BASC “broadly welcomes” steps to tighten up animal welfare announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove but is cautioning against proposals which could have unintended consequences for owners and breeders of working gundogs.

The government has launched a call for evidence on a package of reforms it believes will drive up welfare standards.

While BASC supports those measures which crack down on unscrupulous puppy breeders, the UK’s largest shooting organisation is seeking clarity on elements of the legislation which could limit breeding and restrict the third-party sale of dogs.

Mr Gove has said he plans to introduce compulsory licensing for anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs, while he also hopes to introduce new laws that will insist licensed dog breeders can only sell puppies they have bred themselves.

Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and deer management, said: “BASC broadly welcomes the attempts being made by the government to improve the welfare of dogs.

“But in our response to the call for evidence, we will be making the point that working gundog owners should be recognised for the careful steps they take to ensure they only breed dogs that are fit to work.

“It is important that working gundog breeders and owners are not unfairly penalised by the unintended consequences of any new legislation.

“BASC does not support compulsory licensing for anyone in the business of breeding or selling dogs because this would penalise the owners of working dogs who very often keep a number of breeds for different purposes

“Shooters, gamekeepers and farmers often need to keep a variety of different breeds and may not breed a single litter for three or four years. This can be low level, non-commercial breeding, the main focus is developing and maintaining the ability of working dog lines and this should not be caught by the proposed changes to licensing.

“BASC will also urge caution around the plans to ban the third-party sale of dogs. This has the potential to penalise trainers, for example, who buy dogs from breeders and then legitimately train them in all the skills required to be a proficient working gundog before selling on the fully-trained dog to a third party.

“There must also be clear thought given to legislation to ensure it accommodates unforeseen issues such as a person being forced to sell on a dog due to illness or other serious changes in personal circumstances.”

Ian Grindy, chair of BASC’s game and gamekeeping committee, said: “BASC applauds the government for taking steps towards improving the welfare of dogs. The cruelty of puppy farms is well documented and it is right that the government is wanting to tighten legislation in this area and increase the associated penalties.

“While the proposed legislation appears aimed at the out-and-out pet market, it is important that gundog breeders and owners are not inadvertently disadvantaged by loose wording and other unintended consequences.

“BASC will examine the detail of the proposed legislation carefully before considering the submission of evidence which will best represent the views of the gundog community.”

The proposed legislation also includes:

• Banning licensed sellers from dealing in puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks;
• Ensuring that licensed dog breeders show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made;
• Tackling the sale of weak underage puppies and the breeding of unhealthy dogs and dogs with severe genetic disorders;
• Requiring puppy sales to completed in the presence of the new owner, preventing online sales where prospective buyers have not seen the animal first

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