Archive for July 2021

Home Breeders’ Association sensibly challenges Breeding Regulations

July 5, 2021

Wake up and smell the coffee – phrase first used in the Chicago Tribune in 1943

The Home Breeders Association (HBA) represents small scale breeders who either do not need a licence or, if they do have more than two litters, it is exceptional. Membership is not confined to breeds or pedigree dogs.: there are some breeders of deliberate cross bred dogs who are not ‘in it for the money’ any more than some of our pedigree dog breeders are. They love their dogs and want to share that pleasure with others. Some may turn up their noses but I believe we should wake up and smell the coffee of change for it is here and happening whether we like it or not.

At my suggestion, the HBA became an Associate Member of the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG), the most influential lobby group in the UK which represents virtually all the major players in the sector from the RSPCA to the Kennel Club. I am pleased to say that they have been active too and I would like to share with you a summary of their recent letter to the CFSG prior to the forthcoming yearly ‘big tent’ meeting to which every animal related not-for-profit organisations are invited. It headed ‘Drastic reforms urgently needed for small home breeders’ and I think few of us would quarrel with that! It continues:

The introduction of the new Animal Welfare Regulations in 2018 has been a nightmare for many small volume home dog breeders in England and Wales. The most widely heard complaint remains the inconsistency of the application of the regulations by local authorities due to widely differing interpretations of the complex updated regulatory guidelines. Most serious is the varied interpretation and, sometimes, misuse of the so-called ‘business test’ by local authorities as to who actually needs a dog breeding licence.

The 2018 breeder licensing regulations were surely meant to target high volume commercial ‘puppy farm’ breeders but the complexity of the business test has resulted in a disproportionate number of small volume home breeders being unfairly targeted. Many are now being persecuted, prosecuted, browbeaten and threatened with prosecution by both local authorities and private animal welfare ambulance chasers for selling or advertising as little as one puppy or litter per year.

Other well-documented complaints include the differing systems used by local licensing authorities over how to count the number of dogs to be included for a dog breeding licence, a huge variation in licensing fees across different councils, poorly trained or aggressive inspectors who treat dog breeders with ingrained distrust, inspectors providing incorrect healthcare advice, and heavy pressure and bullying that some licensing authorities have been exerting on home breeders to reduce their total dog numbers by rehoming or otherwise ‘getting rid’ of their older but still much-loved retired studs and bitches.

Many small volume home dog breeders who applied for a licence in good faith have become targeted by their local planning authorities to change the use of their homes from residential to business or face enforcement action and criminal prosecution. Many such targeted breeders complain of aggressive anti-breeder attitudes amongst their local planning officers, who have been using their substantial powers to force breeders into reducing total dog numbers in order to meet planning permission requirements, even when there have been no significant animal welfare or environmental issues found.

Licence requirements extended to include pet vending regulations

Some breeders are now even being told they need a separate licence to sell their adult dogs. Understandably, these threats have caused significant financial and emotional stress and heartache for many licensed dog breeders, since most established dog breeders will as a matter of course own or keep many more dogs than the average non-breeding household of just one or two animals.

The guidance currently recognises a common staff to dog ratio of 1 full-time adult to as many as 20 dogs in established dog breeding businesses, but this guidance seems to be lost upon or ignored by most licensing and planning officials who usually do not understand or appreciate the ebbs and flows of normal dog breeding practices. It should come as no surprise that many small volume home dog breeders have elected not to renew or apply for dog breeding licences and breeding litters frequently in order to remain ‘out-of-scope’ despite the risk of falling foul of the often loose interpretation of the business test.

Others have retired early and quit breeding altogether after gaining many years of valuable experience from producing generations of beautiful and sometimes rare-breed dogs. In the midst of the huge spike in demand for puppies during the COVID pandemic, the updated animal welfare legislation has therefore in fact contributed to the significant shortfall in domestically bred puppies of quality from responsible small volume home breeders by frightening them into breeding less frequently or not at all.

Fraud

 This has contributed to the sharp spike in puppy prices which in turn has led to a huge increase in fraud and dog/puppy theft as criminals have turned their attention and skills to a range of fraudulent and unacceptable way to make a profit from a public, many of whom remain gullible. These opportunistic middlemen are attempting to cash in on the buoyant puppy market by targeting breeders and offering to sell their puppies for highest prices in return for a lucrative cut. And breeder training courses and “academies” have sprung up promising to train and certify novice dog breeders for full “accreditation” in the handling of pregnancy and whelping, the breeding process, and the raising of puppies all in the space of a day! In the meantime, despite the introduction of Lucy’s Law in 2020, demand for puppy imports from abroad continues to soar due to the shortage of domestic bred pups, with the UK Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency reporting dog imports from the EU increasing by over 50% to over 60,000 in 2020.

For most responsible home dog breeders represented by HBA and the Kennel Club among others, dog breeding is a lifestyle choice and a hobby borne out of a love for dogs and the enjoyment of raising a litter of healthy, happy puppies, not principally for income or profit, which are seldom substantial after time costs have been taken into consideration.

Sensible demands?

· HBA is calling for drastic and urgent reform and easing of the regulations governing the activities of both licensed and unlicensed home dog breeders. HBA’s recommended urgent action points are the following:

· Most urgently, the Home Breeders Association repeats its calls for the immediate separation of the business and trading income test from breeding licensing altogether. All breeders earning income from dog breeding should be reporting earnings to HMRC as a matter of course: there is no need for this extra layer of interference as the Scottish government has sensibly concluded.

· HBA recognises that with any removal of the business test, there will be concerns raised over the welfare and oversight of puppies bred and sold by unlicensed “out-of-scope” home breeders. HBA recommends that in place of the business test used to require local authority licensing, new legislation be passed to require all puppies sold under the age of 15 weeks (or age of legal import) to be sold with a written veterinary health check from any licensed UK vet where the dam is also presented and vet-checked for general health and likelihood as the legitimate dam. This would include record of microchip details of each pup sold as well as the usual identifying factors of age, sex, colour, and breed. This would provide a simpler, more efficient, more qualified, cheaper, and effective system of animal welfare and activities oversight for all parties involved, including puppy, dam, breeder, and puppy buyer, than the current complicated and expensive system of local authority breeder licensing

· HBA recommends an increase the out-of-scope breeding licence criteria to allow up to 3 or even 4 litters bred per 12-month period in order to encourage small responsible domestic home breeders in England and help meet the high domestic demand for quality puppies reared in a loving home environment. Such a change would also recognise that many breeds produce very small litters, and that some litters do not always survive.

· Alternatively, HBA would support changing the litter count method to counting litter live births per fixed 12-month period

· HBA believes it is important for the Government to remedy the serious planning permission problems being encountered by a number of home breeders who dutifully applied and received licensing by their LA only to be referred by the LA to planning departments which subsequently order licensed breeders to apply for change of use of their home and/or reduce total numbers of dogs despite being licensed for a certain number of dogs by the same council. In particular, the total number of adult dogs mandated by planning authorities when requiring change of use should not be less the number of adult dogs granted by licensing authorities.

You may or may not agree with some of these recommendations (there are more of what I consider sensible ideas in the letter) but I believe they should be seriously considered by both CFSG and government.