Welsh Government makes dog's dinner of regulations as breeders blindsided by proposals

Following multiple efforts to raise concerns with officials, The Kennel Club has criticised the Welsh Government’s new Animal Welfare Regulations and is urging responsible breeders to write to their Member of the Senedd to prevent serious unintended consequences.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Wales) Regulations 2021, also known as Lucy’s Law, aim to promote responsible breeding through banning the sale of puppies and kittens by commercial third-party sellers. However, The Kennel Club believes the ‘botched’ drafting of these laws will have the unintended consequence of bringing low volume, high welfare breeders into the scope of licensing.

The organisation, which is the biggest in the UK dedicated to dog health, welfare and training, claims that the introduction a ‘pet vending’ licence for anyone deemed to be in the business of selling animals as pets in Wales, in addition to the existing, specific dog breeding and sale regulations, will have a number of detrimental impacts. The regulations will impact disproportionately on responsible, low volume breeders and could significantly shrink the domestic supply of healthy dogs, increasing puppy importing and puppy farming, and raising stark concerns over animal health and welfare.

Similar licensing requirements were brought in across England in 2018 and resulted in a significant number of low volume breeders coming into the scope of licensing. Local authorities subsequently do not have the available resources to target higher volume commercial breeders and responsible breeders have been discouraged from breeding dogs.

Evidence gathered by The Kennel Club suggests that by extending licensing to very low volume breeders, the English regulations may have reduced domestic dog breeding output by around 75,000 puppies. The organisation has warned that the Welsh market may face a similar fate if the regulations are not amended, and that a reduction in the number of domestically bred puppies provides opportunities for puppy importers and puppy farmers to fill the gap.

“We have supported the introduction of a ban on the commercial third-party sale of puppies in Wales for a number of years,” commented Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club. “However, these botched regulations not only blindside responsible, low volume breeders – which we need more than ever with demand for puppies so high – but they aren’t well-thought through, haven’t been communicated properly and simply won’t result in the intended outcome of improving welfare standards for dogs in Wales.

“Instead, we have grave concerns that this new barrier for responsible breeders could result in an increase in puppy importing and farming.

“Since January we have made multiple attempts to engage with officials in Wales and raise these concerns but have been met with silence. We are disappointed that the Government doesn’t seem to recognise the damaging unintended consequences of extending the scope of licensing to include low volume breeders in Wales, who typically raise their dogs in loving, happy home environments. The new licensing regime outlined also clashes with the recommendations from the recent independent review of Welsh dog breeding, and such a step simply doesn’t support the legislation’s aim of cracking down on bad breeding practices.”

Due to its concerns about the welfare implications of the legislation, and the lack of response from the Welsh Government so far, The Kennel Club is urging breeders to write to their Member of the Senedd.

“The Government has not flagged its intention to change the licensing threshold for dog breeders at any stage, including during either the 2019 or 2020 consultations, so it’s likely that the implications of this – from the impact on breeders to under-resourced licensing authorities – will not have been fully considered. We’re urgently calling on responsible breeders to write to their Member of the Senedd to air their views and ensure that these regulations don’t take one step forward and two steps back when it comes to promoting good breeding practices in Wales, and protecting dog welfare.”

A template letter and more information about breeding regulations across the UK is available via The Kennel Club’s website.