EFRA Sub-Committee visit Battersea to see Home tackle issues of backstreet breeding and animal welfare

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home welcomed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Sub-Committee to its London centre yesterday, to show the impact backstreet breeding and poor enforcement of animal welfare have had on rehoming centres, as part of an inquiry into the welfare of domestic pets in the UK.

EFRA Sub-Committee members arrived to a Dog Guard of Honour at the world-renowned centre on Tuesday 26 April, before taking a tour to learn about the journey 8,000 dogs and cats take through the Home every year. The inquiry, launched in February, is looking into the effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and its enforcement; specifically whether the Act, and other legislation, is still fit for purpose to protect animals including the growing number being sold online.

Claire Horton, Battersea’s Chief Executive, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be able to assist the EFRA Committee with their inquiry into ensuring the law can protect companion animals across the UK. Thousands of dogs and cats arrive at our gates every year, some in terrible conditions, which we believe could be prevented if changes were made to the Animal Welfare Act and other pieces of legislation designed to protect animals. It is a source of concern and frustration that the most severe cases of cruelty, the consequences of which we see at Battersea, can only result currently in a maximum prison term of six months and even then, a custodial sentence is often not given which fails to protect animals as much as it fails to change behaviour.”

“The visit today highlighted a number of dogs that have been overbred by backstreet breeders and in puppy farms, and neglected and abused by their owners. Battersea wants to see licences for anyone breeding more than one litter a year, and compulsory registration for anyone who breeds and sells a puppy. We’re also calling for much tougher penalties for animal cruelty and clearer guidelines on who can enforce them. We’d like to thank the Committee for exploring the real issues we face at our three Battersea centres every day.”

Neil Parish MP, Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Dr Paul Monaghan MP visited the London centre, after Battersea submitted written evidence to the inquiry last month, which focused on areas including effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the breeding and sale of pets and enforcement of current animal welfare legislation.

The Dog Guard of Honour that welcomed Battersea’s special guests, included two Pugs, Potato and Parsnip, who were both found as strays and brought to Battersea earlier this year. Two-year-old Parsnip’s condition showed she’d only very recently had puppies before being callously dumped. The charity is concerned that popular breeds such as Pugs are often the victims of overbreeding in puppy farms to meet growing demand for such breeds.

Many dogs, particularly bull breeds, also arrive at Battersea with explicit signs of being used for backstreet breeding. Six year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Rose, who also met committee members yesterday, was brought to the charity last month, underweight, nervous and with stretched skin from feeding her puppies. Battersea’s Backstreet Breeding campaign has called for a clamp down on the many unscrupulous dog breeders that make a quick profit from the cruel treatment of these animals.  

Read Battersea's evidence submitted to the Committee.

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Notes to editors 

  • Established in 1860, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home aims never to turn away a dog or cat in need of our help, caring for them until their owners or loving new homes can be found, no matter how long it takes. We are champions for, and supporters of, vulnerable dogs and cats, determined to create lasting changes for animals in our society. 
  • Since it was founded, Battersea has rescued, reunited and rehomed over 3.1 million dogs and cats.
  • In 2015 the Home cared for over 8000 dogs and cats.
  • Battersea cares for an average of 260 dogs and 220 cats across its three centres at any one time.
  • There is no time limit on how long an animal can stay at the charity but the average stay for a dog is 30 days and 22 days for a cat.
  • In 2015 27% of dogs and 30% of cats arrived as strays.
  • A team of over 1200 volunteers help at Battersea’s three centres, in roles including dog and cat socialising, gardening, admin support and giving talks in the community.
  • In addition to the site in South West London, the Home also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and Brands Hatch, Kent.
  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home rehomes dogs and cats all over the UK.
  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home receives no central government funding towards the care of its dogs and cats and relies on the generosity and support of the public to help care for lost and abandoned dogs & cats. To make a donation visit our website or call 0207 627 7883.
  • Follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_ or facebook.com/Battersea