Pets at Home has challenged what it claims is a misrepresentation of its position on the sale of puppies in pet shops.

Responding to months of frequent social media postings, which accused the group of supporting cruel puppy farming, Pets at Home broke its silence to make its position clear.

As well as clarifying it has never sold puppies or kittens – and never plans to – the group stated it did not support the sale of puppies in pet shops, but critics had hoped it would support an outright ban.

It said it agreed with the “original terms of Pup Aid’s e-petition”, which called for an end to the sale of young puppies and kittens without their mothers.

The Pup Aid campaign was launched by vet Marc Abraham after he spotted a rise in sickly, unvaccinated and diseased pet shop-bought dogs in practice, which often came from puppy farms.

An e-petition, which called on the Government to ban the sale of young puppies and kittens without their mothers present, secured more than 111,000 signatures and mammoth support from welfare groups, before triggering a parliamentary debate last September.

Responding to campaigners, a Pets at Home spokesman argued a letter was released to its social media followers so there would be no doubt on the group’s position on puppy farming. The spokesman explained: “Pets at Home is an organisation with pet welfare at its very heart.

“We have never sold puppies or kittens from our stores and we never will – we abhor the cruel trade of puppy farming. Yet, on social media, we have been accused repeatedly of supporting puppy farming. There is no basis whatsoever for making such claims, so we decided we should set out our position in an open letter so there can be no doubt about where we stand on this important animal welfare matter.

“We agree with the original terms of the e-petition – supported by Pup Aid and more than 110,000 people – which called on the Government ‘to ban the sale of young puppies/kittens unless their mothers are present’ and asked for ‘urgent action to raise awareness and encourage the public to choose a responsibly bred puppy/kitten at least eight weeks old, or adopt from a legitimate rescue organisation’.

“If pet shops cannot provide for those needs then we agree they should not sell puppies.”

In a Pets at Home survey of more than 20,000 dog owners, 1% of respondents revealed they had bought their puppy from a pet shop.

A further two in five said they had relied on an unregulated source, with 3,316 (15%) getting their pet from a friend or relative. Almost 5,000 of respondents resorted to unregistered breeders, the internet or small ads in newspapers when buying their pet.

Encouragingly, 61% of those asked turned to registered breeders or animal rescue centres when looking for their dog, with one per cent buying their puppy from a pet shop.

A Pets at Home spokesman added: “The reality, confirmed in our extensive customer survey, is only one per cent of puppies are bought from local pet shops so to us, it was clear banning the sale of puppies via pet shops alone is unlikely to have any significant impact on puppy farming or unlicensed breeding or imports.

“That’s why we support a ban, not on any individual type of premises, but on the sale of young puppies and kittens anywhere unless their mothers are present.”

The full story appears in VT45.10

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