Pet shops could be banned from selling puppies, under new legislation proposed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove to improve the welfare of domestic animals.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) proposals would prohibit third-party sales or adoptions of dogs, meaning that prospective owners could only buy puppies directly from registered breeders or from animal shelters rather than pet shops or other animal dealers.
In a statement, Gove said: “We need to do everything we can to make sure the nation's much loved pets get the right start in life.
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“From banning the sale of underage puppies to tackling the breeding of dogs with severe genetic disorders, we are cracking down on sellers who have a total disregard for their dogs' welfare.”
The move was welcomed by animal welfare organisations.
Defra had previously decided against a crackdown on third-party sellers over fears that doing so would encourage an unregulated black market, the BBC reports.
However, the department has now issued a call for evidence with a view to banning third-party sales.
The change of heart comes after Defra approved new legislation tightening licensing conditions for breeders. The new rules, which come into effect later this year, include a ban on selling kittens and puppies under the age of eight weeks, and a requirement that prospective owners be physically present during a transaction - a measure aimed at clamping down on online sales.
Breeders who fail to meet the stringent welfare requirements face an unlimited fine or six months in prison.
“We have always said that an end to third-party sales alone would not be enough to end the puppy trade crisis, and we are pleased that this is being looked at alongside enhanced licensing conditions for breeders,” said RSPCA deputy chief executive Chris Wainwright, The Independent reports.
“Together, we hope these moves will offer better protection to puppies and their parents and also reduce the number of families duped by rogue traders in this illegal multimillion-pound trade.”
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