Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales writes: “We have secured a fairer outcomes for working dogs. We took the lead and led the way. Now we are here to ensure you are fully aware of what your obligations are as a breeder under the new licencing laws in Wales. It has taken almost seven years, three consultations and four Government Ministers to finally bring forward the Breeding of Dogs Regulations (Wales) Bill. The Countryside Alliance has been actively involved in the process every step of the way and took the lead on involving other rural organisations to speak up for the working dog. The regulations will come in to force in April 2015.
We breed some tremendous high quality animals here in Wales – you only need to visit the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show to witness some of the finest animals in Europe. Sadly, though, Wales has gained a terrible reputation in some counties for so called “puppy farming”. I really am not comfortable with that phrase. It depicts the image that this only happens on farms – it doesn’t, far from it, a puppy farm can be in a back yard of a terraced house in the middle of Cardiff or Rhyl. The issues are that the breeding dogs are not kept in the best of conditions and the puppies churned out at every breeding opportunity.
Whilst there is no clear cut exemption for working dogs, the Alliance has without a doubt achieved recognition for them from Assembly Members and policy writers, highlighting the way that working dogs are kept and worked, and the importance of hounds to be kept as pack animals with their living accommodation and housekeeping to remain in the format that will allow this. It is perfectly acceptable for gun dogs and terriers to be happily housed in outdoor kennels, but we needed to demonstrate this to those not familiar with the working dog.
Never, did I once think that I would see the day when I would be taking a Government Minister, so opposed to hunting, to a hunt kennel and observe him happily walking out hounds with the Hunt Master, looking so comfortable in the middle of a lodge surrounded by happy, healthy and friendly hounds, and obviously being really taken by three adorable hound puppies. The visit was about more than the dog breeding discussion, it was an opportunity to demonstrate first-hand how important a hunt kennel is to farmers to be able to dispose of fallen stock, and their wider role within the rural economy and community.
Successful participation in the process resulted with the current Minister Rebecca Evans recognising that working dogs are, more often than not, kept differently and she assured the chamber during December’s debate that their welfare needs will be taken in to account in the guidance issued to local authorities. The Alliance also put forward a motion for a separate set of guidelines for dogs kept as packs to which Government has agreed.
From 30th April 2015, any person keeping three or more bitches (that haven’t been spayed) and who breeds three or more litters in any 12 month period, will require a licence. Accompanying that licence will be strict enrichment and enhancement programmes for puppies, and of course, an annual fee. Coupled with the licence comes a strict minimum staff-to-dog ratio requirement of one full time member of staff to every twenty adult dogs. However, the local authority will have the discretion to lower this number should they feel it justified, for example, if there are a number of litters on the ground and a variety of breeds with varying needs. The local authority also has the power to appoint “others” as “inspectors”.
We welcome the regulations as a positive step forward. Breeding dogs is a legitimate business when done correctly and those who already breed to a high standard should have no problem with the regulations.
Over the next three months we will be advising our members on the detail of the regulations and will publish the final set of Government guidelines when they are ready. In the meantime, members can access information on the regulations from me, Rachel Evans by contacting me via phone or e-mail – 01550 777997 or [email protected]. Please have your membership number to hand. Those who are not members and who wish to join to be kept informed of the regulations and other Assembly business can join here or by calling 02078409200 and selecting option 1.