Dog Breeding in Wales – Government will look ‘very carefully’ at staff-to-dog ratio, says minister

The number of dogs that kennel staff are allowed to look after in Wales should be reduced, Assembly member Joyce Watson has argued.

Under existing regulations, one person can take care of 20 adult dogs – with no limit on the number of puppies. Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday (13 Nov), the Labour Mid and West Wales AM called for a smaller staff-to-dog ratio that includes puppies. She said:

“Only one full-time attendant is required for 20 adult dogs, and that doesn’t even take into account the number of puppies that each dog could have. So, we could end up with a situation of an average-sized litter per dog equating to one person being expected to be responsible for up to 180 adult dogs and puppies at any one time.

“I can’t see how any one person can adequately care for so many animals, spot potential health issues and also meet the welfare needs of those animals to a good standard.”

Mrs Watson also urged the animal welfare minister, Lesley Griffiths, to consider reducing the number of dog breeding licenses given out to local authorities.

A Welsh Government review of its own dog breeding regulations, introduced in 2014, is underway. The RSPCA has criticised the current rules for failing to tackle pedigree or genetic issue, as well as the exclusion of puppies from the staff-to-dog ratio.

Responding to Joyce Watson’s question, the minister said she shared the backbencher’s concerns.

Lesley Griffiths AM said:

“I certainly share your concern, particularly about the staff: dog ratio. Following the meeting that was held yesterday between the chief veterinary officer and her officials with, actually, local authorities—Flintshire didn’t attend, they sent their apologies—I think this was one area that came out very, very high up on the list that we need to look at very carefully.

“I mention the task and finish group with members of the Wales animal health and welfare framework group review that’s already begun. I don’t want to pre-empt that review, but I think, certainly, there were a lot of issues that were raised at this meeting yesterday that need careful consideration. Certainly, if you think about exercising the dogs, for instance, whilst I appreciate you can take several dogs out at once, you certainly wouldn’t be able to take 50 dogs out at once. If they need exercising three times a day, which I think is what the regulations say, then, certainly, we need to look at that. So, whilst I don’t want to pre-empt the review, I think this is clearly an area we need to look at.

“In relation to your question about licences, again, when you see the table of local authorities and the number of licensed premises that they have—I think Torfaen’s got one, for instance, Carmarthenshire’s got 80, so you can see that there’s a big difference across all local authorities. So, again, as part of the review, it’s something we can look at, but, clearly, it’s the unlicensed breeders that we really need to be making improvements on as well, and the review will have a holistic look at dog breeding here in Wales.”