Welcome to my blog

For years I have campaigned against puppy farming, dealers and pet shops, in fact any outlet that is involved in the breeding and selling of puppies by third parties. Why you may ask? Because it is a clandestine trade that lacks public awareness and Governments fail miserably to accept that puppy farming resulting in puppy trafficking is detrimental to animal welfare. Through my thoughts on my blog I will highlight some of the daily happenings from my perspective as a campaigner against the puppy trade.

Disclaimer: My name is Patricia from Puppy Alert, the opinions and views expressed on this blog are entirely my own.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Beili Bedw - Planning site meeting

When Carmarthenshire County Council held their planning meeting to discuss the retrospective planning application from change of use agriculture to dog breeding, it was requested by one of the Councillors for a site meeting. This will take place in private at 10.30am at Beili Bedw Farm, on the 30th August 2011 followed by a meeting at 11.30am by the planning committee when a decision will be made to approve or disapprove the planning application.

It would be good if common sense was used in coming to a decision but I fear that will not be the case as little if any consideration will be given to the animal welfare aspect  of running such a large dog breeding establishment of 196 dogs without ensuring the premises are adequately staff.  At the present time there is just the owner, a wife working, with one and half employees to look after 196 dogs and a sheep farm.   It is an impossible task to carry out all the tasks efficiently that are required in caring for so many dogs, whelping bitches and puppies as well as look after such a large number of sheep  and more in the future according to the application. 

A business venture which this is, has to prove that it is sustainable in planning legislation and 'emerging policy is a relevant consideration'  if that is the case then surely the proposed legislation for dog breeding for Wales must be a consideration when making a planning decision on a dog breeding establishment. If the legislation is passed in the autumn requiring all dog breeding premises to employ staff then these premises must be prepared to employ at a minimum of 10 members of staff (20 dogs one employee) and more if there are whelping bitches and puppies. This is a question that must be asked by the Councillors on the planning committee, agreed and complied with by the applicant prior to planning permission being considered.

But one has to ask why has it taken until now for the question to even be raised?  The premises should not have been granted a licence in the first place for so many dogs and no staff.  I cannot understand why Carmarthenshire County Council are so lacking in common sense when issuing dog breeding licenses. They must  know how much attention dogs need daily and at night too with whelping bitches and puppies but it is obvious it was never a consideration to the licensing department in the past and unlikely to be a consideration in the future even if planning is agreed on the 30th August 2011.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Carmarthenshire County Council condoning excessive dog breeding rises concern for animal welfare.

Carmarthenshire County Council are failing to control dog breeding or enforce adequately, existing legislation in their County. This was vividly highlighted this week when a Carmarthenshire Planning Officers report recommended approval for 'a change of use from agriculture to dog breeding' for an agriculture barn for 96 dogs at Beili Bedw Farm, Pencader, the final decision will be made at County Hall, Carmarthenshire on the 18th August 2011 by 21 elected Councilors on the planning committee.

It was only in January 26th 2010 that the applicant Dylan Jones of Beili Bedw Farm, Pencader, Carmarthenshire submitted a planning application for 'extension for this existing agriculture barn for agriculture use (sheep) and ancillary agriculture equipment'. This was decided on the 3rd February 2010 and listed as Agriculture Determined, meaning its sole use would need to be for agriculture use, such as sheep.

However, by the end of summer/autumn 2010 unauthorized work had taken place within the agriculture barn, which consisted of a complete refit to the barn, the purpose, to accommodate 96 dogs. As dog breeding is not considered agriculture use the owner was in default of the permission granted only a few months earlier and during this period did not seek change of use for the agriculture barn through planning. By November 2010 planning enforcement were advised and were monitoring the situation with a view of enforcement if no planning application for change of use was submitted to them. This was eventually received in March 2011.

Beili Bedw Farm (owned by Dylan Jones) was granted planning permission in 1994 for the use of another barn on the farm for dog breeding for 9 breeding bitches. In a rather sneaky move on the 13th July 2011 an application was submitted to Carmarthenshire Planning department for 'a variation of condition to regularize the correct use of the building housing 100 dogs' this was approved under delegated powers on the 8th of August 2011. Giving very little notice or time for objections to be logged.  Was this a move by the applicant and planning to ease the way for the other agriculture barns change of use?

The earliest period that Carmarthenshire Council can produce the dog breeding licence records for these premises appear in 2001, for 21 breeding bitches, this number has gradually increased year after year until the latest figure (2010) of 196 dogs, when Carmarthenshire Council during their annual inspection agreed to their licence number.

The Councils planning report states dog breeding premises are inspected by a vet but Carmarthenshire Councils policy is a veterinary inspection only for new applicants, when together with a Council inspecting officer a decision is made on the numbers of permitted dogs on each premises. It is not the Councils normal practice for a vet to visit premises for each yearly inspection.

The report submitted to planning is misleading, as the Council yearly inspection reports for these premises during the period 2006 to 20011 (FOI) make no reference to a vet, in fact when the owner was asked on the latest inspection report 'does a Vet regularly inspect dogs? It was left blank. Therefore on who's advice or authority did the Council decide that 196 dogs used for the purpose of breeding would be permitted on their dog breeding licence? Who decided that they should still renew the licence even though two years running inspection reports have mentioned no fire extinguishers in some barns and no smoking signs, placing all dogs at risk.

Common sense is also very lacking within Carmarthenshire County Council if the following questions never arose or were not discussed before granting the renewal of the licence each year and now planning for the premises. Did the council not ask themselves the following?
Can we the Council ensure the licence holder is competent in his duty of care to operate this dog breeding establishment efficiently by giving adequate care to the large numbers of breeding and whelping bitches, stud dogs and puppies together with their farm stock consisting of 800 ewes and 200 followers, when they have inadequate staff, employing just one full and one part time?
Are we as a Council by allowing this large number of dogs without staff encouraging poor practice and is this not detrimental to animal welfare and in contravention of the Animal Welfare Act?
Should we as a Council limit the number of dogs on these premises to a reasonable number that can ensure the dogs welfare is not compromised by inadequate staff, instead of licensing for 196 dogs? If these question were discussed by the Council then surely they could not have agreed to licence this large number of dogs with inadequate staff to care for them.

If the Council acted in the best interest in animal welfare, by using integrity they would have known it is an impossible task to take proper care of so many dogs which ultimately must result in none compliance of the current legislation such as the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (welfare) Act 1999 and the Animal Welfare Act resulting in the risk of animals suffering.

Carmarthenshire Council Public Protection responsible for licensing dog breeders say in the planning report that they have received no complaints against the premises regarding noise or welfare of the dogs. This is not surprising as all puppies from Beili Bedw Farm are sold to dealers and pet shops. Therefore if a person has purchased a puppy from a dealer or pet shop and have reason to complain about the condition of the puppy their redress will be against the the dealer/pet shop and not the breeder (puppies when sold as a business are classified as a commodity). For this reason Carmarthenshire County Council can easily say there have been no complaints because the breeder has no further responsibility towards that puppy once it is sold to the dealer/pet shop. The Council is unlikely to be made aware of the complaint due to puppy being sold hundreds of miles from the area it was bred. Puppies bred on Beili Bedw Farm are all sold to dealers, they are not advertised for sale to the general public and the public do not visit the premises. The breeding bitches and litters of puppies are not seen by the public and the breeder does not advertise their sale.

Regarding noise, the noise assessment carried out at the farm was low according to the report this is not surprising due to the time the assessment was undertaken mid-day and midnight but it is known factor that dogs contained in barns, devoid of human interaction and company, frequently become 'flat' and depressed, lack the motivation of expressing normal behaviour, such as barking unless disturbed by someone entering the building. That is why when the noise assessment was taken at 12 midday and midnight that the noise levels were low. The daytime level in dog boarding kennels would have been very different because dogs would display normal behaviour by barking.

From the period 1994 the premises have operated without intervention from planning or permission to increase the numbers of dogs from 9 breeding bitches in 1994 to the current figure of 196. That is 17 years, yes, 17 years!! Was no Council official on visiting or inspecting these premises ever ask questions of this business operation and its unauthorized expansion during these 17 years? If they did why was it not acted upon until pointed out to them by an outside body that they were operating a business without proper planning permission?

Carmarthenshire Public Protection were aware that dogs were kept in a number of units (stated on the yearly inspection reports) when a head count of the dogs are taken. They knew that both in licensing terms, because of the increase of number of dogs at each yearly inspection, and in planning terms they were operating illegally. Does one department not feel it important enough to communicate with the other on a matter such as this when someone is operating such a large dog breeding establishment a business that is expanding yearly within their County?

With a dog breeders licence already granted at the premises since 2001 with ever increasing numbers of dogs Carmarthenshire Council planning were/are unlikely to not grant planning permission for fear of the applicant appealing against the decision and incurring the Council in Court fees. It is rumoured that Councilors generally have been advised not to vote against the planning officers recommendations due to the risk of an appeal and Court costs. Democracy has little chance in Carmarthenshire if the rumour is true and what of the 730 plus objections received by Carmarthenshire Planning against the change of use, a great many of the objections valid in planning terms, will the Planning Committee not consider them relevant? Had the application for the other barn (original barn for 9 dogs) not come into the public domain so quickly (for 100 dogs) and a decision made under delegated powers by the planning officer giving little time to be contested by the public this would have received equally as many objections.

How much more evidence is needed that there is coercion between Welsh Councils and large scale dog breeders, not just with this application but others too (this is the largest licensed dog breeding premises in Wales) to grant licenses and planning permission? Proving yet again that Councils are in favour of dog breeding on this scale and are prepared to grant licenses and planning permission to allow the business operation of a large number of breeding bitches, a mass production of often poorly bred puppies to meet the demand of the pet trade without ever ensuring that it is not detrimental to animal welfare.

The Councils refer to this as diversification, even the local Community Council Llanllwni, covering the area of this breeding establishment has raised no objection to large scale dog breeding (battery dog farming) within their boundaries, likewise local member County Councillor L Davies Evans, stating one of the reasons why she did not object was as 'important to farm diversification'.

Battery dog farming on this large scale and selling puppies to dealers and pet shops is as far from ethical dog breeding where breeding bitches and stud dogs are screened for known hereditary conditions, receive regular veterinary treatment, a person at hand for whelping and puppies sold direct to the purchaser which is reputable and moral. Dogs such as those on this application are living in confinement, devoid of human contact, lacking in veterinary care, left to whelp alone, given inadequate beds and bedding and their puppies transported hundreds of miles by vehicle to be sold by a dealer or pet shop, is not ethical and is morally wrong but this is considered the normal practice for the majority of dog breeders in Carmarthenshire, this one being no exception.

It is becoming obvious that Carmarthenshire County Council does not agree and to encourage large scale dog breeding premises is now unacceptable but are not prepared to take into account public opinion or make changes by placing a sensible ceiling on the numbers of dogs each licensed premises are allowed to keep. But by groups such as my own and others encouraging the public to object to this application, it has forced Councillors to face and appreciate the lack of support applications such as this receive by the public at large. Councils such as Carmarthenshire County Council and their elected Councilors on the planning committee should they agree on Thursday 18th August to accept the planning officer recommendations must also realise they condoning lax animal animal welfare standards for our companion animals that are forced by their decisions to often live in deprivation, isolation and lack the adequate care they need and deserve.

Shame on you Carmarthenshire for remaining the catalyst for puppy farming by both unlicensed and licensed breeders supplying the pet trade with poorly bred puppies.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Council Inspection Reports - Dog Breeders. What do they tell us? Cont:

Cont:  The inspection reports for dog breeding premises in Wales do clarify the number of units used and the type of construction used for dog breeding.  This refers to the internal structure in the areas close to the dogs, often stating block and render.  They fail to indentify what the actual construction that accommodates the dogs actually is or what it was previously used for.  One may imagine that the dogs and puppies are living in a purpose built kennels block something similar to the ones seen on TV,  for example those belonging to The Dogs Trust, specially built and fit for purpose.

In most cases this is far from the truth because one only has to look at planning applications, (although many
dog breeders have not applied for planning permission) to see that they are not purpose built kennels.  Neither it is a question that seems to occur to Carmarthenshire Public Protection department to ask an applicant 'do you have planning permission' before granting a dog breeder a licence.  For those breeders that have applied for planning permission the application is enlightening as one can read that the building is unlikely to be a purpose built kennel block but an redundant agriculture building or a barn previously used for agriculture use, with pens for sheep or calves, even a pig sty was the description given for more than one application and a poultry shed for another.  I cannot say that an old building is never suitable, if properly adapted, equipped,  with attached exercise runs which enable the dogs to have free exercise, to hear and see life outside their sleeping areas, human contact as well as shelter from the elements with raised beds and bedding.  This could in some cases suffice providing the dogs are allowed to run and exercise in an enclosed  outside area a good part of the day.

But this is not the case, without adaption these barns and agriculture units were used for agriculture, farm animals.  The farmer would provide the cattle and sheep with straw for bedding, regular feed and water and care given when lambing or calving. A must because the farmers are regulated by Defra, all their cattle and sheep are identifiable and inspected by Defra vets a necessity for traceability because the animals are reared for the food chain. But when farmers diversify and go into dog breeding it is different matter, most seem to have the mindset that what was good enough living accommodation for the cattle and sheep is good enough for the dog, forgetting that a  dog is a companion animal with very different needs.  This is where Councils in Wales granting  a dog breeders licence to dog breeders living on farms fail miserably to see the difference and accept what is good for one is equally adequate for the other, which is irresponsible and foolish because many farmers that breed dogs continue to adopt the same policies for their breeding bitches, stud dogs and litters of puppies as they did/do for their sheep and livestock, when their needs are so varied and different.

It maybe acceptable for a farmer to keep his sheepdogs (an invaluable asset to any farmer) who with the farmer will be active, often hours at a time, then when work is done for the dogs to live in a barn is common place and is not detrimental to its well being. But it is totally different when a farmer decides to make dog breeding a sideline by breeding from 20 to 196 breeding bitches and selling dogs to dealers and pet shops.

To use the same building as those used previously for farm animals without Councils ensuring before granting a licence that the building is renovated and fit for purpose with planning permission is unacceptable.  More often than not there are no attached individual exercise runs which means that the dogs are confined in little concrete cells 24 hours each and every day.  The inspection report will ask about exercise for the dogs and often the reply is 'dogs are exercised in the yard' in most cases this is far from the truth the dogs never see daylight.  They live in solitude and in silence.

This failure by both the Councils and the dogs breeders/farmers to recognize the difference and ensure that the needs of companion animals cannot be compared with farm animals now means that many premises are accommodating between 20 and 196 or more dogs, breeding bitches in unsuitable buildings, which is the root of many of the problems, especially in the litters of puppies reared in these premises and for the breeding bitches and stud dogs that can spend a lifetime isolated from human company, other than briefly at feeding times and mating.

Going into agriculture farm building in winter it is freezing in summer the humidity is high if the barn is enclosed, a comment that is often referred to on inspection reports is, ventilation, if it was a summer inspection and flies.

The dogs are not always provided with a bed, those that are mostly have no or inadequate bedding. bakers trays, wooden pallets, cow mats are all that is usually provided.  Not all according to the inspection reports have adequate whelping or isolation facilities, yet they have breeding bitches and dogs living in close proximity to each other. Hygiene and cleanliness is often questioned on the inspection reports indicating that some premises are not in compliance with their licence conditions.

Not all dog breeding premises have fire fighting equipment I would a have thought as matter of course before licensing premises they would need to have to have a fire inspection. But on speaking to the Fire Safety Officer covering an area in Wales a request by the Council has never been made for them to inspect before licensing.  Many inspection reports state no fire extinguisher or the box not ticked, placing all dogs at risk in case of fire. Again not acceptable.

What of the dogs themselves that is another interesting matter?  To be continued.