Wales’ rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, announced her intention to introduce new legislation that will enhance animal welfare in the country.

Wales’ rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, announced her intention to introduce new legislation that will enhance animal welfare in the country.

The new legislation, which will replace the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 with Wales-specific regulations that are fit for purpose, will be based on proposals made by an expert task and finish group that was commissioned by the rural affairs minister to review the legislation on the breeding of dogs to reflect the five welfare needs identified in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The minister asked the group to report to her by the end of June. The report, which the minister has accepted, makes three broad recommendations. The first is that there should be legislative change for dog breeding by repealing existing statutory requirements and to provide new legislation; second, that changes to the licensing provision for dog breeding establishments should be made; and third, that statutory guidance on the new legislation should be made.

Rural affairs minister Elin Jones said: “Pets are an important element of our society and ownership gives much pleasure, as well as associated responsibilities. The devolution of animal welfare powers to Welsh ministers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 has provided opportunities for us to make a real difference. It’s about improving standards and preventing suffering – prevention is better than cure, which is a principle of our overarching Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. 

“We have already made legislation on electronic shock collars and tail docking of dogs and codes of practice for dogs, cats, equines and rabbits. The CAWES (Companion Animal Welfare Enhancement Scheme) programme has supported and is continuing to support evidence-based decisions. Part of that process is to work with the third sector to raise standards.”

The minister added: “If the breeding establishment is to meet the welfare and socialisation needs of dogs and puppies, it was considered that, at the outside, a maximum ratio of one full-time attendant to 20 dogs should be imposed. 

“I am keen to emphasise, however, that where welfare requirements are fully met, it is a legitimate business and meets the demands of those wishing to buy pets. What is unacceptable is large-scale breeding of puppies where welfare of both the parents and offspring may be compromised. Evidence submitted to the Welsh Assembly Government in research undertaken by local authorities, representations from many welfare bodies and several television programmes, all identified room for improvement for animal welfare in existing dog breeding licensing conditions. 

“The group also considered the qualifying criteria for licensing. They agreed that existing criteria needed tightening particularly reducing the number of breeding bitches to trigger licensing to three from the current ‘five or more litters’.

Other changes will include the compulsory microchipping of all breeding dogs in licensed premises, as well as the microchipping of all pups from these premises prior to sale or homing. This would provide clear traceability back to the breeder in case of health or welfare concerns.

It is proposed statutory guidance will incorporate the five “needs” of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This will give a clear direction to Welsh local authorities and to dog breeders to enable compliance with the licensing requirements. Consideration will need to be given at a later stage as to whether the Code of Practice on the Welfare of Dogs will need to be expanded to include more detail on dog breeding.

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