The Pet Industry Federation has hit back at claims by TV vet and founder of Pupaid, Marc Abraham, who suggested the organisation was doing its level best to hinder the progress towards a ban on selling puppies in pet shops.
In a four-page response to the vet, PIF’s CEO Nigel Baker (left) said: “Animal welfare is at the forefront of our organisation. We aim to raise standards and professionalism in the industry we cover and increase education and understanding amongst our members.”
Marc Abraham (above) had made the claims in a blog on Huffington Post entitled "What Is The Pet Industry Federation (PIF) Hiding From Us - And Why?" You can read the blog by clicking here
Here is Nigel Baker's response Abraham's accusations...
Dear Mr Abraham, Ms Carr,
I feel it is time for the Pet Industry Federation (PIF) to engage with you in order to stop the unpleasant tactics you and your followers have employed against us and our members in recent months.
Our Twitter feed and Facebook page have been inundated with tweets and posts that are largely offensive and not conducive to producing anything like a positive and professional response. Much of what is said is simply nothing to do with PIF.
Let me explain why:
- The Pet Industry Federation is a membership trade body with six separate trade associations under its wing, covering a range of businesses and professionals operating in and around the pet industry in the UK. We support our members and their businesses by providing a variety of services. We do not represent businesses that are not our members!
- Animal welfare is at the forefront of our organisation. We aim to raise standards and professionalism in the industry we cover and increase education and understanding amongst our members
- We do not specifically represent dog breeders through any of our associations. Dog breeding, and issues associated with it, tend to be handled by the Kennel Club, Dogs Trust and other worthy charities and organisations
- We are, and always have been, against puppy farms and commercial breeding where welfare, as set out in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, is compromised
- We work, and advise our members to work, within the current legal frameworks. We agree that some of these are antiquated and need updating, but whilst they are still current law, our policy is to advise our members to operate within the law.
Please bear these points in mind whilst I continue.
In September 2014, you and Pupaid were successful in raising 110,000 signatures for your e- petition which stated that it set out to: “ban the sale of young puppies and kittens without their mothers being present”. This is what your signatories signed up to and at the time we commended you for the energy you put into this project.
However, by the time it came to be debated in Parliament you had changed the statement to: “ban the sale of puppies in kittens in pet shops”, which is an entirely different motion and I believe you justified this change by saying that this is what you meant all along! PIF wrote to MPs ahead of that parliamentary debate on 5 September 2014 stating clearly that whilst we welcomed the petition bringing the serious issues of animal welfare in battery puppy farms to the attention of the public and parliament, we believed that the issue was far wider than simply what the debate had now become. We explained that in the event of a ban, the demand for puppies would still exist and unscrupulous breeders and sellers would still find ways to make fast money, resulting in an increase in puppies brought in to the UK from overseas and the very real possibility of rabies and other zoonotic diseases entering the UK. I don't know if your followers understand the ramifications for all pets and animals if rabies entered the UK; as a vet, I am certain that you do.
In addition, you have yet to define what a ‘puppy farm’ is. I know you have been asked this question before and seemingly you avoided answering it, certainly you have when I have asked it. Is it a commercial breeder with two breeding bitches; or three, four, ten or more? Is large scale commercial breeding justified in your campaign, if animal welfare standards can be assured, or do you wish to solely rely on the home breeder with one breeding bitch, which in itself is no guarantee of high animal welfare standards? Please define your boundaries to us and your followers.
It gets more complicated when you consider that the UK population of dogs is currently estimated at 9 million, which means on average there is a demand for 900,000 puppies a year to maintain the canine population (when I say ‘maintain’, it has been a fairly static population for some years). The Kennel Club reports they register 250,000 puppies a year which means 650,000 puppies are supplied by other dog breeders. How is this to be governed and regulated?
So back to pet shops. Let me talk a bit about ‘squelching’ (i.e. issues you are trying to resolve re-appearing in another way because you stop one activity). In the USA, both retailer and breeder have to be inspected before a sale can take place. Out of 13,500 retailers in the USA, only 325 sell puppies but because of the ‘squelching’ effect on retail puppy sales and the continued demand for puppies, 30% of puppies are now supplied to the public via re-homing /rescue centres. ‘Excellent’ I hear you say, ‘what a great job’ - except that as neither the breeder nor the re-homing centres need to be inspected, you now have no regulation at all. Is that really good for animal welfare? Incidentally the ‘sale’ is via “donation” to both the breeder and to the public! Still money being transacted and presumably profit is made, except the point of sale has now shifted to something that is totally unregulated.
Here’s another example. In Austria in 2004, the government banned the sale of puppies in pet shops by law. This sounds great, except a few years later it was re-allowed because the sale of puppies, instead of being regulated and visible, had been driven to the internet and the layby sales of puppies from the back of vans, with serious compromises in animal welfare.
The Pet Animals Act 1951 is outdated and far from perfect. With little government appetite to amend current regulation (as demonstrated in parliament with your e-petition), we are forced to operate within the framework of existing and complex laws, whilst endeavouring all the time to raise standards and professionalism of our members.
Currently it is legal for puppies to be sold in pet shops. Whilst the Model Licence Conditions for Pet Vending published by the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health in 2013 are an excellent basis for protecting animal welfare, PIF and its membership have gone a step further. We have developed the criteria for an audit which our puppy selling retailers will now have to pass in order to remain in membership. These criteria are defined and measureable; participating retailers will be visited on an annual basis by independent, experienced auditors and there will be spot checks. We are therefore satisfied that within the current licensing laws, our members operate above the standard required. I would urge people to join with PIF in promoting and improving quality standards, rather than simply berating it.
Today, we have two member pet shops that sell puppies (they also breed puppies) and they have agreed to go through our new quality scheme. The remaining shops who sell puppies are not our members. One other point you might wish to remind yourself about is that the Model Licence Conditions which Local Authorities use to licence retailers including those selling puppies was written and endorsed by Dogs Trust, BVA, and International Cat Care with consultation from the RSPCA.
PIF constantly strives to ensure that our members raise standards within the pet industry with an ever-present focus on animal welfare – whatever their line of business. We have been instrumental in introducing a quality standard for dog groomers (a currently unregulated profession); we liaise and work with all the main companion animal organisations and charities on a range of initiatives and policy work and we are currently working on improved licensing for pet retailers, kennels, catteries, home-boarders and dog crèches. This alongside our suite of qualifications, online training opportunities, events and courses helps raise the standards of UK pet businesses.
Facebook posts and tweets to PIF members’ sites along the lines of “supporting any part of the pet shop puppies chain is disgusting Pet Industry Federation and its members should be ashamed of themselves #wheresmum”, are not simply unhelpful; they are counter- productive, defamatory and very unprofessional. I would ask you to cease and desist in making such statements and/or urging others to make such statements.
The government believes there is enough animal legislation to deal with the issue. Some organisations and senior vets believe we should increase puppy breeding by audited large scale UK breeders in order to meet market demand and to overcome the issue of battery puppy farms and imports. Would you support this?
PIF is a membership organisation that is happy to, and does, collaborate with a broad range of animal charities and welfare organisations. We have a charter and standards which is why businesses become members and if these are broken the business would be expelled from membership. We can only represent the interests of our members and do not represent non- members.
I believe you consider, incorrectly, that we represent the whole industry and can therefore bring pressure to bear on errant retailers who are not our members. If you know that puppies are being sold under age or are coming from commercial breeders that breach the Animal Welfare Act, why don’t you and your followers inform the RSPCA or report the errant outlet to the local authority? This would be better use of your time, and could yield a positive result.
Your cause is just, your engagement and communication is misaligned. Please contact my office and let me know when you would like to meet and engage on a professional face to face basis.
Pet industry Federation