Pet shops and online dealers could be banned from selling puppies as part of moves to crack down on cruelty.
Michael Gove announces a review of the law today which could limit sales to licensed breeders and charities that rehouse abandoned dogs.
Around 800,000 dogs are sold in the UK every year, mostly through breeders.
Around 800,000 dogs are sold in the UK every year, mostly through breeders
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, pictured, wants to increase the jail term associated with those convicted of animal cruelty to a maximum of five years
But around one in ten of all sales are through pet shops and dealers, who need a licence from the town hall.
The review will look at banning these so-called ‘third party’ sales. Ministers have given interested parties and the public three months to submit evidence.
It is the latest attempt by the Environment Secretary to improve pet welfare. Last year he announced he will increase the jail term for animal cruelty from a maximum six months to five years.
Mr Gove said: ‘We need to do everything we can to make sure the nation’s much-loved pets get the right start in life.
‘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 proposal was welcomed by dog charities.
Only 12 months ago, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs rejected a ban, warning it could increase unlicensed breeding and lead to a rise in the ‘sale and irresponsible distribution of puppies’.
But Mr Gove has promised a major crackdown on puppy farming and pledged to end the growing trend of animals being reared in poor conditions by unscrupulous dealers and transported long distances. Separately, new rules to take effect later this year will ban sales of puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks to ensure they stay with their mothers.
Licensed dog breeders will be forced to show puppies alongside their mother before making a sale and online sales – where the new owner doesn’t see the dog before they buy – will be stopped. Charities have warned that growing numbers of dogs are kept in terrible conditions to mass produce puppies, which are taken away from their mothers at a young age and sold to online buyers.
Paula Boyden, veterinary director for Dogs Trust, said: ‘We are delighted that the Government is exploring a ban on third-party puppy sales and implore them to fast-track crucial steps before a ban is implemented. If a ban was introduced now, puppy farmers could exploit loopholes such as setting themselves up as unregulated re-homing centres or sanctuaries. Licensing and inspection of dog breeders and sellers must also be stronger to ensure that everyone involved in the trade is on the radar of local authorities.
‘The Government must tackle these loopholes now, so we can be confident a ban will be the success we all want to see.’
RSPCA deputy chief executive Chris Wainwright said: ‘We are delighted that Defra is considering a ban on third-party sales of puppies. We believe that cracking down on unscrupulous traders, who put profit ahead of animal welfare, will provide much-needed protection for prospective pet owners and puppies.
‘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 which will come into force later this year.’