19/01/2017 07:18 GMT | Updated 20/01/2018 05:12 GMT

Licensing Puppy Dealers Will Only Legitimise Suffering

As animal welfare campaigners, myself and my colleagues repeatedly highlight that trading puppies through third party sellers is inherently damaging to their welfare.

As animal welfare campaigners, myself and my colleagues repeatedly highlight that trading puppies through third party sellers is inherently damaging to their welfare.

Contributing factors include the source of the puppies (by definition responsible breeders don't sell through pet shops), transportation to the premises and the increased exposure to disease. Then there are serious ethical conundrums - impulse purchasing and puppies that do not get sold. Accountability presents a massive challenge when puppies are not sold direct from the breeder. These reasons provide the most compelling justification for an outright ban because as long as the trade continues, puppies will continue to suffer. No permissive strategy (such as licensing third party sellers) can overcome these problems and to invest considerable resources in an attempt to minimise them seems illogical and actually immoral when there is no reason for the activity to continue.

A ban on third party selling is the essential first step in regulating dog breeding. Without it, any other strategies will fail because the route to market which sustains the very worst breeding practices will remain open. This has been proven time and again. How many more generations of dogs are doomed to suffer because the belief persists that attempting a cure is better than prevention?

There have been suggestions that a ban is an idealistic proposal and regulating the third party trade through licensing would be a compromise or even a preferable alternative. Nothing could be further from the truth. A ban is the most efficient and practical solution from every perspective and in fact, attempting to 'improve' puppy sellers through licensing would result in an even more dire situation than we currently face. Far from eliminating dealers, it will sanction and legitimise their existence. The appalling consequences of their trade are increasingly highlighted in the media and bring widespread condemnation; no stronger demonstration is needed to prove the failure of a regulatory approach and a desire to bring this cruelty to an end. Puppies cannot be sold responsibly via commercial third party vendors because the essential processes are so detrimental that their welfare will always be adversely affected. To argue for anything less than a ban amounts to saying this is acceptable.

To support the licensing of third party sellers is to support the continuation of a trade in misery. To support licensing means condoning the sale of puppies in pet shops; it means endorsing the breeding of dogs where the only priority is quantity and the only incentive is maximising profit. Supporting licensing gives the message to puppy buyers that pet shops and puppy dealers are safe and appropriate places to buy from. It means accepting legalised animal abuse and it means the puppy farmers and dealers have won.

In December, a brave little victim of this dreadful trade finally lost her battle. Lucy the Rescue Cavalier did so much to raise awareness of the problems of puppy farming and her tragic passing has touched thousands. She represented the population of ex-breeding dogs who have been used and then callously discarded but she was one of the lucky ones because she found love with her dedicated and devoted owner. As campaigners, we also hear heart breaking stories from owners who have lost their puppies and dogs far too young - some within days of purchase from licensed pet shops. These dogs and puppies have been loved and the grief felt by their owners is immense - but some dogs and puppies are never named, never loved, never grieved over.

They are within a system that legally allows them to be exploited and traded as if they were inanimate objects. A system that claims to protect their welfare but in reality facilitates their continued suffering. A system that cannot be altered to eliminate the harmful elements of the trade. It is a system which ultimately is licensed to kill. The only way to make a difference is to stand up for the right change in the law, the prohibition of commercial third party puppy sales. We must put a stop to this, once and for all - the breeding dogs, the puppies and the people who love them deserve nothing less.