THE PRESIDENT of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has used his annual London dinner speech to call for an enquiry into illegal imports of puppies for sale.
Peter Jones also said a way must be found to end puppy farming, that he believed the Government’s changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) did not go far enough, and that the introduction of compulsory microchipping was a ‘huge victory’.
He called on the Government, parliamentarians and other stakeholders get behind the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF)/RSPCA puppy contract when it is reviewed later this year.
The welfare of dogs was ‘a daily rollercoaster’ for vets in small animal practice, Mr Jones said, ‘from the highs of puppy socialisation classes and preventive healthcare to the lows of desperately ill puppy-farmed pets bought in a lay-by and owners who have made a fashionable purchase which does not suit their lifestyle’.
"We must find ways to put an end to these ill-advised purchases,” he said. "And that is why our charity, the AWF, and the RSPCA launched the puppy contract and puppy information pack – designed to ensure potential owners ask the right questions and demand the right information before they buy.”
Mr Jones said the BVA was grateful to DEFRA and the EFRA Committee for their support of the puppy contract.
"When it was launched last year it gained the support of almost all of the major dog welfare organisations. And when it is reviewed this year we very much hope that we can bring everyone on board.
"The key to tackling those ill-advised purchases is education, so wouldn’t it be great if we could all sing from the same hymn sheet?”
A reduction in the threshold for licensing breeders was needed, he said, and local authorities to commit the time and resources to enforcing legislation, with veterinary input.
Guest speaker at the annual London dinner was Anne McIntosh, chairman of the EFRA Select Committee, which recently completed its enquiry into dog control and welfare, and Mr Jones took advantage of her presence to ask the Committee to look at the enforcement of pet travel rules.
"Vets across the country are reporting serious concerns about animals of unknown origin coming into their practices,” he said. "The reported 400 per cent rise in pet travel movements since the change in the rules suggests that people are exploiting the non-commercial routes for commercial gain.
"While the changes to the pet travel regulations were shown to keep our disease risk low, we are now witnessing the unintended consequence of large numbers of puppies being brought from Eastern Europe to be sold in the UK. And we do have grave concerns for the welfare of those puppies.
"Perhaps it’s a seed that we can plant in the minds of the EFRA Committee members as they think about the next big topic to tackle.”
Mr Jones said it had been a busy year in relation to dogs, with the raft of reviews, reports, enquiries and now Government policy announcements.
"Most recently the Government revealed the long-awaited changes to the DDA – a woefully inadequate piece of legislation that we and others started to campaign against almost as soon as the ink was dry in the statute books back in 1991.
"We have consistently argued that a breed-specific approach to controlling dogs is flawed, because any dog has the ability to be ‘dangerous’ in the wrong hands. We have to look at the other end of the lead and deal with the irresponsible owners of any breed or type.”
A preventive approach is needed, Mr Jones said: "Not one that relies on a terrible incident happening before the police can step in.”
The Government’s plan to tweak the DDA so it covers private property and allow the police some discretion over seizure of dogs was welcome but did not go nearly far enough, he added.
The EFRA Select Committee had supported a preventive approach, Mr Jones said, and particularly the concept of Dog Control Notices, and the BVA hoped the Government would now listen to ‘the united call for these changes’.
"The announcement on dangerous dogs was part of a bigger package of measures including the compulsory microchipping of all dogs,” he went on. "This is a huge victory for the BVA and the many organisations that make up the Microchipping Alliance, chaired so very ably by the Dogs Trust. Microchipping is an essential part of responsible ownership but it’s primarily a welfare issue.
"Compulsory chipping will make a huge difference to our ability to reunite lost and stray dogs with their owners – saving charities and local authorities millions of pounds.”