Vet organisations unveil joint policy position on canine breeding services.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are calling on Government to license all premises offering canine breeding services, including canine fertility clinics, many of which are undertaking medical procedures on animals without any veterinary oversight, putting the health and wellbeing of dogs and their litters at risk.
Regulation would also close the legal loopholes that are enabling poor breeding practices to flourish. Some of these services have been linked to organised crime, as well as unethical and dangerous dog breeding practices, as reported by BBC One’s Panorama in January 2022 and BBC Three’s ‘Britain’s Puppy Boom’ exposé in July 2021. Undercover footage showed people with no veterinary qualifications or regulation illegally taking blood from animals, advocating the unlicensed use of medicines, demonstrating poor animal handling and hygiene, as well as potentially illegal acts such as entering a body cavity during artificial insemination.
The call comes as BVA’s latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that irresponsible breeding or sourcing of animals is the top animal health and welfare concern for vets in the UK, with over half (55%) vets in clinical practice citing it as the most pressing issue.
More than 9 in 10 (93%) vets are concerned about the boom in unregulated breeding services, such as canine fertility clinics, which offer procedures like semen collection and analysis, progesterone testing, ultrasound scanning, and trans-cervical or intra-vaginal artificial insemination often without any veterinary oversight. Worryingly, among vets who work in companion animal practice, 30% said they were aware of such establishments operating in their local area last year.
BVA has today launched its new joint policy position on canine breeding services with BSAVA. Key recommendations for government include:
- Amend current animal welfare licensing legislations across the UK [Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and equivalent devolved regulations] so all operators of establishments operating without direct involvement of an RCVS-registered veterinary surgeon requirea licence, with mandatory inspections by trained Local Authority personnel.
- Increase the penalties for those in breach of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, including non-veterinarians or non-RCVS-registered vets carrying out acts of veterinary surgery.
- Strengthen Local Authorities’ (and other relevant devolved bodies’) enforcement capacity.
- Improve data sharing between Local Authorities and establish a framework so that there is a consistent application of existing regulations.
- Strengthen the legislation regarding the use of stud dogs under the dog breeding licensing regime and address the current legislative loopholes around the ownership of breeding bitches. It is currently possible for breeders breeding three or more litters in a year to circumvent licensing requirements by making use of a co-owning agreement with another person, who will take ownership of the dog while it is pregnant.
BVA Junior Vice President Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux said:
“Our surveys capture the strength of our members’ concerns around the impact of unregulated canine breeding services on breeding dogs and their puppies. We know that many such services are focused on in-demand breeds that often have serious health and welfare issues.
“No animal should undergo procedures or treatments without proper veterinary oversight. BVA would like to see the Government act swiftly to clamp down on these unregulated and dangerous practices that compromise animal welfare, including bringing in licensing, mandatory inspections, and tough penalties if they are found to be operating outside the law.”
BSAVA President Carl Gorman said:
“Poor breeding practices can have a detrimental effect on the health and welfare of breeding dams, stud dogs and their offspring, affecting long-term physical health and behaviour. The resulting adverse impacts are of no benefit to either the dogs involved or the prospective owners of puppies.
“Strengthening the relevant legislation, requiring those individuals involved in breeding services to be adequately trained and ensuring appropriate supervision of canine breeding activities, are essential to ensure we improve the current situation and address animal welfare concerns.”
BVA and BSAVA’s joint policy position on canine breeding services can be viewed at: https://www.bva.co.uk/take-action/our-policies/canine-breeding-services/
Vets can access relevant reporting details to help authorities take relevant enforcement action here: https://www.bva.co.uk/news-and-blog/blog-article/how-to-report-concerns-about-unregulated-canine-fertility-clinics/