Neil Parish MP, who is also chairman of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, made a speech during a House of Commons debate on the sale of young puppies and kittens.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is a privilege to speak at the end of this debate, because it has been a good debate and all parties have come together. I have the great pleasure of chairing the all-party group on animal welfare, and I believe this is an issue that we all care strongly about.
There are more than 11 million cats in this country, and Blue Cross and Cats Protection take in between 4,000 and 5,000 stray cats and kitten a month. That shows the scale of the problem with not only puppies but kittens. If kittens are taken too early from their mother, not only is that bad for their welfare, but most will probably depart this world for health reasons. We must be clear about that.
It is more important than ever to ensure that we can enforce whatever legislation is in place—I am sure that is what the Minister will speak about this afternoon. It is no good having legislation that we cannot enforce. This is not just an animal welfare problem. When someone chooses a puppy, they are bringing an animal into their household. They may have young children, and that puppy is potentially dangerous and could grow into a dangerous dog. If people do not see the mother of that puppy and the environment in which it has been raised, they will not know what could happen in their family with that puppy.
With the internet, it is becoming much easier to access a puppy, and if someone goes to buy one and their child picks it up and loves it, it is difficult for them to say they are not going to buy it. Not only will the puppy be difficult from a welfare and behavioural point of view, it may be suffering from many diseases. It probably will not have had proper inoculations or been dealt with properly, whether it has come from a badly managed puppy farm or from eastern European countries where, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Mr Amess) mentioned, rabies and other diseases are a problem. We must act on all those issues to protect people from buying the wrong type of puppy or kitten.
I am not against designer dogs such as Cockapoos or Labradoodles, but they are expensive. People decide they want this type of dog, they look on the internet and they see a puppy that is half or a third of the normal price of a Cockapoo or Labradoodle. Naturally, people buy the cheaper puppy, which has probably come in from central or eastern Europe. Therein lies the problem.
I welcome the Government’s introduction of microchipping, but we have to make sure that it happens. Will those who breed puppies in their backyards and should not be breeding puppies be the sort of people who will microchip them? No, they will not.
Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): My hon. Friend is making such a superb speech that I think we need to hear an extra minute, so may I ask him if he is aware of the work of wonderful charities such as Woofability in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope). Such charities train dogs beautifully to do tremendous work for disabled people, such as pulling their socks off, taking the washing out of the washing machine and all sorts of tasks that able-bodied people think nothing of doing, but which are of huge assistance to someone confined to a wheelchair?
Neil Parish: My hon. Friend highlights not only that dogs can help people with certain tasks that they are unable to do themselves, but that a dog is a part of the family and an individual’s life. For many elderly people, their dog becomes their life, so if they lose a dog and then buy the wrong type of puppy—it might be diseased or have huge behavioural problems—that becomes a serious social issue as well. It is imperative, therefore, that we deal with the situation.
The Minister has many weapons in his armoury already, but there is not enough enforcement. Are we tracking vans coming through the ports of Dover and elsewhere with illegal puppies? Are we checking them? Do we know what is coming in? Are we checking the microchips already in dogs? According to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Blue Cross, only a third of the microchips they see in puppies and dogs are accurate. Not only do puppies need to be properly microchipped, but we need a national database to trace where dogs have come from.
If we ignore this situation, I fear it will get worse. People have got so used to buying clothes, shoes or whatever on the internet that unfortunately they think they can do the same with puppies. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have strongly made the argument that, for goodness sake, when someone buys a puppy, they should make sure they know where it has come from, have seen its mother, have seen where it has been bred and know how the mother behaved, so that they know what they are bringing into their home and can have a successful and loving pet. That is what people in this country believe in. The vast majority of people do a good job, but we have to stamp down hard on the rogues in our society.
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 4 September 2014, c487)