New animal welfare laws launched to clamp down on illegal breeding and promote responsible ownership have been welcomed by Hartlepool councillors.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing committee was told new national animal welfare licensing laws covering the area have been introduced this month.
Licensing for breeding dogs, animal boarding, pet shops, riding schools and performing animals are all being brought together as part of the new Animal Welfare Regulations 2018.
Previously the five separate activities were all covered under separate acts.
The regulations aim to update and improve welfare standards and introduce a Star Rating Scheme, rating services between one and five, similar to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
The new system is risk based and designed to reward those who offer higher animal welfare standards and let consumers make more informed decisions.
It means now high-performing licence holders can be granted permission to carry out activities for two or three years, when previously all organisations were restricted to one year.
Dog breeders will now also be required to include their licence number in advertisements.
Coun Shane Moore, speaking at the licensing committee meeting, said: “I’m really pleased to see these changes come in especially regarding breeding and trying to clamp down on puppy farms and bad behaviour.
“It’s just about making sure the public are aware of these changes and I hope people looking to purchase more dogs are aware of the scheme.”
The new law will require anyone who breeds three or more litters of puppies in a 12-month period to have a licence regardless of whether it is a business.
Across all activities, there are currently 17 licence holders in Hartlepool but it is possible that this number will increase due to the regulations’ extended scope.
Before a licence can be granted all premises must be inspected by either a vet or a suitably qualified officer.
Council officers will enforce the regulations and look for those breaking the rules while they also are also encouraging members of the public to keep an eye out for any infringements.
Ian Harrison, council trading standards and licensing manager, said: “We’ll be looking out to see if the same phone numbers are being posted on different adverts online such as on Gum Tree and Facebook.
“People also need to be aware of who they buy animals off and let us know if there is anything suspicious.”
Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in prosecution and up to 51 weeks in prison and/or up to a £5000 fine.
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service