In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was inundated by justified letters and emails from constituents expressing concerns about kitten farming – a practice that I think is as dreadful as puppy farming.
I find it absolutely appalling that kittens are being sold sick and/or underage – flea or flu ridden, full of worms and with skin and eye disease. Sadly, in many cases this poor level of welfare can result in significant heartache and veterinary bills for the buyer or the death of the kitten.
I raised this important issue with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and was very encouraged when the Secretary of State responded confirming that the Government is serious about improving the welfare of cats and dogs in both breeding establishments and at point of sale. The Government is now making helpful advice for potential buyers available on www.gov.uk and is exploring other ways in which similar information can reach people considering buying a cat or a dog.
I am pleased that the Government is currently reviewing the laws on the animal activities licensing scheme and in early 2016 consulted on a number of proposals including one to apply specific welfare conditions to breeders of dogs and to pet vendors. This will mean that such activities will have to meet specific welfare standards in order to obtain a licence.
The standards will apply to all licensed breeders of dogs and vendors of pet animals irrespective if they are running a traditional high street pet shop or selling online from their home. I am greatly encouraged that a requirement is going to be put in place to ensure that animals are not sold at too young an age, which for cats is likely to be at or below 8 weeks. I think it is absolutely vital for this change to be implemented. It was one of the key commitments which those constituents who contacted me wanted to see and the fact that advice on the Government website will change to reflect that kittens should not be purchased if they are under eight weeks of age is very welcome news.
The Government has also said it proposes to remove the exemption which allows anyone in the business of selling kittens bred from the family’s pet pedigree cat to be exempt from requiring a licence to sell animals.
The UK has a justified reputation as being an animal loving country and I am very pleased that the Government is making these very important changes.