breed Standards causing welfare problems he said "it is not something that I have given a lot of thought to".[260] On several occasions the Minister said he would be able to answer questions following a meeting with the Chair of the Advisory Council.[261]

134.  We are concerned that Defra appears to have been, and continues to be, reactive rather than proactive on issues relating to pedigree dog health and welfare. The Minister appeared poorly briefed, disengaged and content to rely on the Advisory Council to which the Department has delegated the responsibility but not the powers to enable it to be effective. The current limits to the Advisory Council's remit hamper its ability to drive change. We recommend that Defra consider giving the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding a regulatory role on the implementation of provisions relevant to dog breeding. Funding should continue to be provided by those involved in dog breeding such as the Kennel Club and dog welfare charities.

135.  Professor Bateson's report raised the possibility of an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 so that "any person breeding dogs should have regard to the health and welfare of both the parents and the offspring of the mating". He recommended that a statutory Code of Practice on the Breeding of Dogs should be established under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.[262] Despite the overwhelming evidence that certain conditions are inherited, outcomes are not straightforward to predict in individual cases. Breeders can test their dogs and bitches for diseases such as hip dysplasia, Syringomyelia, congenital eye conditions and heart defects, and there are DNA tests available for a range of other diseases.[263] However, it is not possible to establish in advance the health outcomes for the offspring of specific matings for many disorders.[264]

136.  Current legislation provides little protection for puppies that may inherit health problems due to inbreeding or breeding for conformation. Whilst it is not possible currently to predict with total certainty the health outcomes for all matings, nonetheless health tests on individual dogs and general breed data could enable breeders to make better informed judgments about the probability of a mating leading to puppies with a specific health problem. Despite some progress under a voluntary approach, this information is not currently being fully utilised by all breeders. We recommend that Defra consider amending the Animal Welfare Act 1986 to place a duty on anyone breeding a dog to have regard to any offspring's health and welfare. As part of this consideration, Defra must ensure that sufficient data is available to a breeder at an affordable cost to enable them to make informed decisions as to whether it is appropriate to breed from any dog or bitch.

171   "Rogue breeders and online puppy scam fools millions", The Kennel Club press release, 6 September 2012. The Kennel Club defines puppy farmers as volume breeders who have little consideration for the basic needs and care for their breeding bitches and puppies Back

172   Ev w36  Back

173   RSPCA website animal welfare webpages Back

174   The requirement to be licensed is made under provisions in the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 which amended and extended the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 Back

175   Patrick Bateson, University of Cambridge, Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding, Executive Summary, January 2010 (referred to in this report as the 'Bateson Report')  Back

176   As above Back

177   As above, p 20 Back

178   Note: the Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding is referred to in this report as the 'Advisory Council' Back

179   Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, Annual Report 2011, May 2012 Back

180   Ev 87 and Ev 84 Back

181   Ev w18  Back

182   As above  Back

183   Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, Standard for Breeding Dogs, August 2012  Back

184   Welsh Government, Written Statement: Consultation on Dog Breeding Regulations, 20 December 2011 Back

185   Q 349 Back

186   Ev 79 Back

187   Ev 99 Back

188   Q 212 Back

189   Q 204 Back

190   Ev 84 Back

191   Ev w36 Back

192   Gumtree blog, Back

193   Ev 111 Back

194   Ev w92 Back

195   The BBC broadcast Pedigree Dogs Exposed in August 2008. This set out concerns about health and welfare issues related to pedigree dog breeding. A follow-up programme was broadcast in 2012 Back

196   Bateson Report, p 35 Back

197   Bateson Report, Executive Summary, p3 Back

198   Ev 98  Back

199   As above  Back

200   The General Code of Ethics is on the Kennel Club website at Back

201   Ev 98  Back

202   Bateson Report p 23 Back

203   Ev 84 Back

204   Q 164 [Clare Horton and Steve Goody] Back

205   Ev 84  Back

206   Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, Annual Report 2011 Back

207   Bateson Report, p15 Back

208   Calboli FC, Sampson J, Fretwell N, Balding DJ, Population structure and inbreeding from pedigree analysis of purebred dogs, August 2008. Examples of small population size include Boxers, Rough Collies, English Springer Spaniels, Akitas Back

209   Bateson Report, p 17 Back

210   The coefficient of inbreeding indicates the probability that two genes at any locus in an individual are identical by descent from the common ancestors of the two parents. The inbreeding coefficient of an individual is approximately half the relationship between the two parents. This equivalence only applies to low levels of inbreeding in an otherwise outbred population. e.g. two single first cousins normally have a relationship of 1/8. If there has been no previous inbreeding, their offspring will have a coefficient of 1/16. With high levels of continuous inbreeding this relationship breaks down with corresponding increases in coefficients to a maximum theoretical value of 1.0, resulting from close inbreeding over time Back

211   Outcrossing is the practice of introducing unrelated genetic material into a breeding line. Dog breeders may choose to outcross by mating a dog of one breed with a bitch with no common ancestor in order to introduce desired traits Back

212   Bateson Report, p 21 Back

213   Q 195 and Q 197 Back

214   Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare, Dog Breeding Update Report, July 2012 Back

215   Q 199 Back

216   Ev 111 Back

217   Q 191 Back

218   Bateson Report, para 4.15 Back

219   Ev 87  Back

220   The Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) aims to provide information on the frequency of occurrence of diseases in the small animal vet-visiting population through two parallel surveillance projects Back

221   Ev w65 Back

222   For further details see http://www.the-kennel Back

223   Q 191 Back

224   Q 191 Back

225   Ev w97  Back

226   Ev 129 Back

227   Kennel Club website, Breed Standard webpages Back

228   Bateson Report, p 33, para 6.20 Back

229   Bateson Report, p 39 Back

230   Bateson Report, p 22 Back

231   "Worrying numbers of "short-nosed" dog owners do not believe their pets to have breathing problems, despite observing severe clinical signs," Royal Veterinary Society press release, May 2012 Back

232   "Breathing problems 'considered normal' by owners of short-nosed dogs", Veterinary Record, 19 May 2012. The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) website is at Back

233   Kennel Club webpages, Back

234   Kennel Club webpages Back

235   Ev 127  Back

236   Ev 125 Back

237   Q 164 [Gavin Grant] Back

238   Ev 84  Back

239   Ev 87  Back

240   Q 335 Back

241   Kennel Club Webpages, Back

242   The Kennel Club has identified 15 so-called 'high profile' breeds based on the potential for conformation standards to raise health issues Back

243   Ev 84  Back

244   Ev 87  Back

245   Q 346 Back

246   Q 210 Back

247   Ev 84  Back

248   Ev 77  Back

249   Q 177 Back

250   As above Back

251   Bateson Report, p 4 Back

252   Ev 77 Back

253   As above Back

254   Ev 87  Back

255   Ev 111 Back

256   Q 181 Back

257   Ev 129  Back

258   Q 406 Back

259   Q 416 and Q 417 Back

260   Q 431 Back

261   For example Q 419, Q 430 Back

262   Bateson Report, Executive Summary, p 4 Back

263   For examples see Kennel Club webpages, Back

264   Kennel Club webpages on genetic health Approximately 400 inherited diseases have now been identified in the dog and of these the majority have a simple recessive mode of inheritance. However some of the inherited conditions that most worry present day dog breeders are more complex, being caused by problems in more than one different gene, so called polygenic diseases (eg hip dysplasia). In addition, some of these polygenic conditions are also influenced by environmental factors. Hip dysplasia, for example, can be affected by both exercising and feeding  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 15 February 2013