Posted: Wed 2nd Oct 2019

Calls for vets to be investigated after BBC Wales Investigates uncovers flaws in puppy farm licensing system

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 2nd, 2019

There are calls for vets to be investigated over their involvement in the licenced puppy farm industry in Wales.

Over a 12 month period the BBC Wales Investigates – broadcast this week – on BBC One Wales, found ‘filthy’ conditions at breeding sites licenced – and approved – by local councils.

As part of the licencing process breeders pay vets to health-check dogs to decide if they’re ‘fit to breed’.

The BBC showed footage from all the puppy farms it visited to a panel of vets with more than 100 years’ experience between them. That expert panel told the BBC Wales programme that some vets standards have ‘slipped’ and are ‘part of’ a ‘broken system’.

The panel claimed one vet practice – Aeron Vets – did not appear to question the environment in which dogs were being kept, despite long lists of animals with serious health problems.

It also claimed that some dogs at two licenced sites were found with mange, and intensely itchy skin conditions, others were found with cysts, matted fur and eye problems, but the breeders were still re-licenced by the council, and vets failed to raise any concern about the sites in their official reports.

Aeron Vets said it had to respect client confidentiality, but that in any situation where it considered animal welfare was ‘compromised’ it would ‘take whatever steps might be within its powers to address the matter’.

‘PUPPY FARM CAPITAL OF THE UK’

West Wales is often referred to as the “capital” of the puppy-farming business – an industry worth at least £12M which, in Wales alone, supports more than 260 licenced breeders and produces 24,000 puppies every year.

It’s a business driven by public demand for pure breeds and fashionable cross-breeds alike. Dogs advertised on the internet from apparently reputable puppy-farms can sell for hundreds, even thousands of pounds.

It’s an industry that is meant to be regulated, with breeders who are checked regularly and licenced to ensure the highest standards.

Welsh Government regulations mean anyone breeding three litters or more per year must be licenced by their local council. There are similar rules in other parts of the UK.

DEVASTATED OWNER

One owner, Danielle Foley from Swansea, describes on the programme how she found a beagle puppy – she later called Winston – being sold on the internet by a licenced breeder in Carmarthenshire.

“He said he was a reputable breeder with his own website. It was all a perfect picture,” said Danielle, who was shown the dog, on his own, in a quiet room near the entrance to the farm. 

But the programme found that she wasn’t seeing the whole story. Away from public view at the breeder’s farm near Kidwelly, there was a shed full of dogs and puppies.

It uncovered an inspection report from earlier this year that showed the farm had problems with waste, record keeping and, the highly infectious disease, Parvovirus. The report also said the owner had kicked a dog while inspectors were present, but was still re-issued with a licence.

Within 24 hours of Danielle getting Winston home, he became weak and was taken to the vets, where he tested positive for Parvo. Within days, he had to be put down.

Danielle told BBC Wales Investigates that the man who sold Winston said the dog had been vaccinated against Parvovirus, and that he’d vaccinated Winston himself. She said he also offered her anti-biotics when she contacted him to say the pup was ill.

This is against the rules. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons says that a vet should always check a puppy to ensure it’s fit for vaccination.

The registered veterinary practice for the breeder – Towy Vets in Carmarthen – told the programme that in light of the allegations made, it was investigating.  Carmarthenshire County Council, which licenced the breeder who sold Winston, said it would not hesitate to prosecute anyone who breaks the rules.

In a statement, a solicitor for Alun Douch, the breeder who sold Winston, said any “reference to any cruelty to any animal is denied categorically” and said challenges in relation to the spread of possible disease are “addressed” with professionals.

He added the breeder has an ‘excellent’ reputation and ‘has always strived in a constructive partnership with the regulator to ensure the highest industry standards’.

‘BROKEN SYSTEM’

The BBC showed the footage from all the puppy farms it visited.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at The Dogs Trust, said:  “It’s hugely saddening and really quite upsetting to see the number of dogs that I’ve seen kept in those sorts of environments, and that’s their life. It’s just so wrong on so many levels.

“The system is definitely broken and vets are absolutely an integral part of it. We as a profession have a part to play,” said Boyden.

Another senior vet – Mike Jessop – who is brought in by local authorities to advise on welfare issues, tells the BBC there are clear examples where some professional colleagues have been ‘found wanting’.

He said he will be making a referral to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons regarding the evidence in the programme.

The Welsh Government is considering bringing in Lucy’s Law, following England’s example. While it would ban the sale of puppies by third parties, the panel of vets said there were already issues with enforcing existing laws. 

 

BBC Wales Investigates Inside the UK’s Puppy Farm Capital is now available on BBC iPlayer

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