More than half a million puppies are born in England each year, but a new report from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home reveals that the poorly unregulated breeding industry is putting dogs' lives at risk.
The animal protection charity's latest report shows that just under 12% of puppies in the UK are bred by licensed breeders, meaning that dogs could be sold from unsuitable premises, long before they are ready to leave their mothers.
Local authorities in the UK currently issue breeding licences to anyone selling puppies commercially or producing five or more litters per year.
DEFRA records that there are 560,000 puppies born in England each year. BDCH looked at local authorities for the whole of the UK and discovered just how poorly regulated the industry is, with 88% of puppies being born to unlicensed breeders.
Battersea chief executive, Claire Horton, said: “When you’re getting a new puppy, how can you be sure that you’re getting your dog from a responsible breeder when our own national breeding licence system is in such a mess?
“The gaping holes in enforcement of breeding legislation leave the door wide open for backstreet breeders to own the market and pocket huge profits from overbreeding, without a thought for the welfare of the animals in their care.
“Every day Battersea takes in dogs that have been abandoned by owners who bought them online or from ‘the man down the street’, which have come from unknown breeding premises.
“We’re seriously concerned that there’s no nationwide overview of dog breeding and no consistency amongst local authorities when it comes to this issue.”
BDCH's report shows that:
- Less than 12% of puppies born in the UK every year are bred by licensed breeders, meaning 88% of puppies born in the UK are born to unlicensed breeders
- More than a third of local authorities do not have any licensed breeders
- 77% of local authorities did not issue any new licences to new breeders in 2014
- There are huge discrepancies of up 32 times in charges for breeding licences, suggesting huge variations in the way breeders are inspected and approved to sell puppies
- The scarcity of breeding applications in some areas means that dog breeding premises are regulated by staff whose expertise may lie primarily in inspecting taxis, restaurants or other non-animal premises
The report also showed that there were vast discrepancies between licence fee structures in different local authorities, with some areas charging 32 times as much as others for the same service.
BDCH's latest findings come after the charity launched its End Backstreet Breeding campaign in a bid to raise awareness of an industry which sees thousands of dogs over-bred, ill-treated and then abandoned when they are no longer of use.
Puppies are often sold too young and without the proper care needed, resulting in health or behavioural problems.
BDCH is calling for a ban on the sale of puppies under eight weeks old and the introduction of a required breeding licence for any household producing two or more litters per year.
To illustrate the extent of overbreeding and the way dogs are treated in the unregulated industry, the charity reveals how a two-year-old Bulldog, named Marjorie, was found wandering on the streets of London as a stray last year.
Marjorie's body was sore, sagging and showed all the signs of overbreeding, including severely stretched teats.
She was also suffering from mange, resulting in untreated, red, sore scabs all over her body.
Fortunately, the young dog was rescued and has since be re-homed, but the charity says this is just one of the thousands of cases they come across.
In April, all dogs will be required to be microchipped.
BDCH is urging anyone who would like a puppy to never buy online, but instead go to a rescue centre or reputable breeder and ensure that the puppy is with its mum, that they are both healthy and that the puppy is at least eight weeks old.
Also on the Huffington Post UK: