Fringe Box



Letter: We Need To Tackle Illegal Dog Breeding

Published on: 26 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2015
GBC Dog Warden

GBC dog warden Peter Burnage – one of his duties is to investigate illegal dog breeding.

From George Dokimakis

With all the furore around other prominent issues regarding the Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) performance (Local Plan, Electric Theatre, Guildford Museum, just to name a few) it is easy to oversee the council’s failings in other areas, especially animal welfare.

One of the biggest animal welfare concerns currently is the unlicensed, unbridled, backstreet breeding of dogs and cats. With no concern to the animal’s welfare, dogs and cats are being forced to breed and provide litter after litter with devastating effects on the mother.

Puppies are being farmed for profit. The mistreatment of and cruelty suffered by the animals in such farms, constitutes criminal behaviour with custodial sentences imposed by judges on the offenders.

We, as individuals, play an important role in this, since it is our money these breeders are targeting and we need to be making informed decisions on what practice is acceptable to us and ensure any such practice puts the animals’ welfare first. According to a 2015 report from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 560,000 puppies are born every year,  88% of them by unlicensed breeders.

Yet, GBC completely ignores its responsibility to licence dog breeders. Guildford borough is a massive area that one would expect is suited to raising dogs.

Indeed, a simple internet search for “Guildford puppies” provides dozens of results for pure-bred puppies and celebrity-termed puppy crosses but their are no licenced dog breeders in our borough.

How can that be? Has the council paid any interest whatsoever in their responsibility to this? One would expect some basic due diligence and investigation to be done and stop such maltreatment of animals.

Unfortunately the situation is not unique to Guildford. Woking does not have any licenced dog breeders either.

As a proud, dog owner of an awesome, rescue staffie, I will always advocate for people wanting dogs to go to our local rescue centre first.

There is a legitimate need for puppies though, so we need to ensure that people who want a puppy know where to go to and have the confidence the are dealing with a responsible breeder who cares for their animals.

This is where the GBC comes in and this is where it spectacularly fails. By not providing an assured selection of licenced breeders in our borough, that the residents can feel confident about, its inaction propagates the unlicensed dog breeding that has become a massive problem country-wide.

I say enough of ignoring this problem. It is time the GBC stepped up to its responsibilities.

Guildford Borough Council has responded…

We do not ignore dog breeding by any means.

The fact that there are currently no licensed breeders in the borough reflects the legal definition used for what is a ‘breeding establishment’, as well as the criminal element for those people who not only fail to apply for a license, but also act with stealth to avoid detection.

The Breeding and Sale of Dogs Act 1973 states that any person who breeds and sells dogs must be licensed. However, to insist upon a licence or to prosecute, the council has to prove the following:

  • The person is not a ‘hobby breeder’- i.e. the litters they have produced are not part of their hobby of keeping or showing dogs
  • The person is running a business (to do this, one needs evidence of sales and customers, as well as advertising)
  • The person breeds five or more litters per year

In the past we have prosecuted several unlicensed breeders. We have also educated and ensured breeders are on the right tracks by licensing and regulating.

We have power of entry at all licensed animal establishments, but not to unlicensed animal establishments. To visit a suspected unlicensed establishment, we must apply to the magistrates court for a search warrant.

We can only obtain a search warrant if we are able to satisfy the magistrates that an offence is taking place. The warrant may not allow access to private dwellings – which is where many unlicensed breeders sell their dogs from.

Licensed animal establishments receive at least one inspection every year. These are carried out at random times.

Illegal breeders advertising online know their actions are illegal. They tend to use many different names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers to evade detection. Often, the only way to identify the perpetrator is through customer contact.

We use ‘digital forensics’ during our investigations into unlicensed dog breeding.

By formally requesting data from advertising websites,  we are able to retrieve important information on number of adverts placed by particular individuals, contact details and internet protocol (IP) addresses. The IP address is a unique signature left by the tablet, PC or smartphone used to place the advert. Each IP address is linked to the owner of the device.

To obtain this personal data from the IP address, we have to apply to the Home Office and use  ‘Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000’.

In Guildford we have a dog warden who handles such cases. Detecting illegal breeders is not his only duty. His responsibilities include investigating complaints of dog fouling, anti-social behaviour from dog owners, excessive noise from dogs, stray dogs and inspections of licensed establishments (kennels, catteries, pet shops, dangerous wild animal establishments).

If you have any concerns about where you bought a puppy from, or have suspicions that someone is running an unlicensed breeding establishment for dogs, please contact our dog warden on 01483 444765 in confidence.

People breeding cats do not have a specific Act of Parliament to abide by, however the selling of animals as a business comes under the Pet Animals Act 1951. Any breaches of this is an offence and should also be reported to us.

We currently have several investigations underway with regards to unlicensed breeding of dogs.

If you think you may require a license for breeding dogs, please contact us on 01483 444765.

GBC’s advice to people buying a puppy

People need to be very cautious when buying a puppy. They might be buying the puppy from a family home, but the dogs may not have been bred there. Licensed breeders will have a council license. Dogs from illegal breeders are not necessarily unhealthy or kept in dirty conditions.

People must not purchase dogs from suspect locations as they are only financing the continuation of the criminal activity. They must report them to us and make a statement of where they saw the puppies advertised, as well as contact details of the breeder.

We have dealt with many people who bought dogs because they “felt sorry for the dog” and have ended up with very unhealthy dogs, after giving hundreds of pounds to the criminals.

Before you buy a puppy you should:

  • Ask to see the breeder’s licence
  • Contact us and find out if we are aware of the seller. If not, we will record this information so that if we receive other queries, we can identify if numerous litters are being produced by the same breeder
  • Check that the puppy has seen a vet and has a vaccination certificate
  • Spend time holding and interacting with the puppy and the rest of the litter
  • Ask to see any Kennel Club papers relating to it or its parent
  • Always see the mum and if possible the dad. Look at how the pup reacts with the female – is it really its mother?
  • If you suspect poor welfare contact the RSPCA. The RSPCA usually contact the council if they suspect illegal breeding
  • Always consider a rescue dog. There are many available of different sizes and shapes. It is a really rewarding experience and you could provide a home for one of the many stray or unwanted dogs.

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