I was honoured to be invited to speak about Pup Aid and the petition at the annual APGAW Meeting on Dog Welfare in the Houses of Parliament.
Chaired by Conservative MP Neil Parish, this meeting is always well-attended by all leading welfare organisations including Kennel Club, Dogs Trust, British Veterinary Association (BVA), RSPCA, Blue Cross, as well as other MPs, and many other representatives of the dog world.
It’s always an excellent chance to get together and pool/swap ideas and information in order to improve the lives of this country’s canines.
The general consensus reached by most people was that we need to work together to achieve anything, and that the risk of rabies entering the UK via infected puppies is a major worry which DEFRA need to address as a matter of urgency regarding both dog and human health risk.
Here’s what I said in my speech:
Good evening everyone.
I’d like to firstly thank Marisa and Neil for inviting me to say a few words at this quite poignant of Associated Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare – APGAW – meetings just before Xmas 2013.
And I say poignant because as most of you will no doubt be aware, everyone represented here – we are a Group remember – now have something in our hands that we can use to positively influence – even change for the good – animal, specifically dog, welfare standards in the UK.
And I use the words ‘our hands’ because it really is. Our implies more than one person, and this thing, this way forward, this government e-petition now containing well over the desired target of 100,000 signatures is now the biggest pet welfare petition of all time that I’m inviting us all to use to take us all to the next level.
Indeed as e-petitions go, our PupAid petition, asking the government to ban the sale of young puppies and kittens without their mums, took only 6 months to achieve the desired sum of signatures to trigger a Parliamentary debate – meaning there’s 6 months left of its remaining time now as surplus to requirements. Only 23 petitions – just 23 – out of the 40,000+ submitted to the government have ever achieved the magical 100,000 and I’ll tell you all exactly what this means.
Over the last few months of campaigning, mainly using social media platforms Twitter and Facebook I’ve learned some extremely interesting lessons that if you don’t mind I’d like to share with you tonight.
Firstly, puppy farming is a largely unknown industry by the majority of the British public. But when they find out all about it, when they’re educated and given the simple basic tools to empower them with how dogs are commercially mass-bred in this country, well then they’re a pretty angry lot; passionate, caring, and the foot soldiers of a new animal welfare army.
Their modern age weapons; the ability to sign, share, comment, like, RT to in turn empower their friends, family, work colleagues, animal lovers, basically anyone, effectively spreading awareness, educating, and empowering on a massive national, even international, scale that can’t be ignored.
Secondly the generosity I’ve experienced by some has completely blown me away. And that’s not just individuals of which there are too many to name although special thanks must be given to Ricky Gervais, Peter Egan, Jodie Marsh, and Daniella Westbrook for being hugely influential on Twitter.
Also MPs Caroline Lucas (who suggested the e-petition in the first place exactly a year ago), Simon Kirby, Angela Smith, Luciana Berger, Neil Parish, and the MP whom myself and PupAid have elected to take the debate into the chamber at the end of March 2014 Labour’s Rob Flello – himself the proud owner of a rescue German Shepherd called Diesel.
There are also pet-related companies – with nothing to gain financially who’ve come forward to be a part of PupAid’s campaign – including our main sponsors Barking Heads Dog Food, Specsavers, Agria Pet Insurance, Pets Pyjamas, CEVA’s Adaptil, Virbac’s excellent Parvoalert, but also new kids on the block Love Sniffy’s sponsors of our viral video, and unsung heroes like Animal Friends Insurance for sending petition link to their huge database a total of 3 times…
Generous partners also include those animal friendly organisations and charities that in my opinion are prepared to talk the talk as well as walk the walk.
These good people – including many represented here tonight: The Kennel Club, Dogs Trust, Wood Green, The Mayhew, Blue Cross, All Dogs Matter, PDSA – have all proudly supported PupAid’s petition and helped make damn sure puppy farming is discussed in the Commons. This means the chance of new legislation, increased public awareness about responsible breeding, rescue shelters, and the responsible way to choose a dog, i.e. adopt from rescue or always see pup interacting with mum like all Kennel Club Assured Breeders who – for the record – also encourage cross breeds onto their books.
Which brings me nicely onto my point today and I thank you all for your patience…
As well as all this happy backslapping and thanking, and sharing the joy my team has experienced on behalf of those poor imprisoned dogs when someone, anyone, signs and shares that petition link, I’m equally upset and disappointed when so-called animal welfare organisations actively refuse to help a petition written specifically to prevent cruelty, from achieving Parliamentary debate as soon as possible – just because it wasn’t their idea.
Ladies and gentlemen delaying the end of cruelty means, simply, prolonging cruelty which I find hard to believe anybody in this room would ever be keen to promote.
I’m not going to name the organisations I’m referring to, far too embarrassing for them I would hope; but I just wanted to ask, to suggest, and to maybe even beg on behalf of those battery farmed dogs tortured day in, day out, for everyone to please agree today to work together on this one?
Never before has pet welfare in the UK been provided with the platform it deserves to create change until right now. So let’s all enjoy the moment. Why not? Let’s pool resources, contacts, energy, and do this properly; a united front to tell the world that we really still are a nation of animal lovers – and we’re proud of it.
There’s really no excuse why we can’t win this one and stamp out puppy farming for good. Over in the States they’ve already banned the sale of puppies and kittens from pet shops in 39 cities in North America and Canada as a direct result of wanting to curb sales of puppies born onto commercial breeding establishments – called puppy mills over there – so why on earth are we lagging behind them?
More interesting and slightly alarming are rumours of our own Pet Industry Federation whose website boasts its “members are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare and customer care” yet rumour has it they are pro selling puppies and kittens in their network of pet shops?
With what we know about puppy farming – surely we should be doing everything possible to change public behaviour, buying habits, to make it socially unacceptable to buy and sell puppies and kittens from pet shops and instead redirect them to rescues and KC Assured Breeders??
Pet shops will often boast to buyers “We get our puppies in from ‘responsible breeders.’”
Well then we need to re-define the phrase ‘responsible breeder’ because it seems to be banded around far too much nowadays. We’re all excellent at advising of the importance of matching right breed to right lifestyle. So how on earth can someone ‘responsibly’ breeding puppies, who has absolutely no interest in meeting its prospective owners, ever be classed as ‘responsible’?
Regarding the actual petition we also have access to heaps of evidence on the well-recognised link between early separation from the mother – called maternal deprivation – and animal suffering resulting in abnormal behaviours; insufficient socialization leading to separation anxiety, nervous aggression, as well as stressful phobias.
Furthermore everyone in this room is aware of a supposedly effective and ‘enforceable’ Animal Welfare Act that states a person commits an offence if either an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer; he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so – or the suffering is unnecessary.
We know puppies are being removed from their mums to early. There’s an urgency to sell before levels of money-making cuteness fade as well as that tiny ball of fluff beginning to resemble a different breed to what it’s advertised as.
How can a puppy in a pet shop be free from fear and distress and able to express normal behaviour when it should still be with its mother? Who at the same time will be hundreds of miles away and is unlikely to be experiencing the other freedoms from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease. We’ve all seen the pictures and footage taken inside puppy farms.
We know this is going on right under our noses. Pet shops, puppy supermarkets, online sales, garden centres, eastern European imports – now with complete with new added rabies risk – are all legal ways of obtaining a puppy; and all ways that these poor animals are suffering unnecessarily. Not to mention the thousands of forgotten healthy animals overflowing our rescue centres going stir crazy, even euthanised.
Even our beloved DEFRA, whose pathetic spineless petition response at 10,000 signatures, a rather embarrassing “Please move along there’s nothing to see here!”, implied everything was OK in the dog breeding world, yet when questioned by The Independent newspaper last week, said “Anyone buying a puppy has a responsibility (i.e. not their problem) to ensure it is coming from a reputable place with high animal welfare standards.”
But they also added: “They should also be able to see the puppy interacting with its mother.” Errr “Hello DEFRA – isn’t that what the petition’s saying?!”
So what are we doing here people?
It’s time to end the contradictions. Say goodbye to the hypocrisy. Public behaviour is shifting away from fueling greed, and speeding towards empathy, transparency, caring, and rescue; but it’s up to us – all of us – to accelerate that process so the only pet “sold” by a pet shop is one up for adoption from a local rescue, and not the latest hypoallergenic handbag hybrid that may or may not moult, then dies after 48 hours of having its insides ripped to pieces by parvovirus, leaving behind a devastated – and often financially ruined – young family.
Dogs Trust in Pets at Home adoption days are hugely popular, helping to end animal suffering by providing healthy ‘cheaper’ alternatives as these pets are already chipped, neutered, house trained, treated for fleas and worms – in other words ‘bargains’ – offering up to 15 years of unconditional love and some say they’re even more grateful for being given a chance of a new forever home.
Puppy farming equals cruelty; cruelty that can be prevented. It’s clear that the whole local authority, council, existing infrastructure that DEFRA is so proud of doesn’t work so our only answer, if we really want to prevent suffering and end cruelty, is to severely disable, and preferably stop for good, the supply chain.
But we’ve got to want it; preferably all of us. Imagine how that would feel, going into 2014 knowing that we’re all working together to prevent cruelty and improve dog welfare? Well it can be done. It’s just up to us if we do it or not.
So – and I’m finishing now I promise – please let’s all make this happen for our dogs and cats in 2014. Let’s prove to these poor animals that welfare and rescue is paramount, not greed and hypocrisy. Remember they have no choice in this but everyone in this room does.
It’s time ladies and gentlemen to all join ranks and fight puppy farming so that when we meet here in exactly one year’s time, we can look back on a successful 12 months when we were all – every single one of us – part of positive change for animal welfare, and the world will be reminded once again of the nation of animal lovers we proudly once were before we preferred to exploit them by painful greed and unnecessary suffering.
Thanks you for listening and Happy Christmas.