December 1, 2016 – Vets and celerity pet owners, including Ben Fogle, George Michael, Joanna Lumley and the president of the British Veterinary Association Gudrun Ravetz, are calling for new laws to improve pet welfare, publish in an open letter to The Times this week, following the publication of a new report by Blue Cross pet charity revealing that welfare of pets being bred and sold across the UK is at risk.

The Blue Cross report ‘Unpicking the knots: the case for a more cohesive approach to pet welfare legislation’ highlights welfare concerns in pet shops and breeding establishments across the country. A lack of resources and training mean local authorities responsible for inspections and issuing licenses to breed and sell pets are struggling to enforce standards and recognise issues, while hundreds of online sellers slip through the net entirely. Some of the shocking findings included:

–       Puppies in licensed breeding premises kept without access to natural daylight

–       Maggots found in pets’ water bowls in a licensed pet shop

–       Exotic pets such as marmosets, fruit bats and parrots kept in close proximity to each other in inappropriate conditions, with some displaying worrying behaviour

–       Snakes kept in small boxes with no UV provision

Over a third of local authority licensing officers, or 36%, said they had received no formal animal welfare training, and many did not feel equipped to recognise problems, particularly for exotic pets.

Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs for Blue Cross, said: “At Blue Cross we regularly see seriously ill pets and their devastated new owners – victims of unscrupulous breeders and sellers who prioritise profit over welfare. A lack of standardised inspection procedures or training for licensing officers combined with budget cuts means that many local authorities are struggling to cope, making it difficult for potential pet owners to have confidence in breeders or pet shops, even if they do have a licence. We hope that by highlighting the huge scale of the problem in our report we can encourage Government to make the vital changes needed to improve the welfare of pets bred and sold.”

Additionally, from looking at evidence of large scale online puppy sellers, Blue Cross calculated that one of these sellers could be making potential untaxed profits of £276,000 over 24 months without any regard for welfare or accountability to buyers. This was based on a seller who placed a total of 138 adverts for litters of puppies over a 24-month periods and assuming an average of four puppies per litter.

Blue Cross is calling for new laws that empower local authorities with sufficient resources and training to keep pets safe, taking into the account the growing online pet market and make breeders and sellers fully accountable for the welfare of pets in their care, including:

–       Compulsory registration for anyone breeding and selling pets, whether from a commercial premises or their home

–       Standardised inspections and guidelines for all local authorities, so all sellers have to  meeting the same welfare standards to get a license

–       An easily accessible database of all sellers and breeders, empowering consumers to make a good choice when buying a pet and giving them legal recourse should something go wrong

–       Updating of the Pet Animals Act 1951, to include a specific reference to pets sold online, meaning that internet sellers are subject to the same standards as all other pet shops and breeding establishments

To find out more and to read the report in full, visit

Watch video of pets filmed inside pet shops here:

Scampi at the Blue Cross.
Scampi at the Blue Cross.
Case study – Pet shop perils: Scampi the puppy

One-year-old bichon frise-poodle crossbreed Scampi was purchased from a pet shop, where he had been kept in an environment totally unsuitable for puppies. When his owner entered the pet shop he found Scampi with five littermates in a small, dirty box and was not shown their parents. Scampi has spent his first ten to 12 weeks inside a shop environment and missing out on a crucial socialisation period that should have prepared him for later life.

When Scampi arrived at a Blue Cross rehoming centre, his behaviour was typical of a dog that has been severely under socialised at the young fear imprint stage – he was scared of everything and wouldn’t come near anyone.

The team at the centre spent weeks slowly building a bond with Scampi, before he was ready to start looking for a new home. Luckily, Scampi’s has now found a new owner who saw his shyness as a challenge, not an unsolvable problem and he has already come a long way since starting his new life with her.

Case study – Shadow husky pup (main photo): online sales victim

Husky pup Shadow was brought to the Blue Cross hospital in Victoria at death’s door, just hours after being handed over to his new owners on a train station concourse.

Shadow had been advertised on a classified website and was suffering from severe dehydration. The seller gave Shadow’s new owner no advice about caring for a puppy and didn’t tell them he was sick.

Luckily, Blue Cross vets were able to help Shadow to a full recovery, but his story is sadly one that is all too common for pets bought via online adverts.

Full list of letter signatories:

o    Ben Fogle

o    George Michael

o    Graham Norton

o    British Veterinary Association President, Gudrun Ravetz

o    Helen George

o    Jo Brand

o    Joanna Lumley OBE

o    Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS

o    Judy Puddifoot MRCVS BVet Med BSc MSc

o    Julian Norton VetMB, MA, MRCVS, GPCert SAP

o    Kirsty Gallacher

o    Lesley Nicol

o    Mark Evans BVetMed MRCVS

o    Martin Clunes OBE

o    Miranda Richardson

o    Pam Ferris

o    Peter Wright BVSc, MRCVS

o    Rick Wakeman

o    Steve Leonard BVSc MRCVS

o    Twiggy Lawson

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