Shops must be licensed to sell animals, and are subject to a number of conditions as outlined in the Pet Animals Act 1951. These terms place welfare standards upon the pet shop owner which must be followed or their licence can be revoked, and the owner could be prosecuted for animal welfare offences.
An individual does not require a licence to sell pedigree animals that they have bred or offspring of their own pets. In other words, if your own pet has a litter you are allowed to sell them regardless of their breed. The problem is that this loophole can be exploited by unscrupulous people who, under the guise of selling their own pets’ puppies or kittens, is actually providing a front for puppy or kitten farms.
While some puppy and kitten farms are licensed and monitored, there are numerous overseas operations. The animals and their mothers are often kept in appalling conditions before being imported to the UK and sold to unwitting owners. These animals often have genetic or environmentally-aggravated health problems, and poor socialisation means that they could have temperament issues.
The main campaign trying to combat this unethical practice is PupAid. Their #wheresmum campaign aimed to educate owners, compelling them to ask breeders where the mother of their new pet was. If a breeder is unable or unwilling to reply, this can often be a sign that the puppy or kitten was not home bred. PupAid’s petition to ban the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops was debated in Parliament in September 2014. While the vote was in favour of a ban, many have said that this would have a lesser effect than controlling online sales and introducing licensing for breeders. Labour, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have all promised to review, or completely overhaul, the current legislation. Our survey revealed that pet owners consider commercial breeding to be their 4th most pressing animal welfare issue.