‘Dear Sir or Madam,
Thank you for the comments that you have made following the Five News/Sky News item on dog breeding and sales of dogs as pets. The number of comments made are very varied and I shall try to cover as many points as possible in a single response.
Many of you have called for commercial dog breeding to be banned, but that can only be achieved through a change in legislation, probably at national government level.
Some of you have also suggested that licenses held by the dog breeders that featured in the programme should be revoked, the dog breeders fined and also banned from keeping animals.
Local authorities cannot revoke licences.
Local authorities, other organisations and agencies involved in animal welfare can only take enforcement action when they have the correct evidence to do so and whilst undercover filming may be useful, on its own, it is not sufficient to sustain legal proceedings.
The Council will gladly accept any statement from any person who has personally witnessed the conditions that existed at any of the premises and the organisations that have helped Five News/Sky News in making the programme, know that is the case.
Magistrates courts may order the revocation of licenses, but that would be dependent upon a conviction for an animal health offence and only the courts can impose fines or ban individuals from keeping animals.
A few contributors have also asked about the way in which the Council regulates dog breeders. The Council uses veterinary specialists, its own staff and takes advice from other animal welfare organisations.
Its own staff are Animal Health Officers who are educated to degree standard and they have qualifications relating to agriculture, veterinary science and animal behaviour. Applicants for a dog breeding establishment licence are also subject to planning and building regulation control.
Each licensed dog breeding establishment receives an annual re-licensing inspection and further ad-hoc visits are made as necessary. Any complaint about an individual premises or the condition of dogs bred from them, is fully investigated. Unannounced visits are made.
Nearly all of you have asked what action the Council has taken in response to the Five News/Sky News broadcast.
One of the premises featured in a similar television programme broadcast last year and that has been the subject of investigation, including an assessment of the behaviour of the dogs bred at the licensed dog breeding establishment.
The other two premises have been inspected and where the allegations of cruelty and poor welfare were made, a small animal veterinary specialist was used to assess the conditions at that particular kennel, together with an assessment of the condition of the dogs.
There were no major issues that required immediate intervention or enforcement action and the complaints about poor lighting, lack of exercise, stimulation and social contact were not substantiated or supported by the veterinary surgeon.
Issues relating to cleanliness and repair were identified and the licensees were required to make improvements. If a statement from any person who has personally witnessed the conditions that existed at the time of the filming is received, enforcement action may be reconsidered.
A few contributors have asked why the Council does not give an interview, but only releases a statement that the reporter or programme presenter can use.
This is usual practice in an on-going investigation where there is the possibility of a prosecution, so that potential legal proceedings are not compromised and also when it becomes necessary to check the validity of the information provided.
The standards that are applied to licensed dog breeding establishments have been of concern to many people. The licenses issued by the Council require the licensees to apply a series of conditions to the operation of the kennels so that the welfare of dogs is maintained.
The licence conditions that the Council uses are similar to those of neighbouring local authorities and those recognised nationally. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government has recognised the need to review standards and has established Companion Animal Welfare Fora.
It has also commissioned a series of projects aimed at the general improvement of animal welfare. One of those projects relates to conditions attached to dog breeding establishment licenses and its findings will be published shortly, possibly leading to a standard set of conditions being applied throughout Wales.
Carmarthenshire County Council will modify its existing licence conditions to recognise those improvements or any other changes that Welsh Assembly Government Ministers consider appropriate. There are changes to the legislation regulating dog breeding that the Council would like to see implemented, such as traceability of young dogs, the control of dealers and the use of staffing ratios at kennels.
It will pursue those improvements though the local Companion Animal Welfare Forum, where the major animal welfare organisations are represented. In March, this year the Council was presented with a petition organised by a group of people concerned about the welfare of dogs and its response to that petition is to fully support the work of the Companion Animal Welfare Fora in Wales to improve the welfare of dogs.
I know that all contributors and complainants who have contacted the Council following the Five News/Sky News programmes care about animals and dogs in particular. Some letters and e.mails have been constructive, others less so and I fully realise that these comments will not satisfy everyone.
No further statements or comments will be made on this topic.’
Head of Public Protection
Carmarthenshire County Council
Tel: 01267 228706
Fax: 01267 221616
Mobile: 0788 050 44 11