The illegal sale of puppies online can no longer be ignored

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DURING COVID containment, there has been a significant increase in interest in dog ownership.

While I encourage anyone who is considering bringing a dog into their home for adoption rather than purchase, there will always be people who, for their own reasons, will want a specific puppy or breed.

In recent years, online platforms have become the port of call for anyone looking to buy a dog. In February 2020, new regulations have been introduced for the purpose of trying to regulate the sale and supply of pets, including the online sale of pets.

While this was much needed and welcomed by animal welfare organizations, it seems almost 20 months later there has been an absolute lack of enforcement. Not a single case of application has been taken by the Ministry of Agriculture.

We must do more

When I raised the question at Seanad with Minister Pippa Hackett, the advice given was that the public do their research before buying. This advice may sound like great, but dog breeding in Ireland is a highly sophisticated multi-million dollar industry. Research conducted by Dogs Trust find that 68% of the people questioned could not spot an illegal advertisement.

Many listings do not contain the required information regarding microchips and vendor registration numbers / breeder licenses or contain forged numbers. Unscrupulous breeders have even been known to use vacation homes to make the puppy look like it was raised in a family home, masking the reality of where they actually came from – which in many cases is a puppy farm. in large scale.

Calls to online platforms to do more are justified but it is not enough as they do not have access to a database where the information provided by the seller can be verified.

In June of this year, at my request, the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee invited Dogs Trust to explain how easy it would be to solve this problem if the Agriculture Department supported the regulations with a system of traceability and verification.

We already have such a system for cars where you enter the registration number and immediately know the type, year and color of the car. There’s no reason we can’t do the same for a dog’s microchip.

Likewise, regarding information regarding breeders and sellers of dogs – currently local authorities administer dog breeding establishment licenses (compulsory for anyone with six female dogs capable of breeding) but less than half of the local authorities display the list of these establishments. on their website and others only display partial information. People should be able to access information online that clearly shows the address of the commercial dog breeding establishment (as you can with any other commercial establishment) and the volume of breeding females they are allowed to have. in their premises.

Political will

For very little cost, the Agriculture Ministry could set up a system that would allow the online platform to verify that the information is factual before the ad goes live.

In the current system, by the time volunteers and social organizations monitoring online platforms report an illegal ad and have it removed, the dog is sold and the seller’s contact details are no longer valid.

A verification system allows anyone wishing to bring a puppy to their home to verify that the microchip is valid and that it corresponds to the advertised puppy. Perhaps even more important, it would allow them to see where the puppy is coming from and how many breeding bitches the breeder has.

Many people are unaware that dog breeding establishments can have hundreds of breeding bitches. Transparency allows people to make an informed decision and choose the type of breeder they want to buy a puppy from.

The tools are all there for a robust monitoring and verification system. What we need now is political will. Bringing together microchip data, dog breeder’s license and vendor registration number in one centralized registry would not only cleanse the industry from an animal welfare perspective, but increased transparency would be also very beneficial for income.

Currently, dogs are in a kind of no man’s land when it comes to their sale as most are sold for cash, without an invoice. Full rate VAT is supposed to be paid on the sale of dogs, which means that the income is missing from a number of taxes: VAT, income tax, and corporation tax. Undocumented cash transactions make it very difficult to assess the income of dog breeders. Greater transparency would make it much more difficult for unscrupulous dog breeders to avoid paying taxes.

Make no mistake, dog breeding in Ireland is on an industrial scale with around € 187 million in turnover last year only. Most of these sales are cash transactions. In Britain they are currently considering banning cash sales and that is certainly something that should be looked at here. Even at the bare minimum, the agriculture ministry should conduct public campaigns to highlight why cash sales are bad.

It is possible to breed dogs with high welfare standards and make a living from them. Reputable breeders know this and have nothing to fear from greater transparency.

However, this greater transparency would make it much more difficult for those looking to take advantage of the fact that breeding bitches and puppies are kept in appalling conditions. It is time for Ireland to lose its reputation as a center for puppy breeding.

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Senator Lynn Boylan is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on climate justice and a member of the Oireachtas Agriculture and Climate Action & Environment committees.


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