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IoL response to Wales' proposed ban on third party sales of puppies and kittens Published Date: 14/08/2020

On 26 June, we reported that the Wales Government were consulting on proposals to introduce a ban on third party sales of puppies and kittens.

The Institute of Licensing has now submitted it's response to the Wales Government's consultation, and the questions and response are shown below:

Question 1:

We propose introducing a ban on the commercial third party sales of puppies and kittens. By “commercial third party sales” we mean those who are licenced pet sellers; in Wales who hold a licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951. Our definition of “puppies” and “kittens” are dogs and cats up to 6 months old.

Do you agree with a ban on the commercial third party sales of puppies and kittens in Wales?

Yes.  A ban on commercial third-party sales would amount to a legal requirement that only licensed breeders would be able to sell puppies / kittens in the course of a business.

Lucy’s Law came into effect in England in April 2020, enacted through amendments to the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.   A ban in Wales will raise standards and increase the geographical extent of further protection for the welfare of puppies and kittens.  It is an important step to improving standards in breeding establishments, and will:

  • Incentivise welfare improvements in high volume commercial dog breeding establishments by ensuring transparency, accountability and appropriate remuneration for breeders;
  • Assist purchasers in making informed choices based on seeing a puppy or kitten with its mother, and encourage responsible buying decisions;
  • Reduce the sale of puppies and kittens which have not been bred to recognised standards of welfare in England.

The main areas of concern in relation to the breeding and selling of dogs/puppies, concerns sales through commercial third-party dealers which both sustains and is dependent upon the existence of “puppy farms”, where puppies are bred for maximum profit and with minimal regard for animal welfare. Although very few high street pet shops sell puppies these days, the third-party trade remains significant with dealers operating from a diverse array of premises including private homes and puppy superstores. Some commercial dog breeders are also selling bought in puppies alongside those they have bred on site.

These issues have been addressed in England but equally apply in Wales. Consistency across the country will significantly assist in ensuring that the practice of third-party sales is disrupted and importantly that the public are aware and know what to look for when buying a puppy or kitten.   Scotland have also indicated the intention to bring forward a similar ban in due course.

Question 2:

Do you think that a ban should apply to any other animals sold in pet shops?

Having consulted Institute of Licensing members, suggestions are that the priority should be puppies and kittens, but that consideration could be given to all animal sales as welfare and transportation issues will apply to all animals, while separation issues are more keenly linked to puppies.  In Scotland, the consultation on animal licensing included rabbits, although this was not strictly in the context of third-party sales.

Question 3:

Are there any measures which could be introduced, other than a ban, which could address the welfare problems associated with commercial third party sellers?

No.   Public awareness is critical in providing an intelligence source for unlicensed activities and a ban on third-party sales is easily understood with few grey areas.  Any arrangement where some third party sales are licensed and legitimate and some are not, the participating members of the public are very unlikely to “whistle blow” – because they would not be in a position to understand the licensing regime, even if they thought to ask to see a licence, and would be easily deterred by a fake document, and highly motivated to complete the sale, even if only to “save” the puppy.

Question 4:

Sanctuaries and rehoming centres are not legally defined but we will refer to them as animal welfare establishments for the purpose of this consultation. They charge a fee for the rehoming of animals in their care (but are exempt from current pet shop licencing because they are not commercial in nature).  There is no legal requirement for checks to be undertaken and generally speaking, routine checks are not carried out by Local Authorities at these establishments.

Further, we have concerns that this may leave a loophole in the legislation to avoid a possible ban. Do you think there should be closer scrutiny of animal welfare establishments in Wales?

Queries have been raised on whether third-party sellers could potentially masquerade as animal welfare establishments.   On the face of it, a ‘business test’ similar to that used in England should catch any such activity.   Closer scrutiny would also assist in ensuring that animal welfare establishments are genuine.

Question 5:

Do you think sanctuaries/rehoming/rescue centres should be classed as a commercial third party seller in Wales and be licenced?

Some consider that the risk remains that traders may set themselves up as rescue and re‐homing centres to continue to trade and that these establishments should be licensed to avoid this.    It is understood that DEFRA are giving this area more consideration in England at present.

Question 6:

We would like to know your views on the effects that a ban on commercial third party sales may have on people with protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010[1]. These characteristics are:

  • age;
  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • marriage and civil partnership;
  • pregnancy and maternity;
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • sex; and
  • sexual orientation. What effects do you think there would be?


Question 7:

We would like to know your views on whether the ban on commercial third party sales could offer any opportunities to reverse the decline of biodiversity in Wales, in line with the Wales Nature Recovery Action Plan[2].

What effects do you think there would be?


Question 8:  Welsh Language

We would like to know your views on the effects that banning third party sales of puppies and kittens would have on the Welsh language, specifically on opportunities for people to use Welsh and on treating the Welsh language no less favorably than English. 

What effects do you think there would be?  How positive effects could be increased, or negative effects be mitigated?  

No comment – no effects considered likely.

Please also explain how you believe a change in policy could be formulated or changed so as to have positive effects or increased positive effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language, and no adverse effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language. 

No comment

Question 9:

We have asked a number of specific questions.  If you have any related issues which we have not asked or have any comments please use this space to report them. 

English law still allows for the importation of puppies from outside of England as a result of international trade agreements to which the UK is still bound.  These imported puppies can be sold by those with pet sales licences, which bypasses some key controls associated with English breeders’ licences as set out in the regulations which enacted Lucy’s Law. 

This means that it is currently legal for a breeder to import puppies and then sell them under a pet sales licence which requires the holder to make “reasonable efforts to ensure that they will be transported in a suitable manner”.   Such importations still have the potential to undermine the licensing controls implemented by Lucy’s Law, creating an enforcement minefield for local authorities tasked with regulating dog breeding.  The exploitative importation of young puppies for sale in England still gives rise to the  premature separation from the mother, and the trauma and health issues that can be associated with transportation. 

We would urge that any forthcoming Regulations in Wales do not give rise to a similar loophole.