Dear Sally de La Bedoyere,
When the EFRA Committee recommended banning the third party sale of dogs (legally licensed as pet shops, irrespective of premises) it was a hugely progressive step towards improving the welfare of potentially millions of dogs in the UK. Having considered all the evidence before them, the Committee recognised that the “process of selling through a third party seller has an unavoidable negative impact upon the welfare of puppies” and decided that it is “important that animal welfare standards are ensured across all breeders.”
You appear to be in agreement with the Committee, stating in the case study that supports your own investigation that “a pet shop environment is not a suitable one for pet dogs to spend their early weeks of life.” You also explain that “Pet shop pups often come from puppy farms” because “good breeders will not allow their puppies to be sold in pet shops”. Your advice to potential purchasers is “please don’t buy puppies from pet shops” and you warn them that “you risk buying a poorly bred and poorly socialised puppy who will struggle to cope with life.”
It is therefore not only sad, but deeply confusing as to why, despite your view that “We certainly at Blue Cross believe that puppies should not be sold in pet shops and we would advocate for a ban,” you have not advocated for a ban in your recommendations.
Disturbingly, it has become apparent that although your website tells ‘Scampi’s Story;’ describing the extensive rehabilitation of a “terrified former pet shop pup,” you have actually advised the Government against banning third party sales. This has come as something of a shock to pet owners in the UK, many of whom are your loyal supporters.
In a written question, Justin Tomlinson MP asked DEFRA “what the evidential basis was for the conclusion that a ban on third party sales of puppies would lead to the creation of an illegal market.” In response George Eustice, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that “Evidence was also presented to the recent EFRA Committee inquiry by Blue Cross, and The Dogs Trust on the annual demand for puppies and the risks of applying such a ban.”
However, your evidence appears to be somewhat contradictory:
You claim that there may not be “enough ‘good’ breeders to meet the very high demand for puppies in the UK“. This directly conflicts with your comment in March 2016; “In the last five years, Blue Cross has seen a 44 per cent increase in the number of unwanted and abandoned puppies needing our help.”
You have also claimed that a ban on third party sales “would be impossible to enforce with local authority resources already stretched to their limits” yet your report states that “Some local authorities are making serious efforts in addressing unlicensed sellers” and that this has resulted in enforcement action.
Your recommendation for a registration and licensing system “for anyone breeding or selling animals through any means” implies you believe it is possible for overstretched local authorities to identify and enforce the requirements for registration/licensing across all pet sellers, but claim that a ban would “force third party selling underground.”
Justin Tomlinson asked “what the evidential basis was” and George Eustice told him “evidence was presented” – but the problem is that your evidence doesn’t seem to be consistent.
We have some questions to help us and the British public better understand Blue Cross’ position on third party sales of dogs and puppies and particularly, what evidence you have to prove that continuing to allow the commercial third-party sale of puppies away from their place of birth can ensure their welfare and that of their parents.
If Blue Cross “would like to see a total ban on pet shops selling puppies and kittens” and “would advocate for a ban,” why has this not been included in the recommendations?
Does Blue Cross believe that breeding dogs will be healthy and well cared for if the breeders allow their puppies to be sold in pet shops?
Why does Blue Cross feel it is necessary or desirable for “the very high demand for puppies” to be met, when it has seen a 44 per cent increase in the number of unwanted and abandoned puppies?
Will Blue Cross advise potential owners that licensed and inspected pet shops are appropriate sources from which to obtain a responsibly bred puppy?
In response to BBC Panorama’s 2016 documentary Britain’s Puppy Dealers Exposed, Blue Cross points out that this ‘nightmare trade’ is totally legal and asks “If you knew the mother of your puppy had been forced to bear several litters over several years, had likely never seen a vet, and the documents claiming she was healthy were probably falsified, would you put your money into this supply chain?” You say “No reasonable person would.”
Does Blue Cross believe that a system of licensing and inspections that has allowed this “vicious and inhuman trade” to remain “totally legal” is a more pragmatic solution than “a ban on this type of selling”?
In fact, rather than providing answers or assurances that your evidence invariably supports your conclusions, your alternating views on banning third party sales only serve to confuse and generate more questions.
We have put all our questions in these review documents.
Julia Carr BSc (Hons), Founder Canine Action UK