Now we’re almost at Christmas, the idea of surprising family members with a friendly four-legged friend can add to the excitement of the festive period. But before you make that impulsive purchase, think if you are ready to care for a dog all year round. And if so, are you content your new addition is being supplied by a reliable source?
Over the next few days, the vast majority of puppies being gifted at Christmas will be purchased. Pet shops, breeders and online advertisements often make owning a dog seem simple, praising them as an easy addition into modern family life.
However, the majority of people buying a new puppy for Christmas won’t necessarily associate the importance of where the sale is made with animal cruelty – a move every major independent organisation concerned with animal welfare wants to highlight and clamp down on.
That is why I tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) recognising that dogs are not a commodity and should only be bought from licensed breeders. The current Animals Act 1951 is out of date and action must be taken to rectify this.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has the power to update legislation and has previously indicated it knows this is an area that must change. As another Christmas rapidly approaches, it must be asked what the delay is.
A recent media report claimed Northern Ireland has at least five operational puppy farms. That means there are at least five people who are only concerned with profit, breeding puppies with little or no regard for their health and welfare; at least five people who keep puppies in poor, cramped conditions and at least five people who fail to follow guidelines around immunisation, worming and behavioural issues.
The longer the current outdated legislation remains, chances increase that more illegal farms will be created. As an animal lover, the cruel conditions in which these dogs are bred on these farms break my heart.
In addition to the EDM, I have also written directly to DEFRA, as well as the Assembly’s Agriculture Minister, to ensure this problem remains on their radar. I will continue to use my role as MP to seek changes to the current law to help ensure we stamp out this and other forms of animal cruelty.