A risk-based licensing and inspection scheme should be introduced to help stop puppy farming in Scotland, the Kennel Club has said.
It wants the the Scottish Government to back extending the club’s Assured Breeder Scheme and enabling its assessors to carry out routine inspections of low-risk accredited breeders to gain licences.
The organisation believes this will free up local authority inspectors, ensure those buying puppies can identify good breeders and help drive puppy farmers out of business.
In a new report, the Kennel Club said an average of 2016 and 2017 data from 80% of Scottish local authorities show 101 dog breeders are licensed annually, which the organisation estimates is only about two-thirds (65%) of the number who should be.
The club wants puppy breeders to require a licence for three or more litters a year, down from the current five, and believe this will mean the number of breeders needing a licence will triple.
A temporary registration scheme costing up to £10 should be introduced for those breeding fewer than three litters and advertising dogs online, the club argues.
It also wants new legislation to ensure puppies are not separated from their mothers until they are eight weeks old and ban sales through third parties such as commercial dealers or pet shops.
The report states there is “inadequate expertise and resources” in local authority licensing and “inconsistency” in applying the law and inspection regime.
To fix this, the club suggests working together with local authorities on a new risk-based star system licensing scheme with financial incentives for breeders who are part of its Assured Breeder Scheme or similar programme.
The system would involve high-risk breeders being inspected more frequently, such as every year, and paying more of the licence fee while low-risk breeders would have less frequent inspections and a reduced fee.
Breeders on their scheme – which includes a litter check, vet examination, buyer check and feedback forms, and costs £60 annually – would have a “significant reduction” to the licensing fee and a three-year licence.
Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: “Our proposal is a natural development from how the Scottish Government is considering regulating animal sanctuaries ie. by allowing qualified inspectors from other organisations to assist in the vast workload, which is why we hope they are open to working with the Kennel Club, through our UKAS-accredited Assured Breeder Scheme.
“We believe that by avoiding duplicate inspections, rewarding the best breeders and freeing up resources to target rogue breeders, this will benefit local authorities, puppy buyers and, most importantly of course, the health and welfare of puppies being bred.”
The Scottish Government plans to bring in legislation to modernise the licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeders, and is currently analysing consultation responses to proposals including a risk-based assessment for licences of up to three years.
Other proposals for the legislation include reducing the threshold for a licence to three litters and for businesses assured by a UKAS-accredited organisation to be exempt from inspection requirements.
Natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon said: “While I recognise the good work already carried out across the country, I want to introduce legislation to improve the current breeding regime.
“I know that the licensing of these activities can be onerous and I want to reduce the burden on regulators and make it possible for local authorities to enlist the help of suitably qualified and committed organisations.”
She said the government would analyse the consultation responses ahead of introducing the new legislation.