Celebrity pet lovers and TV vets are calling for new laws to improve pet welfare in an open letter following the publication of a new report by a pet charity revealing that welfare of pets being bred and sold across the UK is at risk.

The Blue Cross report, ‘Unpicking the knots: the case for a more cohesive approach to pet welfare legislation’, highlights welfare concerns in pet shops and breeding establishments across the country.

The letter – printed in The Times this week – says a lack of resources and training mean local authorities responsible for inspections and issuing licenses to breed and sell pets are struggling to enforce standards and recognise issues, while hundreds of online sellers slip through the net entirely. Some of the findings include:

• Puppies in licensed breeding premises kept without access to natural daylight
• Maggots found in pets’ water bowls in a licensed pet shop
• Exotic pets such as marmosets, fruit bats and parrots kept in close proximity to each other in inappropriate conditions, with some displaying ‘worrying’ behaviour
• Snakes kept in small boxes with no UV provision

A third of local authority licensing officers said they had received no formal animal welfare training and many did not feel equipped to recognise problems, particularly for exotic pets.

Becky Thwaites, the charity’s head of public affairs, said: “At Blue Cross we regularly see seriously ill pets and their devastated new owners – victims of unscrupulous breeders and sellers who prioritise profit over welfare.

“A lack of standardised inspection procedures or training for licensing officers combined with budget cuts means that many local authorities are struggling to cope, making it difficult for potential pet owners to have confidence in breeders or pet shops, even if they do have a licence. We hope that by highlighting the huge scale of the problem in our report we can encourage Government to make the vital changes needed to improve the welfare of pets bred and sold.”

Additionally, from looking at evidence of large scale online puppy sellers, Blue Cross calculated that one of these sellers could be making potential untaxed profits of £276,000 over 24 months without any regard for welfare or accountability to buyers.

The charity is calling for new laws that empower local authorities with sufficient resources and training to keep pets safe, taking into the account the growing online pet market, and make breeders and sellers fully accountable for the welfare of pets in their care, including:
• Compulsory registration for anyone breeding and selling pets, whether from a commercial premises or their home
• Standardised inspections and guidelines for all local authorities, so all sellers have to  meeting the same welfare standards to get a licence
• An easily-accessible database of all sellers and breeders, empowering consumers to make a good choice when buying a pet and giving them legal recourse should something go wrong
• Updating of the Pet Animals Act 1951, to include a specific reference to pets sold online, meaning that internet sellers are subject to the same standards as all other pet shops and breeding establishment.

Signatories to the open letter include Ben Fogle, George Michael, Joanna Lumley and president of the British Veterinary Association Gudrun Ravetz.

Husky pup Shadow was taken to a Blue Cross hospital just hours after being handed over to his new owners on a train station concourse. The puppy, which the charity said was ‘at death’s door’, had been advertised on a classified website

celebrities call for tougher welfare laws

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