Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a report by the Public Protection Business Manager examining the extent of legal and illegal dog sales within Denbighshire (copy enclosed).

 10.15 A.M- 10.45 A.M



The Public Protection Business Manager, Glesni Owen introduced the report (previously circulated) to the Committee.


The report examined the extent of legal and illegal dog sales within Denbighshire (particularly during the COVID- 19 pandemic)- including the number of complaints received, investigated, and substantiated and how various agencies work together to tackle any problems reported.


The Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 replaced the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 in Wales and provided the licensing by Local Authorities (LAs) of persons involved in the breeding of dogs. The new regulations introduced stricter criteria for breeding establishments and established an attendant to adult dog ratio at a minimum of one full time member of staff to 20 adult dogs. The regulations were the first of their kind in the UK and, whilst many welfare organisations and charities had differing views on the contents of the regulations, they were widely welcomed. Since the introduction of the regulations there had been ongoing concerns about the standards at some licensed premises in Wales and the resources and expertise available within Local Authorities to tackle the issues.


In September 2021 the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving

Animals (Wales) Regulations 2021 (LAIA Regulations) came into force. These

Regulations changed the licensing arrangements for the sale of animals

as pets in Wales, which included a ban on the commercial third-party sale of

puppies and kittens. Optimising welfare standards across Wales was a priority and the intention of the new Regulations was to promote responsible breeding and ensure puppies and kittens were bred in suitable conditions.


There were currently 13 licensed dog breeders in Denbighshire. Licenses were renewed on an annual basis which included a visit undertaken by an Animal Welfare officer and regular engagement with an independent veterinarian.


It was highlighted that, whilst the number of complaints received in Denbighshire relating to alleged unlicensed/illegal breeding, more support was needed from the Welsh Government (WG) to enable Local Authorities to investigate illegal dog breeding.  The WG had provided funding to enable the establishment of a National Team of Animal Licensing Officers to support local authorities to investigate alleged illegal breeding or breaches to licensing conditions.  Denbighshire had called upon the services of the national team to assist it to investigate the small number of potential unlicensed breeders in the county.  This request for assistance was made due to the very limited staffing resources the Council had to undertake this work.


The Public Protection Business Manager explained that the second part of the report looked at the impact the Pandemic had on the number of Stray Dogs and their impact on animal Rescue Centres. Two local charitable Rescue Centres were contacted to gauge their experiences of the impact the Pandemic may have had on their Services. One charity did not respond, however North Clwyd Animal Rescue (NCAR) provided useful information. The information provided by NCAR and the Council’s own Dog Warden Service demonstrated that there was a significant decrease in stray dogs and dogs handed over during the Pandemic. However, there was a clear indication that the figures provided in appendix 2 (previously circulated) were now on the increase to pre-pandemic levels. NCAR confirmed that they had over 400 dogs on a waiting list waiting to be handed over and this was the highest that it had been since before the Pandemic. The waiting list pre-pandemic was approximately 100 dogs.


The Chair thanked the Public Protection Business Manager for the reports and welcomed questions from Members.


Members questioned how the Cost of Living Crisis had impacted the ability for some residents to feed their dogs. The Public Protection Business Manager stated that Food Banks often provided dog food however, this was dependent on donations from the public. Local charities such as NCAR did offer support in some cases.  The charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) would help towards the costs of veterinary treatments etc. for animals if the owners were experiencing financial hardship.


Queries were raised around how the public could report concerns around suspected illegal dog breeding. The Public Protection Business Manager informed Members that the public could visit the Denbighshire County Council (DCC) website and information regarding reporting any concerns could be found on there alternatively, the public could contact Trading Standards, via the Council’s Customer Services Centre, and their concern would be investigated.


Questions were raised regarding the process of Dog Breeders obtaining a license and whether there was any assessment prior to owning a dog. The Public Protection Business Manager stated that Dog Breeders were expected do their own checks on the suitability of the buyers.  Information was available on the Council’s website on the steps prospective dog purchasers should undertake prior to buying a dog.  The requirement for any member of the public who owned a dog to hold a dog license had been abolished some years ago.


Queries were raised around what resources were in place from DCC to tackle illegal Dog Breeding. The Head of Planning, Public Protection and Countryside Services explained that there was a small team of 3 animal welfare officers. The team had recently made changes to ensure that the team was as flexible as possible to respond quickly to concerns received.


Members questioned the length of time it took to investigate a case of illegal dog breeding once a concern had been raised. The Public Protection Business Manager stated that it was difficult to put a time frame on this. Usually, the team would start investigating the reported concern within a couple of days. Each case was unique and varying amounts of time needed to be taken to gather reliable evidence to take the case forward.  This was where the services of National Team of Animal Licensing Officers was invaluable as it was in possession of valuable intelligence information and able to undertake investigatory work to support the work of the local authority in investigating incidents of alleged illegal breeding.


The Chair thanked the officers for their report, for answering members’ questions and stressed the importance of the work they carried out.


The Committee:


Resolved:  subject to the above observations –


(i)             to receive the report and the information provided during the discussion; and

(ii)           support the work undertaken by the Council itself, and that delivered in partnership with other organisations and agencies, the aim of which was to secure the viability of properly licensed traders to operate in Denbighshire, thus reducing the suffering of animals.


At this juncture the Vice-Chair assumed the chair for the next item of business as the Committee Chair had declared both a personal and prejudicial interest in business item 6.  The Chair left the meeting at this point.


Supporting documents: