Melton Borough Council Pioneers Scheme To Tackle Rogue Dog Breeders

Melton Borough Council in Leicestershire is the first local authority in the country to officially be working with the Kennel Club, the UK's largest dog welfare organisation, on an information sharing project which could transform how dog breeding regulations are enforced.

Following the publication of Defra's consultation on animal establishment licences, the Kennel Club has welcomed the proposals being put forward to reduce the threshold at which point breeders require a licence (from five litters per year to three litters), and exempt breeders affiliated with a UKAS accredited scheme from the local authority licensing regime. At present, the only such scheme is the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.

Exempting Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS) members, who already face rigorous inspections by the Kennel Club, from local authority licensing requirements would avoid duplicating inspections of breeders who are breeding to the high standards of the ABS. These go far beyond those of basic licensing requirements, and are constantly being updated and improved upon in line with scientific, welfare and behavioural advances, to ensure the health and welfare of puppies and their mothers. Exempting ABS members would allow local authorities to channel resources to where they are most needed - those breeders who are higher risk, or those who are currently unlicensed but to whom the new law would apply.

According to statistics from local authorities in response to Freedom of Information requests by the Kennel Club, local authorities will be under-resourced to enforce updated breeding regulations without exempting Assured Breeders from their regime - especially if the litter threshold reduces to three. At present, 90 per cent of local authorities license five or fewer breeders. Furthermore, 58 per cent of local authorities have just one or two members of staff who carry out inspections on dog breeding premises, and these employees have over 150 different job titles - just 28 percent of which include reference to 'animal', 'dog' or 'vet', suggesting that inspections are not being carried out by specialists in the majority of cases. This may explain why just one dog breeding licence was revoked throughout 2014 and 2015 and, over a five year period, only 20 licences were refused, equating to less than half a percent.

This is in stark contrast to the ABS, which ensures members are inspected prior to breeding and which trains all assessors to ensure inspections are carried out consistently - and is regulated by UKAS. There are a range of requirements expected of Assured Breeders which are not currently required of other breeders, such as ensuring that relevant mandatory health tests are carried out, including screening for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, inherited eye conditions and a range of DNA tests, and puppies must be inspected by a vet prior to sale, with any record of veterinary treatment or examination being passed on to the new owner. In addition, Assured Breeders must abide by Kennel Club regulations that it will not normally accept the registration of puppies from bitches if they are over 8 years-old, if they have previously produced more than three litters, or if they have already had two caesarean sections.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: "This information sharing initiative will highlight how local authorities will be impacted if licensing thresholds for breeders reduce to three litters per year, whether there is an exemption for Kennel Club Assured Breeders in place or not. We hope that other local authorities follow the example of Melton in order that they too can find ways to manage their already stretched resources in the future in order to tackle rogue breeders and avoid duplicating inspections of good breeders."

Victoria Clarke, Environmental Protection and Safety Manager at Melton Borough Council said: "We have long supported the principles behind the Assured Breeder Scheme, and when regulations on breeding are updated we hope to be able to continue our dialogue with the Kennel Club to ensure that we know which breeders in Melton are 'Assured' and which breeders are not. This will help us divert our resources to where they are most needed".

Read further information on the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.