Our policies

We work with Government and key decision makers across the UK to influence changes to the law that will benefit dogs and cats.

We seek to help the most unfortunate and unwanted dogs and cats in society, recognising that the vast majority of them are not lucky enough to be brought into our care. We are tireless in our efforts to help the underdog and are campaigning for political change where the law does not work for animals. We also tackle issues at source, with our Community Engagement team active on the front line of animal welfare in urban communities, working with those at risk of offending.

We’re influencing decision makers to change and improve animal welfare policies. In 2016, we influenced the House of Commons Environment Select Committee’s Inquiry into animal welfare, which endorsed both our End Backstreet Breeding campaign, and our forthcoming campaign for longer animal cruelty sentences. We are working with Government to help deliver the first real reform of dog breeding and sale licensing in 40 years, thus tackling puppy farming and improving breeding practices.

General Election 2017 manifesto

In Battersea’s General Election 2017 Manifesto, we set out our view on the key actions the new Government needs to take to protect and improve the lives of animals across the United Kingdom.

End breed specific legislation

Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 leads to the destruction of hundreds of healthy and friendly dogs every year based purely on their appearance by banning possession of 4 breeds of dog, most famously the pit bull terrier.

We want to see the end to any form of breed specific legislation – it is Battersea’s view that the owner and the socialisation are what influence the behaviour of a dog, not its breed. We support legislation that places greater responsibility on the owner of dangerous dogs. Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has had little to no effect at reducing the numbers of pit bull terriers (and other banned breeds) nor on reducing the numbers of dog bites – the law is not fit for the purpose it set out to achieve.

Five year maximum sentence for animal cruelty

The penalty for cruelty to animals in England and Wales is the lowest in Europe. As a nation that considers itself one of animal lovers, this is a serious cause for concern.

Battersea has launched a new campaign calling for the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty to increase from six months to five years. At the heart of this campaign is a new report which explains how the current sentence is neither a punishment nor a deterrent.

Our research shows that:

  • England and Wales has the lowest custodial sentence in Europe and 100 jurisdictions across the world
  • six months in prison for the gravest act of animal cruelty such as torturing an animal to death is a fraction of the maximum sentence for fly tipping (5 years) or theft (7 years)
  • there is clear evidence that suggests animal abuse is a precursor for other types of abuse such as domestic violence and child abuse.

With a penalty of only six months open to magistrates for the most shocking offences to animals, Battersea believes that this penalty needs to be urgently increased, and is calling on the Government to raise the maximum sentence to five years.

Our campaign page includes the full report and details of how you can support the campaign.

Ban on the sale of puppies under eight weeks old

We have campaigned on this for some time, and are encouraged that the Government has begun to listen. Battersea supports the Government’s proposal to end exemptions and loopholes which allows puppies to be taken from their mothers before eight weeks.

Removing puppies at such a young age, to transfer them to pet shops or dealers, facilitated by unscrupulous breeders who treat puppies as commodities for profit is sadly something that we see all the time – and something that must be stopped.

Ban on the practice of puppy farming

Battersea is completely opposed to any form of breeding which places profit ahead of the welfare of animals, and we strongly condemn the practice of puppy farming.

Puppy farming puts profit ahead of basic animal welfare, encourages impulse purchasing, and often involves the early separation of puppies from their mothers which can cause them to suffer lifelong health and welfare problems.

Battersea believes all breeders should conform to at least basic welfare standards irrespective of number of litters and that all breeding operations which do not demonstrate a full commitment to the five freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 should be closed down.

Battersea also believes that all breeders should show their buyers where and how puppies are bred – this is why we are supportive of a ban on third party sales, which would end the cloak of anonymity between the breeder and the buyer by closing off what has been a cruel and unnecessary step in the process of buying a puppy.

Find out more about puppy farming.
Regulate breeders and their premises

Battersea believes the law should safeguard all dogs, whether bred for profit or not. Currently no licence is needed if breeding fewer than five litters non-commercially. Reducing this from five to two would allow welfare standards to be better understood and enforced without targeting one-off accidental litters.

We support the Government’s proposal to move dog breeders licensing in England in line with Wales, and licence from the third litter – something we have campaigned on for some time. However, in order to tackle the problem fully we continue to call for licensing from the second litter, so that anyone who is deliberately breeding dogs, will have their premises checked to ensure they consider dog welfare as its priority.

In addition, it is Battersea’s view that anyone who breeds or sells dogs should at very least have to register with their Local Authority in order to provide a basic level of accountability and protect the welfare of those dogs and the buyer, and to help Councils know who is involved in the production and trade of dogs.

Improve the welfare of greyhounds

We are seeking better welfare provision for the lives of Greyhounds, not just on the track, but improving standards in kennelling, feeding and socialisation as well as rehoming after their careers have finished. We have called on the Government to amend the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010 in light of this to increase the scope of Regulations to cover trainers' kennels as well as tracks, where they spend 95% of their time, and to compel the industry to release statistical information on injuries and death suffered by Greyhounds.

Regulate sale of dogs and cats online

Buying a dog or a cat is a decision that should not be taken lightly – it is a commitment that can last up to 20 years. Battersea believes that like pet shops, internet sales of dogs and cats are inappropriate. It can encourage impulse purchases and is often a tool that fuels backstreet breeding, puppy farming and third party dealership of animals. However, we recognise it is a model that some will continue to use.

We are active members of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), which works to remove inappropriate adverts and regulate sites. Battersea is working with responsible websites and other welfare organisations to try and improve the quality of welfare in online advertising.

Pet shops and third party sales

Battersea believes puppies and kittens should not be sold in pet shops. This is why we argued for an end to loopholes which allowed for puppies under eight weeks to be sold to pet shops and “dealers”, as well as tighter regulation on breeding establishments.

Poorly regulated pet shops are the route to market for puppies and kittens from puppy farms and from third party dealers looking for a quick profit. Such pets are sold too young and bought too easily, sometimes with lifelong health and welfare problems as a result of early mistreatment. This is wrong, and it must stop.

Battersea is supportive of a ban on third party dealers selling puppies and kittens, a trade which brings untold misery by foisting unhealthy, unsocialised animals onto an unsuspecting public. However, there are significant obstacles around the scope and enforcement of a ban that need tackling. Whilst a ban on third party sales would tackle many problems with dealers, it is wrong to assume that it will improve welfare alone without raising the standards of breeders through better licensing. We need both higher standards at breeders and an end to low-welfare dealing to improve welfare and Battersea is keen to work with Government to make sure both are in place and fully enforceable. The plans announced on 8 February will go a long way to making this happen.

Battersea would encourage anyone interested in getting a puppy to visit a rescue centre, where they can receive expert advice on how best to take on the responsibility for an animal, making it as smooth and enjoyable as possible. If a buyer is determined to visit a breeder, then any puppy should always be seen with its mother before sale. If you are suspicious that the welfare of the animals may be in danger, please contact the RSPCA.

Compulsory microchipping of dogs

We offer free microchipping in the community and at our three centres to support the introduction of compulsory microchipping of all dogs that came into force on 6 April 2016. We are delighted that these regulations were passed, but are aware that the job is far from finished.

The Battersea ‘Microchipping where it matters most’ report, conducted in early 2016, surveyed 50 Local Authorities across the UK and shows that of the stray dogs they found, only 1/5 of them had a microchip with up to date information – meaning that the vast majority of these stray dogs couldn’t be reunited with their owners.

The key findings were:

  • Only 20% of stray dogs had microchips with accurate details
  • 45% of strays had a microchip, but the contact details were out of date in more than half of these
  • 69% of records with incorrect details had wrong phone numbers or addresses
Compulsory microchipping of cats

We have long supported the compulsory microchipping of dogs as a way of reuniting dogs with their owners. In many ways cats, as natural roaming animals, are more likely to get lost from their homes. We believe as with dogs, compulsory microchipping will help reunite more cats with their owners.

Ban electric shock and prong collars

Training methods should never enforce behaviour through fear and suffering, we are opposed to electric shock or piercing prong devices and believe they should be banned for good across the UK. Wales has led the way on this issue, and we encourage England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to follow their example.

Use only cat and dog safe anti-freeze

Battersea calls on manufacturers to make anti-freeze without ethylene glycol (a sweet-tasting substance that is severely poisonous to cats and dogs) to prevent ingestion of poisonous substances. This is a particular problem for cats – who find the taste of anti-freeze appealing – as even the tiniest drop can cause death. Manufacturers have the ability to make anti-freeze with alternative chemicals, where this risk is eliminated and should do so.

Designer breeds

The number of ‘designer breeds’ gifted in to Battersea has more than doubled over the last five years, with concerns that they are being given up due to their medical issues. With their trademark squashed faces, pugs have become very popular with pet owners, but Battersea is increasingly conscious of the poor breeding practices which are causing serious problems for these dogs. ‘Multiple Brachycephalic Breeds’ – such as pugs or French Bulldogs – often come into Battersea’s care with life-threatening illnesses.

Breeding should always have the welfare of the dogs as its first and highest priority – breeding purely for exaggerated features to make a quick profit is completely unacceptable. It provides unhealthy dogs incapable of leading a normal life.

End anti-social behaviour with dogs

Collaboration between dog owners, charities, Government and enforcement agencies offers the best chance of reducing anti-social behaviour with dogs. Battersea would like to see Dog Control Notices introduced across England and Wales as they have been in Scotland – these respond to specific problems by specific dogs and owners – it doesn’t penalise owners or certain dog types by breed, instead looking at what has actually happened.

Consolidate dog legislation

Currently there are a large number of outdated pieces of legislation surrounding dogs. Battersea wants to see existing UK dog laws consolidated into one, to end confusion and help support responsible ownership, safeguard public safety and protect canine welfare.

Consistent dog warden services across the country

Having specially trained dog wardens more readily available would allow Local Authorities to be more effective in tackling dog control. Many Local Authorities have no form of out of hours dog warden service. The need for dog wardens does not necessarily occur within hours – this is an important around the clock function and there should at very least be an emergency contact number, as some Local Authorities have.

Ban tail docking

Battersea is opposed to the unnecessary practice of tail docking and supports its ban. Dogs use their tails to communicate and it is unnecessary to remove them for anything other than medical necessity.

To create an intentional tail injury as justification for preventing potential future injury is difficult to understand, and even harder to justify.

Controlling cat numbers

The UK still has too many accidental litters and stray cats. Neutering cats early helps to prevent unplanned litters and reduce the risk of infection and injury. It is a key part of responsible ownership. Battersea neuters kittens from 9 weeks old prior to rehoming.

Battersea calls on politicians to work with Local Authorities, animal welfare organisations, the veterinary profession and others to support the neutering of cats and to promote the benefits of early neutering.

Pet passports

When the UK leaves the EU, a new system for controlling animal movements to and from the country will be required. Given the recent increased movement of puppies from mainland Europe, any potential successor to the Pet Travel Scheme will need to be robust and properly enforced.

Checks at border controls need to be better enforced to help prevent the illegal transport of animals into the UK. These animals pose a disease risk to both animals and people, in some cases bringing infections not already present in the UK. Requirements for treatments against rabies and other diseases for animals entering the UK should be strengthened to help prevent these diseases coming to the UK.