Animal welfare in England: domestic pets Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Secondary legislation

1.The Animal Welfare Act 2006 has the potential to significantly improve levels of animal welfare. However, the effectiveness of the Act has been undermined by the lack of secondary legislation. (Paragraph 15)

2.We recommend that the Government set out a timetable for the secondary legislation that was foreseen ten years ago in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. (Paragraph 16)

Progeny of dogs

3.We recommend that the Government pass regulations to protect the genetic viability and welfare of offspring as well as adult dogs. (Paragraph 21)

Awareness of the Act

4.We recommend that the Government develop an ongoing partnership with animal welfare charities to educate the public in England about the Animal Welfare Act 2006. (Paragraph 25)

5.We recommend that the Government examine how animal welfare can be incorporated into citizenship classes as part of the school curriculum. (Paragraph 26)

Breeding of dogs

6.The puppy market is extremely profitable. However, much of it works in the dark, with unlicensed breeders able to dominate the market. Transparency is vital, ensuring that appropriate welfare standards are in place. The current threshold at which breeders need to be licensed, 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. (Paragraph 37)

7.We recommend that anyone breeding two litters or more per year should be licensed as a breeder. (Paragraph 38)

8.We recommend that those falling below the threshold of a licensed breeder should be registered with their Local Authority. (Paragraph 39)

9.Breeders have an important responsibility to provide for the social development and broader welfare requirements for puppies in their care. We recommend that the legislation governing the breeding of dogs should be updated with a licensing regime based on modern welfare standards. (Paragraph 48)

10.Current enforcement of the licensing regime is unsatisfactory. While some local authorities have developed expertise in animal welfare, the overwhelming majority of English local authorities lack suitably qualified inspectors. We believe that a national inspectorate, which local authorities could call upon, would enable expertise to develop and bring a consistency to the licensing process. (Paragraph 56)

11.We recommend that a national inspectorate should be established to liaise and support local authorities in enforcing the licensing regime, undertaking inspections and dealing with complaints. (Paragraph 57)

12.UKAS accreditation is a good thing, and we encourage its pursuit on its own merits. However, we do not believe that it is a substitution for local authorities’ inspection. Therefore we do not support the Government’s proposal to establish a complete local authority licensing exemption for businesses accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. (Paragraph 62)

13.The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is providing a vehicle for the illegal importation of puppies. The Government must ensure that negotiations regarding our future relationship with Europe include this issue. The age at which dogs are allowed to enter the United Kingdom under PETS should be increased to six months, thereby reducing their commercial value to smugglers. (Paragraph 72)

14.We recommend that the Government increase spot checks at entry points into the United Kingdom to enforce the rules on non-commercial trade on domestic animals. (Paragraph 73)

15.We recommend increased working between government agencies and charities to understand how the puppy smuggling trade works and how to reduce it effectively. (Paragraph 74)

Sale of dogs

16.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. (Paragraph 90)

17.We recommend that the Government ban third party sales of dogs. Dogs should only be available from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations. (Paragraph 91)

18.Puppies should not be bought online. Potential owners should see the young animals with their mothers and make sure they are at least eight weeks old. However we recognise that in the digital age, people will continue to use the internet to advertise, and legislation must be developed to provide effective regulation of that trade. (Paragraph 99)

19.We recommend that PAAG’s minimum standards should be made mandatory for all websites where pets are advertised and sold. (Paragraph 100)

20.We recommend that legislation should state specifically that those advertising the sale of animals on the internet should have a licence. It is essential that legislation remains relevant and effective in the digital age. (Paragraph 101)

21.We recommend that the Government make it compulsory that all internet advertisements should include the registration or licence number of the seller. We also recommend that the Government look at the new regime in France where the seller’s tax code is included on the advertisement, to see whether such a regime could be put in place in the United Kingdom. (Paragraph 102)

22.We recommend that Defra establish a publicly accessible list of registered and licensed breeders and sellers. (Paragraph 104)

Central reporting system

23.We recommend that Defra work with local authorities to investigate the possibility of creating a central reporting system for complaints relating to the breeding and sale of pets. (Paragraph 107)

Breeding of cats

24.Although the dog market is more lucrative, we do not consider this a reason to do less to protect the welfare of cats. Although it is recognised that responsible breeders prioritise welfare conditions, many cats are bred in poor welfare conditions. We recommend that breeders of cats of two litters or more should be licensed, with welfare conditions attached. (Paragraph 112)

Sale of cats

25.We recommend that the Government undertakes further research on the sale of cats and proposes recommendations to improve the trade. (Paragraph 114)

Equine identification and traceability

26.The equine identification system needs to be made much simpler with higher standards. We recommend that the Government systematically and significantly reduces the number of Passport Issuing Organisations, examining the possibility of establishing a single Passport Issuing Organisation. (Paragraph 124)

27.Since the closure of the National Equine Database in 2012, it has been impossible to enforce the equine identification system. We are disappointed that the UK Government did not meet the EU’s deadline of 1 July 2016 for creating a new database. We expect the Minister to write to us to confirm that the database is working by 1 January 2017. (Paragraph 128)

Formal investigatory and enforcement powers—local government and police

28.A major weakness of the Animal Welfare Act is that no state organisation is statutorily responsible for animal welfare. It is unacceptable that in a modern society no state organisation is responsible for animal welfare. (Paragraph 134)

29.We recommend that the Government place a statutory duty on local authorities to enforce the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Government must ensure that appropriate resources are made available to local authorities to support them in this extension of their statutory duties. (Paragraph 135)

Role of the RSPCA

30.The RSPCA has an invaluable role in investigating allegations of animal mistreatment. We recognise that the organisation fulfils a role in animal welfare not currently performed by local government. However, recent criticism has led to its reputation being diminished in the eyes of the public. We welcome the organisation’s acknowledgment that it needs to be more transparent and accountable.
(Paragraph 147)

31.The RSPCA must ensure that its new complaints procedure is better publicised, including the external reviewer aspect, and made clear for members of the public. (Paragraph 148)

32.The Wooler Report recognised that the RSPCA needed to make changes in terms of accountability and transparency before receiving statutory authority. We are surprised that some of these changes are only being put in place two years after the publication of the Report. At this time, we do not recommend that the RSPCA is given statutory status. The Committee recommends that the RSPCA swiftly, and fully, implements all recommendations of the Wooler review. (Paragraph 163)

33.The Committee does not believe that the current model in England and Wales where the RSPCA brings private prosecutions alongside its investigative, campaigning and fundraising functions provides the necessary separation to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. (Paragraph 164)

34.The Committee recommends that the RSPCA should continue its important work investigating animal welfare cases and working closely with the police and statutory authorities. It should, however, withdraw from acting as a prosecutor of first resort where there are statutory bodies with a duty to carry out this role. We are not convinced by its arguments that it is in a better position than the CPS to prosecute animal welfare cases. (Paragraph 165)

35.However, the Committee notes that the CPS would need to be suitably resourced and trained in the area of animal welfare to take on what will be an increased work load. (Paragraph 166)

36.We recommend that the Government look at amending current legislation to make the RSPCA a Specialist Reporting Authority. (Paragraph 167)

37.The Committee believes that the RSPCA should retain the ability to bring private prosecutions where it reasonably believes that there is no statutory alternative and where such a prosecution would further its charitable objectives. (Paragraph 168)


38.The current penalties for animal welfare offences in England are amongst the lowest in Europe. We recommend that the maximum penalty is increased to five years. We recommend that Defra should start discussions with the Ministry of Justice by the end of the year to achieve this. (Paragraph 175)

Animal Abusers Register

39.It is very difficult to track those who have been banned from keeping animals. An accessible register could play an important role in protecting animals, and prevent abusers from accessing animals. (Paragraph 182)

40.We recommend that the Government examines the potential for the establishment of an animal abuse register of those convicted of animal cruelty offences and who have been disqualified from keeping animals. (Paragraph 183)

11 November 2016