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Kennel Club response to Efra Select committee report on Dog Control and Welfare

15 February 2013    12:00

The Kennel Club has today broadly welcomed the report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee, which aims to reduce dog attacks and improve dog welfare, but rues the missed opportunity to take a tougher stance on puppy farmers.

The Kennel Club agrees with many of the recommendations including a comprehensive consolidation of the legislation relating to dangerous dogs and the introduction of Dog Control Notices as introduced in the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010.

It also fully agrees with the need for agencies responsible for enforcing dog control legislation, including the police and local authorities, to provide their staff with full training in dog welfare and control practices.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: "The current Dangerous Dogs Act is one of the worst and most ineffective pieces of legislation in history. We are pleased that the committee has recognised the huge benefits associated with microchipping and we commend the government in their decision to make this compulsory, which the Kennel Club has long been campaigning for. We are keen to help Defra to take this forward.

"We agree that Dog Control Notices are vital in preventing serious dog related incidents by dealing with the owners of dogs that are out of control at the earliest signs of a problem. However, we are disappointed that it is recommended that the Secretary of State be given the power to ban more breeds deemed to have aggressive characteristics. Any dog can be dangerous in the wrong hands and the focus on banning certain breeds continues an outdated approach that has been proven to be ineffective and in many cases counterproductive, by turning banned breeds into status symbols."

In relation to dog breeding recommendations in the report the Kennel Club fully supports recommendations for Defra to develop a voluntary Code of Practice to which internet sites offering dogs or puppies for sale should adhere. The Kennel Club, as a member of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), has already been working with advertisers towards developing such a code and offers advice and minimum standards to publishers and advertising websites. The Kennel Club is also educating puppy buyers about how to spot an irresponsible breeder.

Professor Steve Dean, Kennel Club Chairman, said: "We welcome the recommendations that will see a Code of Practice to improve the standards for online sites selling puppies. As more and more people buy puppies over the internet, which is an open invitation for rogue dealers to trade anonymously, we desperately need grass roots action to inform people about how to buy responsibly. The bottom line is that if people do not buy from irresponsible breeders, they will no longer be able to trade.

"We regret that the committee has missed an opportunity to call for legislation requiring all dog breeders to comply with standards similar to those followed by Kennel Club Assured Breeders. Two thirds of dogs are bred outside of the Kennel Club registration system and action needs to be taken to regulate these breeders. Those who register with the Kennel Club are bound by our Code of Ethics but we need the government to get tough on certain principles, such as mandatory health testing, before we can expect those outside our Assured Breeder Scheme to fall in line with concepts, such as mandatory health testing. The requirements of our Assured Breeder Scheme can only be extended when dog breeders are required by law to breed to the same standards."

The Kennel Club shares the Efra Committee's concern about the breeding of dogs with health problems. However, the Kennel Club's Breed Standards, which are a picture in words describing a breed's look and temperament, are already reviewed four times a year with the veterinary profession and other experts and are worded to make it clear that exaggerations are unacceptable. There was also an extensive review in 2009, again with input from veterinary surgeons, to ensure that Breed Standards demand that health must always come first.

Professor Dean continued: "A Breed Standard only influences those who breed pedigree dogs under the Kennel Club umbrella, and they are only really relevant to those who show their dogs. Further changes to Breed Standards would therefore have no impact on those who breed irresponsibly such as puppy farmers or breeders of 'designer crossbreeds' and status dogs, who breed outside the Kennel Club's influence and often with no regard to the consequences of their actions and potential health risks.

"Currently the Kennel Club's Assured Breeder Scheme is the only active scheme which sets standards for and regularly monitors dog breeders in this country. Meanwhile, puppy farmers and other breeders outside the Kennel Club's fold are essentially unregulated and that's where we continue to have a massive welfare problem. We recognise that it is difficult to tackle those who are unregistered and not easy to trace, but we would like to see the government take action and address the root of the issue, but Efra has failed to recommend this."

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord de Mauley, who gave evidence during the inquiry, cited the "impressive work" being undertaken by the Kennel Club in relation to pedigree dog breeding. Lord de Mauley highlighted his department's view that at present no additional regulation was necessary by government in relation to dog breeding and instead encouraged independent schemes that promote good breeding practices.


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