The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and it shares the highest ranking on the animal protection index and the highest in the G7. I would like to assure you that the Government takes the issue of low-welfare and illegal supply of animals very seriously. Significant steps have been taken to improve and update the laws in England to crack down on unscrupulous breeders who breed purely for financial greed at the expense of animal welfare.

Under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs and/or who breeds three or more litters in a twelve-month period needs to have a valid licence from their local authority. Under these regulations, local authorities have powers to grant, refuse or revoke a licence. I am aware that licences must achieve and maintain statutory minimum animal welfare standards, linked to the welfare needs of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Further, under these regulations, licensed breeders are prohibited from breeding dogs if it can be reasonably expected that on the basis of their genotype, phenotype or health, this would lead to welfare problems for the mother or the puppies. I know that this applies in the case of brachycephalic breeds. Both licensed and unlicensed animal breeders are required under the Animal Welfare Act to protect the animals involved in breeding from harm and to provide for their welfare in line with good practice. A breach of these provisions may lead to imprisonment, a fine, or both.

I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is in the process of reviewing the 2018 Regulations. I look forward to reading the report on this issue in due course.

Finally, Defra’s campaign Petfished raises awareness of issues associated with low-welfare and illegal supply of pets. The campaign provides a list of red flags for buyers to look out for when searching for a pet online. More information can be found here: