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House of Lords Hansard
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Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018
27 March 2018
Volume 790

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

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That the Grand Committee do consider the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

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My Lords, I am delighted to bring forward this important set of regulations which introduce a new system of local authority licensing of activities involving animals in England. The regulations form part of an important package of reforms that the Government are delivering to improve animal welfare.

These regulations meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to continue their review and reform of the pet licensing controls and specifically to update the licensing system for dog breeding, pet sales, riding establishments and animal boarding establishments. They also modernise the system for animal exhibits, which are currently regulated under the Performing Animals Act 1925. The current licensing and registration system that covers these five animal activities is outdated and complex. The new regulations create up-to-date minimum welfare standards for these five activities in England, while streamlining the system for both local authorities and businesses. We have worked closely with stakeholders from the sector, animal welfare organisations, local authorities and veterinary bodies in drafting these regulations and are very grateful for their support, in particular the work of the Canine and Feline Sector Group and the Equine Sector Council for helping to co-ordinate this.

One of the key issues with the current licensing system is that the animal welfare standards with which businesses are required to comply have not been updated for many years. The schedules to the new regulations include detailed animal welfare standards for each of the activities that have been developed in close consultation with stakeholders. These will ensure that anyone who receives a licence for dog breeding, selling pets, boarding dogs and cats, hiring out horses or keeping or training animals for exhibit will need to meet these new minimum welfare standards. This should help to drive up animal welfare standards across all of these sectors.

Many people and organisations have been calling for more restrictions to be placed in particular on the breeding and selling of dogs, where it is felt that there are unscrupulous businesses that breed dogs in poor conditions for maximum profit. The regulations address this issue in a number of ways. We are making changes to the definition of dog breeding so as to ensure that the regulations capture both large-scale dog breeders as well as smaller-scale dog breeding businesses. Under the new regulations, anyone who is in the business of breeding and selling dogs will need a licence. In addition, breeders that are not classed as a business will also need a licence if they breed three or more litters a year and sell any of them. Overall, this will ensure that more breeders are captured under the regulations and will need to comply with the high animal welfare requirements set out within them. They ensure that we can crack down on unregulated backstreet breeding.

It is important to acknowledge the sad fact that many unsuspecting potential buyers are providing a lucrative market for rogue dog breeders and animal dealers who work illegally outside the licensing system. The regulations therefore include a number of measures that will help consumers to identify these rogue traders and make more informed decisions when purchasing an animal. No licensed breeder or pet seller will be able to sell a puppy, kitten, ferret or rabbit which is below eight weeks of age. In addition, we have ensured that the recently updated welfare codes for cats and dogs carry the same requirement, so that no one should be separating puppies or kittens from their mothers before eight weeks of age unless there are genuine welfare reasons for the mother or the offspring.

Following the excellent work undertaken by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, we have placed a number of the PAAG voluntary minimum standards in the regulations. Licence holders are now required to publish their licence number on all adverts, including online adverts, so that consumers can check this with the relevant local authority to make sure that it is a legitimate business. Adverts will also have to include a photograph of the animal and state its country of residence and origin. All licensed businesses will also receive a risk rating from one to five stars, based on the welfare standards that they adopt and their compliance record. This is a similar system to the one used in the food hygiene rating scheme.

For puppies, there is an additional requirement for any sale of a puppy to be completed at the premises where the puppy was bred, to make sure that the purchaser sees the puppy and the conditions that it has been kept in before making the final purchase. All licensed breeders can only show a puppy to a prospective purchaser if it is together with its mother, unless separation from the mother is necessary for welfare reasons. All licensed pet sellers are also required to provide purchasers with information about how to care for the animal they are buying. These measures will ensure that consumers are able to make more informed decisions when buying an animal, and are better able to care for it once they have taken it home. This is particularly important for more exotic species such as reptiles.

Many people are concerned about the increase in the online sale of pets. Currently, the legislation is not clear on whether or not these businesses require a licence, and so enforcement is inconsistent across the country. Under the new regulations, all commercial sales require a licence, including those that take place online. All of these businesses will have to comply with the minimum welfare standards set out in the regulations. These measures will ensure that the licensing system is consistent and fit for purpose in this modern age.

The licensing system is run by local authorities and funded by full cost recovery, so there is no financial burden on local authorities. Licences can be issued at any point in the calendar year, which will help to spread the workload across the year. The maximum licence length that can be issued is increased from one to three years, with longer licences going to businesses with earned recognition. This should reduce the workload for local authorities, allowing them to spend more time on enforcement of unlicensed businesses and on the less compliant businesses.

This will also reduce the burden on good businesses, such as those that operate to a particularly high standard of animal welfare and those associated with a body accredited by UKAS—for example, breeders in the Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme. Such businesses will already be exceeding the requirements of the regulations and so will be able to achieve longer licences for a lower fee. This clearly also provides an incentive for businesses to improve welfare standards.

We recognise that the implementation of these regulations will be crucial to their success, and so local authority inspectors will be required to undertake specific training on licensing and inspection. This will ensure that they are suitably qualified to undertake inspections for all of the animal activities covered by the regulations. To that end, the City of London has worked with the pet industry to develop a syllabus for a level 3 training course for animal activities inspection, which inspectors will be required to attend. Local authorities will be able to recoup all their reasonable costs for this training from the licensing regime.

The regulations have been drafted in consultation with stakeholders from the industry, animal welfare organisations, local authorities and veterinary bodies, and we are very grateful for their assistance. The regulations are proportionate and targeted and will help to improve animal welfare across a number of sectors. For these reasons, I commend the regulations to the Committee. I beg to move.

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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and his officials for their time and explanations regarding this SI and for his comprehensive introductory remarks. I declare my interest as a district councillor. It is now two years since Defra’s initial consultation on this important issue and I welcome moving it forward.

This SI covers a number of domestic animal welfare issues that are of great concern to the public, including the breeding and selling of animals, animal boarding establishments and, as the Minister said, the hiring out of horses. While it is essential to ensure that animal welfare is paramount, I welcome the introduction of requiring only one licence instead of the two previously needed. This is a sensible cut in bureaucracy. The Minister has provided assurances that those working in the sector have been consulted in the form of the equine, feline and canine organisations and that the Government have been working closely with them and with vets. A licence lasting up to two years instead of being renewed every year will be welcomed, as will the risk-based approach to the length of the licence and the ability for it to be given at any time during the year, not just at the year end.

My colleague and noble friend Lady Parminter has raised the issue of puppy farming on a number of occasions inside and outside the Chamber, and was extremely concerned that there should be adequate regulation of this often very distressing industry. Defra launched a call for evidence on the third-party sale of puppies and kittens on 8 February. This consultation will close on 2 May and we look forward to its results. We would be grateful if the Minister could give us an indication of when the results might be published.

We welcome the restriction of the number of litters that a bitch may have to one a year as a great step forward. The prohibition of the sale of a puppy—as well as kittens and other animals—below the age of eight weeks, and the need for a puppy to be shown with its mother by breeders prior to sale, will also be welcomed by those legitimate breeders and owners who have the best interests of their animals at heart. Similarly, the detailed restrictions on the size, height and type of boarding kennels and catteries should ensure that domestic animals can be left by their owners, in confidence that their pets will be well looked after during their absence.

As a local councillor, I am aware that local authorities are under tremendous pressure with budget restraints. I fully support the move to allow them to have full-cost recovery for their work in granting licences, as well as being able to raise fees for reasonable enforcement. In the past, it has not always been possible for the cost of extra work passed to local authorities to be recouped in this way. There will, of course, need to be an adequate number of suitably qualified inspectors to ensure that this legislation is properly enforced. I welcome the comments that the Minister made about the new qualification. I understand that it will take three years to meet the necessary standard and that vets on the list of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons will carry out some of this work.

While Defra is going to publish guidance, this will not be available until the regulations come into force. Does the Minister believe that this will give enough time to local authorities to be prepared to issue the new licences in an efficient and responsive manner?

I fully support the measures covered by this SI but I have one concern. Part 4 of the schedule, which covers the hiring out of horses, does not appear to cover riding for the disabled. While the regulations cover the welfare of animals in a commercial operation, they do not apply to those which operate on a charitable basis. I would be grateful if the Minister could reassure us that if establishments which offer riding for the disabled are operating not on a charitable basis but as a business, they will be covered by this new legislation. That apart, I believe that this is a great step forward and look forward to its implementation eagerly.

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My Lords, I generally welcome these regulations. I declare an interest as an owner of a rescue mutt, which we are told is a cross between a poodle and a Shih Tzu. I would welcome suggestions from noble Lords as to what we should call that breed.

It must be right that puppies are not sold below the age of eight weeks. It is also right to draw the line at three litters a year. I am in favour of a risk-based approach to licensing and inspections by local authorities. In the same vein, it is helpful to avoid a backlog of inspections by operating on a basis of fixed-term licences set at any point in the year. I support the regulation of advertisements, as these regulations do, although I ask my noble friend how this will all be enforced. Are there the funds to allow the necessary inspections and monitoring of advertising? Perhaps PAAG and the excellent dog charities can help with the latter. However, what about enforcement?

I note that these regulations apply in England and I wonder what discussions my noble friend has had with the Welsh Government with a view to ascertaining whether they might do something similar. Not that it is introduced by these regulations, although they refer to it, but I have a concern about the dead hand of bureaucracy, which demands that someone who very occasionally looks after someone else’s dog, and perhaps has done so for years, should be required to obtain a licence if they are to be even modestly recompensed. Having said that, there is no excuse for poor welfare conditions for animals, and, as I have said, I generally support these regulations.

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My Lords, I strongly support these extremely welcome changes to activities licensed by local authorities under five earlier Acts through regulations under powers in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. These licensing conditions will now reflect the welfare requirements of animals as required in that Act and as will be required in the specific guidance being produced in association with this instrument—guidance that will be statutory, which is very important. The activities have been outlined by the noble Lord and I commend Her Majesty’s Government for introducing this instrument, which will undoubtedly have a very positive effect on animal welfare. I should like to make one or two comments and ask one or two questions.

On the breeding of dogs, the measure to reduce the numbers of litters per year from five to three, at which point a licence is required, and to apply various sensible measures, such as a prohibition on the sale of pups less than eight weeks of age, the requirement to provide information to the buyers and other sensible measures, are very welcome. However, it is worth emphasising, as the noble Lord did, that these requirements would apply to anyone breeding and selling puppies, even from one litter, if it was deemed to be a business. My understanding—the Minister may want to correct me on this—is that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs regards a profit of more than £1,000 a year as a business, but that needs clarity.

In toto, this instrument addresses several serious animal welfare concerns which many have had for some time. They include online sales, which have been addressed, exotic pets, for which more guidance will now have to be given at the point of sale, and various aspects of the breeding and sale of puppies.

Another measure with which I strongly concur is relevant to current concerns about the breeding of dogs where their conformation or genetics predispose to health or welfare problems among mothers or puppies. This is contained in paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 6 of the guidance:

“No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring”.

This is extremely welcome. It clearly has relevance to issues of current concern, such as brachycephalia, where short-nosed breeds have a much higher incidence of respiratory disorder. There is even a name for it: BOAS—Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. There will clearly need to be consideration and discussion of the words “reasonably be expected” but I very much hope that this guidance will hasten current efforts to improve the health status of various breeds that intrinsically have a higher risk of suffering ill health. Indeed, I hope it will persuade dog owners and breeders to be much more selective in the dogs that they buy and breed.

I have some questions for the Minister. The guidance is essential to this instrument, so can the Minister assure us that it will be available by 1 October when the instrument is enacted? Will local authorities be given enough scope to charge reasonable fees? Will those fees be ring-fenced so that they cover all the costs incurred by local authorities—not just the training costs, about which we have heard a little, but all the costs of the measures—so that no local authority can claim insufficient resources to enforce this instrument?

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My Lords, I too welcome this animal welfare regulation before us. I think that there are two of us here in Grand Committee who took the original Bill through, back in 2006, and I know we spent many hours on the Bill trying to get it right. Clearly, however, times have moved on—there was no such thing as buying and selling animals online in those days, which, as other noble Lords have mentioned, is a challenge.

I want to follow up on the last comment made, about breeding healthy dogs, because that is a huge problem. I do not know if it is so relevant in cats—it could well be—but it is certainly relevant for dogs. Therefore, I am glad to see it mentioned and hope that the Minister will be able to reinforce it. However, I have one question: what about the importation of some of the dogs that come in from abroad? Again, that is a question relating to their health and breeding.

In general terms, I welcome this improvement and tightening up of some of the regulations, and I know that a lot of outside bodies were consulted so that they could comment. I have four specific questions that I would like to raise about the document. I turn first to paragraph 5(2) of Schedule 3, which states that anybody who wants to buy a cat or dog has to go in person to see it. But I am thinking of those who are housebound: in that situation, those who want a cat may not necessarily be able to go and see it. Has any thought been given to this? Could a carer or somebody else go on their behalf?

My second question relates to paragraph 8(4) of Schedule 4: why do boarded dogs require daily exercise only once but breeding dogs require it twice? It seems to me slightly strange that they are not both under the same regime, because surely they both need good exercise. However, I suspect that the Minister will have an answer.

My third question concerns Schedule 7, which talks about private persons who train or show one or more pets. This may not apply directly to farm animals, but many of us in the Grand Committee go to county shows where animals are shown. They are perhaps not trained in the technical sense, but they are trained to show. Originally, I presumed that they would not be classed as a business, but some of the animals at these shows become very valuable if they manage to win championships. I have not found an answer in what is before us as to whether they would qualify and need a licence, or whether they are not regarded as a business, although they might be a business. It is fairly fine line and I would be grateful for some clarification.

My last question, which has been picked up by other noble Lords, goes back to the responsibilities that have been placed on local authorities. I accept that local authorities are able to claim back and get full costs, but will those local authorities that do not have many demands on them under the regulations have different charging rates? I am sure that that is not the intention, but how will we overcome this? The best way forward is not clear to me. There is a responsibility on local authorities and the move from one year to three years will help to lessen the demands on people’s time and expertise, but I would be glad to hear some clarification from the Minister when he responds.

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My Lords, when I was looking through the regulations, I was trying to see whether they would stamp out the bad practice of illegal, back-street puppy farming. I welcome the provisions on the eight-week period and viewing with the mother. I was also pleased to see that the regulations require non-commercial breeders to obtain a licence if they breed three or more litters per year, which is down from five or more previously. That will make it more difficult for breeders to claim that they are non-commercial in order to avoid having to have a licence.

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. It is not difficult to see that, if a breeder wanted to avoid this restriction, he could say that he owned two bitches, his wife owned another two bitches and each of his children owned two bitches. It would be impossible to prove otherwise. I think that the regulations have missed a trick. If the requirement for a licence for more than two litters per annum was applied not to the breeder but to the premises, it would be much more difficult to circumvent the rules. My question to the Minister is this: is there any way that the Government could add to “breeder” the words “and/or premises”, perhaps in the guidance notes to the local authorities?

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My Lords, I was about to refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, as my noble friend—we have been friends for such a long time, even though I am independent and she is a Conservative. She touched on something that is absent from this statutory instrument, which is the breeding of cats. Just as with the dogs that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, mentioned, you are getting cats with flat faces, because they are attractive to people who think that they look like babies. It is a real menace in the cat world and should not be allowed. Many people acquire cats—we have two farmhouse-bred moggies. Cats living on farms have litter after litter, and I feel that there needs to be some regulation on spaying or castrating them so that we can reduce the overall number of cats and breed nice, healthy animals—like ours.

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My Lords, I just want to say a few words. First, I declare that I am a member of a local authority. I welcome the new regulations on minimum welfare standards. I hope that we will have tough customs checks when puppies come into the UK. I also welcome the important provisions on streamlining, enforcement and full costs for local authorities. As previous speakers have said, this is an opportunity to stamp out unscrupulous, back-street puppy farms, which should be banished as soon as possible.

My second declaration is as a dog lover: I have dogs and I love them dearly. I agree with the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, on the breeding of dogs, under Part 5 of Schedule 1. I acknowledge the move from five to three litters, but I think that if something is a business it should be licensed, even if there is only one litter. It is a commercial enterprise and obviously it is going to make a profit. Instead of having it go down to three, it should be one. If it is a commercial enterprise it should breed a litter to sell. It is a business. Could the Minister clarify that for me?

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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the intent behind the regulations. As he says, the proposals provide a long overdue update on a number of aspects of the regulations about keeping and selling animals as pets, which, as he says, are well out of date. We welcome much of the content, which would improve the licensing requirements of owners, breeders and sellers alike. I might have been guilty of this, but while we have used the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee reports to criticise the department, it is also worth placing on record its unusual praise on this occasion in drawing the regulations to our attention. It says:

“We commend Defra on a well-judged and informative”,

Explanatory Memorandum. I echo that and say well done to the staff.

We welcome the new licensing approach, which encourages businesses to become low risk through delivering high standards, with those that conform being able to have licenses for a longer period, rather than having to reapply each year. That seems to make sense. However, it is important that this flexibility is used for the right reasons and that it is not just seen as an easy option for local authorities that do not have the staff or the resources to visit premises only every two or three years. It is important that that high standard underpins all this and that it is not traded off for financial constraints. We also welcome the obvious thing of having one standard licence rather than multiple licences. Again, that is good common sense, but we have some concerns about the application of the licensing system, which I will come back to shortly.

In addition, we have campaigned for a long time to require puppy sales to be completed in the presence of the new owner, for a ban on the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks old, and for the licensing threshold for dog breeders to be reduced, so we welcome all of those developments. However, as the Minister knows, we very much regret that the opportunity was not also taken in these regulations to ban the third-party commercial sale of puppies and kittens. Indeed, it is not really clear how many of the other improved welfare standards that underpin these regulations can be enforced while third-party sales continue, many of which happen under the radar and are not properly regulated.

The reality is that, as the noble Lord said, there has been a huge rise in online sales of puppies and kittens fuelled by “rogue traders”—I think that was his expression—which are often overseas and are sadly renowned for having poor welfare standards. This all has a knock-on effect. The poor animals that are traded on this basis have health and behavioural problems associated with long journeys, often travelling many hundreds of miles in unhygienic conditions, and often with premature separation from their mothers, who themselves are often kept in exploitative and inhumane puppy farms abroad. There have been numerous whistleblowing cases where we have seen examples of this—in particular in eastern Europe, but they come from all sorts of places across the continent.

I still do not feel that the measures before us address this problem. The noble Lord was talking about curtailing adverts. Obviously those sorts of measures are welcome, but we are still seeing that illegal trade taking place. I do not see that it will be dealt with until we have that third-party commercial ban. We believe that it is time to stamp out this trade, which is why we support such a ban. However, the fact that the Government have now issued a separate consultation that revisits this issue has given us some hope. We look forward to participating in that debate and hope that, in time, the Government will see the error of their ways on this issue.

In the meantime, I have some questions for the Minister arising from the regulations before us. First, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, there seems to have been a very long delay between the end of the consultation in March 2016 and the appearance of these regulations today. That seems to be a bit of a hallmark of the department. Can the Minister explain why it has taken two years to process the regulations?

Secondly, the regulations are to be supported by more detailed schedules and guidance, but the way in which they are written at the moment uses very simple language. In one sense that is great, because it is easy to understand. However, they use phrases such as “adequate” facilities, “sufficient” space and a “suitable” environment, all of which are open to interpretation, so it is important that as soon as possible we have measurable requirements so that local authorities can make a proper assessment of whether welfare standards are being maintained. When will that more detailed guidance be provided so that we can be assured that there will be proper ways to measure the improvement in welfare standards?

Thirdly, has any further thought been given to introducing a microchip database recording microchip numbers on entry to the UK and extending microchipping to cats? Does the Minister agree that this would help to cut down on the illegal trade in puppies and kittens?

Fourthly, a number of noble Lords have talked about the new inspection arrangements. We are concerned that local authority inspectors will be undertrained and underresourced to manage the new licensing regime successfully. What, if any, additional resources are being provided to local authorities to carry out these duties? Is the Minister concerned that the proposal for level 2 qualifications for inspectors is not really high enough for them to understand the complex animal welfare needs that they will be required to inspect? Indeed, what plans are there to require licence holders themselves—the actual owners of these animals—to demonstrate minimum competence standards and meet best practice?

The impact assessment assumes a one-off familiarisation for businesses and local authorities of two hours a week. Does the Minister agree that this is wholly inadequate and that a much more rigorous training regime needs to be developed? Can he shed some further light on how the licensing fees will be established? In response to questions in the Commons, the Minister said that the licences would be,

“funded by full cost recovery … so there is no financial burden on local authorities”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/03/18; col. 5.]

We understand what that means, but how will it be calculated in practice? We are talking about a differential cost for licence holders in every different local authority. Will all licensed operators be compelled to pay a contribution not just towards the inspections of the good guys, if I can put it like that, but towards the enforcement activities taken against all the illegal operators too? The people who own up and pay up will be paying for the policing. It differs in different parts of the country, but there could be quite widespread potentially illegal activities, and that does not seem very fair. Is that not a case of penalising those who play by the rules, rather than getting everyone to up their game?

Lastly, the regulations address only certain kinds of commercial animal services, such as providing boarding for cats and dogs and day care for dogs. Several noble Lords have mentioned other kinds of commercial animal services. My bugbear, which I have mentioned to the Minister in the past, is that commercial dog walkers are becoming big business these days: they often deal with large numbers of dogs during the day, yet they do not seem to be covered by these regulations. Has any thought been given to requiring commercial dog walkers to have a licence? Are any reviews of other animal licensing arrangements currently taking place for new businesses that are developing?

In conclusion, while we welcome many of these proposals, there seems a lot more work to be done in raising animal welfare standards across the board. We therefore look forward to receiving these details from the Minister in due course. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the many very pertinent questions that have been raised today.

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My Lords, this has been a very important discussion, and I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for recording what I would call some praise, but some chastisement as well. Her genuine praise was for the officials who have been engaged on this matter over a considerable period. I will be in longer form in a moment but the most important thing is to have got these regulations right. They may have taken some time but it is better to get them right, because this has involved fairly intricate work with a number of parties, which I will explain in greater detail.

I am very struck by the universal endorsement of the spirit of what the regulations are seeking, which is to enhance animal welfare. Again, I acknowledge that it would not have been possible to get to the detail that we will have without the support of the Canine and Feline Sector Group, the Equine Sector Council, the local authorities, vets charities and participants in this sector generally. We always want to root out the bad but we should also remember that there are some extremely good and dedicated dog and cat breeders, who care immensely for their animals and would not dream of selling them to what they identified as an indifferent home, so these things can work both ways. The purpose of much of what we have been wrestling with is to ensure that we endorse the good, raise the standard of the intermediate and root out the bad. In my layman’s terms, that is how I see our objective.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell, raised the issue of third-party sales. As has been mentioned, we have issued a call for evidence in relation to a ban on the third-party sale of puppies and kittens. I should say that part of the issue was that not all the interested parties in the animal charity world were of a common view on this. But—I stress “but”—I acknowledge that there are strong feelings on this issue, and such a ban would prevent commercial sellers selling puppies and kittens unless they had bred the animal. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, the call for evidence closes on 2 May, after which we will consider the way forward. We are seeking to publish that by the end of July. One possibility, if we were to go down this route, would be to amend these regulations using the powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, we felt that in the meantime it was not sensible to delay the implementation of what are already advances in the range of these regulations. Clearly, as always, guidance is where we will have further and better particulars, and I say to the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that we are very conscious that guidance needs to be published. We aim to publish by the end of July precisely for many of the reasons that have been outlined.

I will seek to answer some of the questions asked and if, in my view, I have not answered any sufficiently, I will of course write to noble Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, queried whether organisations such as charities that provide riding for the disabled would require a licence for the hiring out of horses. I can confirm that the regulations apply only to commercial businesses, so it is extremely unlikely that a registered charity would be required to hold a licence. But I emphasise that it depends on what might be undertaken in each individual case. The point is that these regulations deal with commercial businesses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about dog walkers, and indeed I am now thinking about dog groomers and the range that could be considered for inclusion in the licensing system. As is understood, they are not currently licensed and we are not of the view that sufficient evidence was presented during the consultation for the inclusion of these additional activities. However, the regulations will need to be reviewed after five years. If during that time evidence is presented demonstrating that these activities need to be licensed for the welfare of the animals involved, they can indeed be added to the regulations.

My noble friend Lady Byford highlighted her experience of being involved in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It is wonderful to have noble Lords who can point us in the right direction, and of course it is probably due to the advice of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, that we are here now since she was material to the gestation of what we are considering. A number of more detailed points were raised. I take very seriously the importance of animals and pets to people who are housebound. In those circumstances, a person who is housebound could certainly ask their carer or an alternative representative to purchase and collect an animal on their behalf. These things should pass the test of reasonableness, and this is clearly one of them.

Noble Lords raised daily exercise—we all need exercise—in terms of the regimes covering boarded dogs and breeding dogs. I do not know the precise details so I will have to discuss this with representatives from the canine sector, but obviously a lot of information came to us through their specialist advice. Boarded dogs are more likely to be being held temporarily so it is acceptable to provide them with less exercise during that time as compared with breeding dogs, which are much more likely to be in kennels permanently. It is therefore important that they are given adequate opportunities for exercise over the period that they are kept as breeding animals.

My noble friend also made a point about the keeping and training of animals for exhibition. I thought I would help myself by going to Part 6 of Schedule 1, which refers to:

“Keeping or training animals for exhibition in the course of a business for educational or entertainment purposes”.

The truth is that even if my noble friend had a splendid prize animal at an agricultural show, my guess is that she will be there to display the wonders of her animal rather than for any other purpose. However, I will ensure that the guidance provides details on how to determine whether a person is running a business and takes into account factors such as making a profit. From my experience of seeing many farmers at agricultural shows, it costs them money to show their animals. They do it for the love of their animals and to enable the public to see them, and thus it is unlikely that they would be classed as a business.

A number of comments were made about implementation, which I take extremely seriously because it is important that local authorities are ready. We have been working with local authorities to develop the regulations since 2015 and, because of the benefits they will provide for local authorities, there is a lot of enthusiasm for them. There is no set date for when they should start and a distinction is made about the period before the UKAS-accredited schemes come in, so that those who do not achieve high standards is taken into account. All of this has been designed precisely to enable local authorities to concentrate on what is necessary. We will be working on the detail of the regulations—we did not want to presume to get the consent of your Lordships or Members of the other place—and we want to continue with that work over the next few months so that we are ready.

My noble friends Lord De Mauley and Lady Byford also raised the issue of local authorities. As I said, the full-cost recovery is clearly important but I had examples of where local authorities are working together. Local authorities are teaming up on the provision of services, sometimes using the provisions of a primary authority. I met someone in one of the London boroughs, which are working together so that they get the specialism to work on these matters. The City of London is also a good example of this: for instance, it acts on behalf of all London boroughs on welfare and transport controls and I know that it is very successful at Heathrow, where it has great experience on animal matters. We want to work closely with local authorities; there are ways to do that and it is absolutely imperative that the enforcement is taken extremely seriously.

As I say, the local authorities will enforce the legislation with the powers to charge a fee to applicants. This can include a charge for enforcement and they will have the powers to inspect unlicensed premises which they suspect should have a licence. They will have the powers to raise money for that but the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, is absolutely right that there will be different fees. I am turning round just to make sure that I am not going off piste but that is the whole purpose of having the UKAS-accredited scheme within the embrace of this provision. We and the local authorities will clearly not need to have the fee rates for the UKAS-accredited scheme and there will be a longer scheme. There will be a more proportionate approach so that we can deal with raising the intermediate and rooting out those who should not be breeding animals.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, mentioned the upper limit and the guidance. I can confirm that the guidance will include the amount, which is drawn from the existing HMRC guidance on the business test. That guidance will be available by the end of July and we will be developing these guidelines with local authorities and stakeholders. But it is very important that all breeders recognise that these new regulations should command their attention.

My noble friend Lord Cathcart asked an intricate question about whether an example of various family members could be a ruse to counter the spirit and intention of these regulations. I emphasise that anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs—in other words, trading—must be licensed by a local authority. Non-businesses producing three or more litters a year must also be licensed. It will be a matter for the local authority to decide in that situation whether the litters were all on the same property. The regulations tie the activity to the premises, so in our view there is no loophole here. Given what my noble friend has said, we clearly need to look at the scope for all the possibilities that anyone may use. However, I am assured that the regulations tie the activity to the premises and I think that covers the point about rogue breeders—or whatever we want to call them; perhaps “unscrupulous breeders”—and people associated with them. If any one of those breeders were running a business and selling or breeding puppies, I emphasise that they would need a licence. I trust that we will cover that.

My noble friend Lord De Mauley asked about devolved Administrations. He will of course know that animal welfare is a devolved issue, so it is for the devolved Governments to decide. For instance, the Welsh Government updated their legislation on dog breeding in 2014. We have of course shared the regulations with the Scottish and Welsh Governments and we understand that they are considering whether to take further and similar action.

The noble Countess, Lady Mar, raised the issue of cats. The breeding of cats was specifically raised in the Chamber by my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood and we are very conscious of the issue. Anyone selling animals on a commercial basis is included within the scope of the regulations. Whether they breed the animals themselves or source them from elsewhere, they will have to comply with the welfare requirements for pet sales and the cat code applies to all cat owners and cat breeders. Cat breeding is covered in general terms. As I said in the Chamber, the breeding of cats and dogs with defective elements is self-indulgent of people. It is not right. All breeders should be working on—I say in my utterly amateur way—breeding out defects and certainly not breeding animals with such defects, which are injurious to the offspring. We all need to think strongly about that and to work with charities, breeders and breed societies. I know from my discussions with the Kennel Club that it well understands that we must wrestle with this important issue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to cat microchipping, which we support. As to making it compulsory, we consider that the nature of cats makes microchipping more awkward. When we understood that dogs should be compulsorily microchipped we gave proper consideration to whether cats should be, too, but there was a feeling that the nature of the cat’s world would make it rather difficult. Clearly we do not want cats to stray, injuring themselves or causing problems, and again it is in the interests of owners of cats and dogs to look after their pets. One great advance due to microchipping is that it has enhanced the reuniting of owners with their pets whether they are cats, dogs or horses. It has been a great advance in many ways.

In my opening and closing remarks, I have sought to deal with the importance of a training regime. That is why I mentioned the City of London and its level 3 training. We will spend time working with local authorities. We have introduced the concept of full recovery precisely to enable the enforcement and implementation of the regulations, which will advance animal welfare in so many respects and enable people to feel more confident that they are buying their much-loved pets from reliable sources.

I do not doubt that there will be people at home and abroad who not only flout these regulations but act illegally. That may be a consideration for another day but I am seized of the importance of this issue and I commend the regulations.

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I am confused about one thing. It is not to do with the Minister’s response to my questions—for which I thank him—but my noble friend Lady Redfern referred to needing a licence for fewer than two litters and the Minister said that you need a licence if you are selling your puppies. In the Explanatory Notes it states that these regulations remove the existing exemption whereby someone who breeds from their own pet dog does not need a licence to sell puppies. So if one of my dogs has puppies and I want to sell a few, give them away or whatever, do I have to get a licence for that?

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My Lords, I might look sideways slightly as I say this, but the precise distinction is if the owner is in the business. In other words, the point is that if you have three or more litters you must have a licence, but if you are in the business you would have to have a licence even if you had only one litter. That distinction of being in business will be set out in the guidance. The whole purpose is to capture those who are in the business of dog breeding if they have any number of breeding bitches. It is important that we can license those who are in the business, but we have a catch-all that if you breed and sell more than three litters and you are not in the business, you have to be licensed as well. I say to all breeders who are breeding and selling to look at the regulations. Obviously the purpose of this is not to be bureaucratic, but to raise animal welfare standards. I will reflect on what my noble friend has said. If there is a clearer response I will of course write to my noble friend and all noble Lords, but I think that Hansard will report what are the varying elements of requirements for a licence from the local authority. If there are any ambiguities and noble Lords would like to ask me afterwards so I do not confuse myself, I would be very pleased.

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If, as my noble friend Lord Cathcart said, you are in the business and you breed one litter, then should you not be licensed because you are in business? That was the emphasis of my intervention earlier.

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I think my noble friend answered that. If someone is in the business the number is irrelevant, so that is caught.

Motion agreed.