Licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities: consultation

Seeks views on proposals to introduce new regulations for the licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities in Scotland.

Part III: Proposals For Consultation

Stakeholders have expressed concern that the legislation concerning animal breeding, dealing and selling in Scotland is outdated. The Scottish Government proposes, therefore, to update the minimum legal requirements for each of these activities, based on current scientific and technical evidence on animal health and welfare. This will be set out in revised regulations, which will mean that in future changes can be made more easily by amending regulations rather than changing primary legislation.

As part of this process, the Scottish Government made a commitment in
the Programme for Government 2017-18 to introduce new legislation for the licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities in Scotland, using
the powers contained in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. This would replace the current legislation in Scotland.

Prior to presenting such legislation for approval by the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Ministers are required, by law, to consult such persons they consider to represent relevant interests and any other persons they consider appropriate. This public consultation document forms part of that consultation process.

The Scottish Government is seeking views on the proposal that dog, cat and rabbit breeders be required to hold a licence to carry out those activities, depending on the size of the undertaking. Details of these proposals are laid out below.

1. Extending the requirement for a licence

It is considered that the threshold in existing dog breeding legislation of five or more litters before a licence is automatically required is too high. Potentially forty or more puppies could be produced in a year without any legal obligations or inspections, and it is difficult to conceive of a breeder producing such an amount and not operating as a business.

The Scottish Government proposes to lower the threshold at which any dog breeding establishment needs to be licensed, and to extend that new threshold to cover cats and rabbits. We believe that the requirement for a licence should be applied to either:

(a) anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs, cats and rabbits regardless of the numbers involved; or

(b) anyone producing three or more litters from their dogs, cats or rabbits in a 12 month period.

We further propose to extend the licensing regime to cover the breeding of dogs, cats and rabbits as pets to other types of transfer or supply, in addition to commercial sale.

2. Additional licence conditions

We propose to retain the existing requirements (for dogs) that each breeding female should only produce one litter per 12 month period, that they cannot be mated if they are under one year of age for dogs and cats and six months for rabbits, and that they must not give birth to more than six litters in their lifetime. Additionally, we propose that when considering whether to grant or renew a licence the Local Authority should be satisfied that dogs, cats and rabbits are:

(a) at all times kept in accommodation that is of an appropriate construction and size with appropriate exercise facilities, temperature, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness;

(b) provided with appropriate whelping facilities;

(c) supplied with suitable food, drink and bedding; and

(d) supplied with adequate facilities to enable them to exhibit normal behaviour patterns.

Finally, we wish to propose that a maximum number of 20 breeding dogs or cats could be held at any one licensed site over the course of year, to allow individual attention to animals and proper socialization of offspring as well as minimising the potential for disease spread on the site.

3. Guidance

The new legislation will require compliance with any relevant Scottish Government guidance as one of the licence conditions. The requirement to comply with such guidance will ensure that all those involved in dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities adhere to the highest animal welfare standards.

4. Independent Accreditation

Several industry bodies have begun to develop certification schemes for animal breeding activities, some of which have been accredited by UK's National Accreditation Body (UKAS). We therefore, propose to allow an exemption from inspection requirements for dog, cat and rabbit breeders affiliated to a body accredited by UKAS to certify, at a minimum, the legally-required welfare licence conditions. Accredited breeders would still require to be licensed by local authorities but could then expect a reduced frequency of local authority inspection.

5. Issuing of licenses

The Scottish Government wish to make licences flexible and adaptable to circumstances.

In addition to taking into account certification by other bodies, we would like to see greater risk-based assessment used in inspection and enforcement activities for all licensed establishments. This would mean that businesses that show consistent good practice and compliance benefit from reduced inspections, while local authorities would have more time to spend on improving welfare standards at less well run establishments.

In addition, we propose to increase the maximum length of a licence that local authorities may issue, at their discretion, from one to up to three years, again subject to a risk assessment. Local authorities would continue to set licence fees on a cost recovery basis, and would be able to set lower fees for more compliant licence holders. Local authorities would continue to have the ability to inspect if welfare concerns arise or if there are significant changes in the licensed premises or activities and shall have the power to suspend, vary or revoke licences or issue improvement notices for breaches of licensing conditions.

Furthermore, the Scottish Government propose to allow licences to start and end at any point in the year, which would stagger the requirements for work on licence renewals and inspections throughout the year.

6. Fit and proper person test

Current animal welfare legislation, such as the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973, ensures that those who have been disqualified from other activities reliant on the provision of acceptable animal welfare can be neither registered nor licensed to care for animals. The Scottish Government agrees with that principle and seeks views on what other requirements should be contained in a wider ‘fit and proper’ person test for those who wish to become registered breeders.

7. Prohibit harmful breeding practices

In recent years there has been a growth in demand for pets with particular physical features (e.g. short noses, protruding eyes, long ears etc). These animals have often been bred to meet a particular aesthetic ‘look’ or shape that may at that moment be in fashion. This growth in demand has incentivised breeding for extreme conformational characteristics in some breeds. Unfortunately, such breeding heightens the risk of harmful genetic conditions and can seriously affect the future health and wellbeing of the animal. It can also place unexpected financial strain on the owner as many such pets will need on-going and costly veterinary care.

To encourage caution amongst dog, cat and rabbit breeders and to counteract the market incentive towards extreme conformations the Scottish Government propose to:

a) Discourage the breeding of dogs, cats and rabbits with a predisposition for genetic conditions which lead to health problems in later life; and

b) As a condition of licensing, prohibit any breeding practices which are likely to cause the offspring suffering in later life.

The Scottish Government believes that it is important that sellers, breeders and dealers can be held accountable to protect welfare of the animals they supply.

Should such a proposal be adopted, detailed guidance would be published in consultation with organisations such as the Scottish SPCA, British Veterinary Association and the Kennel Club.

The welfare of the individual animal would be at the centre of this process and we expect this to be a deterrent to the minority of breeders, sellers or traders that do not fully consider the welfare of their animals, as well as providing an opportunity to highlight bad practice and potentially criminal behaviour to the relevant licensing and enforcement bodies.


Email: Grant Campbell 

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