The Committee received a report on Dog Breeding in Carmarthenshire. The report was received in addition to the Committee’s Forward Work Programme following a request from Councillor J. James under Scrutiny Procedure Rule 10 (1).
Councillor James explained that following the recently aired BBC documentary investigating the puppy farming industry (October 2019), it was necessary to request a report in order to gain information on this very emotive matter.
The Executive Board Member for Public Protection presented the report to the Committee which provided information in relation to the current position of the licensing of dog breeding in Carmarthenshire and the approach taken.
In addition, the report explained the level of pro-active regulation and enforcement that had taken place, how the Councils approach had evolved and future challenges. Information on how the Council continued to improve standards at licensed breeders and where best to target resources in future was included.
The following queries were raised in relation to the report:-
· Reference was made to the Authority only having 2 dedicated officers to all manage all elements of work to include the inspection and regulation of boarding kennels. It was echoed from the report with strong concern that this number of dedicated resources would not be enough to meet public expectation of the service in regulating such a dynamic and complex industry. The Executive Board Member for Public Protection acknowledged the concern and stated that resources were being reviewed to ensure that priorities were being achieved within designated timeframes.
· In response to a query regarding checking private back gardens for illegal dog breeding, the Consumer and Business Affairs Manager stated that Local Authority Housing Officers assist by checking as part of their inspection programme. It was acknowledged that private properties were being used to trade in dog breeding however, a number of legal constraints existed and that the only way to enter suspected private properties was to present a warrant, required from the magistrates court, which was a challenging and often stressful process.
The Consumer and Business Affairs Manager, in response to a further query reported that Officers and the Executive Board Member for Public Protection were working closely in order to improve the situation. A letter had been sent to the Welsh Government both from the Authority and as part of a Welsh Regional basis to express concerns. It had been reported that the Welsh Government were currently forming a Task and Finish Group to investigate this matter.
· With reference to the ‘Buy with Confidence’ scheme, it was commented that the public should be encouraged to only purchase dogs from dog breeders who were a member of the scheme. The Executive Board Member for Public Protection agreed and stated that the Authority was actively encouraging known dog breeders to join the scheme which provided assurance to the public that the breeders were trading fairly. Every business listed with the scheme had undergone a series of detailed checks by professionally qualified Trading Standards staff before being approved as a member of the scheme.
· Reference was made to the new legislation known as ‘Lucy’s Law’ which meant that puppies and kittens could no longer be sold by a third party seller, clarification was sought if the legislation applied to backstreet sellers? The Business and Regulation Lead stated the legislation would not be coming into effect in England until April 2020, any Welsh requirements were yet to be decided, as such it was uncertain to state exactly what would be covered until this time.
· Appreciation was expressed to the Officers for the work they undertake and for producing an informative report. It was commented that whilst acknowledging the emotive and controversial nature of the matter, it was felt that this matter warranted further review.
It was therefore proposed that the Environmental and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee further consider this matter by undertaking an investigative scrutiny review. This was seconded.
The Executive Board Member for Public Protection stated that a review would be welcome, however raised concern in relation to the timing of a review as currently there were a number of on-going evolving sensitive cases. The Consumer and Business Affairs Manager suggested that it could be beneficial for a review to consider the processes and constraints both locally and nationally.
In view of the Officers comments, the Chair felt that it would be beneficial to review this subject by means of a Task and Finish, therefore made an amendment to the proposal that dog breeding in Carmarthenshire be the subject for Committee’s next Task and Finish review. The amendment was seconded.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that:
4.1 the report on Dog Breeding in Carmarthenshire be received;
4.2 dog breeding in Carmarthenshire be the subject for Committee’s next Task and Finish review.