Veterinary and animal welfare bodies have applauded the Government’s stated intention to implement the biggest-ever legal crackdown on unscrupulous puppy farmers and smugglers in England.

Proposed legislation – which could be introduced early this year – will also seek to address the breeding of unhealthy dogs with severe genetic disorders.

Responding to the Government’s announcement, BVA president John Fishwick said: “Responsible breeding and ownership of pets are among vets’ priorities, so we commend the Government’s plans for new and updated legislation around the buying and selling of pets, ensuring it is fit for purpose in the internet age we live in.

“We also welcome the Government’s efforts to combat the illegal trade in puppies. As vets, we see first-hand the tragic consequences that can result from poorly bred and illegally imported puppies, with almost one third of vets reporting concerns about illegally imported puppies last Christmas [2016].”

RSPCA interim chief executive Michael Ward also welcomed the announcement, saying: “This is good news for the hundreds of thousands of dogs bought and sold in England every year.

“We hope these proposed licensing conditions for England – which include a ban on breeders selling puppies other than from their licensed premises – will improve the welfare of puppies and their parents, and also crackdown on the multi-million pound illegal trade; making it less likely people are duped by rogue dealers.

“We also welcome moves to stop the illegal smuggling of puppies, which is a vile trade resulting in the suffering and death of countless dogs.”

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, said: “We’re greatly encouraged the Government is taking steps to address the breeding and sale of unhealthy and underage puppies. Having led the campaign for several years, we applaud the Government’s commitment to tackle the despicable puppy smuggling trade. Long overdue changes need to be made to improve this failing legislation. As a priority, we also hope to see increased penalties for those illegally importing puppies and a significant overhaul of the pet checking system at ports.

As chairman of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, the charity is also delighted by news the challenges of online purchasing and impulse buying of pets will be addressed. This will be done by regulating adverts by ensuring licensed sellers of all pets, including puppies, detail the seller’s licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet in any advert for sale.

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