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Vets call on Government to license unregulated dog fertility clinics to help clamp down on irresponsible breeding

British Veterinary Association

4 min read Partner content

British Veterinary Association and British Small Animal Veterinary Association urge crackdown on services linked to organised crime and unethical breeding of fashionable dog breeds

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are calling on Government to license premises offering unregulated fertility treatments for dogs, such as ‘canine fertility clinics’, many of which are undertaking medical procedures on animals without any veterinary involvement, putting the health and wellbeing of dogs and their litters at risk. 

Regulation would also help to close the legal loopholes that are enabling unethical and irresponsible breeding. Some of these services have been linked to organised crime and potentially dangerous breeding practices, as reported by BBC One’s Panorama in January 2022 and BBC Three’s ‘Britain’s Puppy Boom’ exposé in July 2021. Undercover footage showed people with no veterinary qualifications or regulation illegally taking blood from animals, advocating the unlicensed use of medicines, demonstrating poor animal handling and hygiene, as well as potentially illegal acts such as entering a body cavity during artificial insemination.

The call comes as BVA’s latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that irresponsible breeding or sourcing of animals is the top animal health and welfare concern for vets in the UK, with over half (55%) vets in clinical practice citing it as the most pressing issue.

More than 9 in 10 (93%) vets are concerned about the boom in unregulated breeding services, such as canine fertility clinics, which offer procedures like semen collection and analysis, progesterone testing, ultrasound scanning, and trans-cervical or intra-vaginal artificial insemination without any veterinary involvement. Worryingly, among vets who work in companion animal practice, 30% said they were aware of such establishments operating in their local area last year.

BVA has today launched its new joint policy position on canine breeding services with the BSAVA. Key recommendations for government include:

  • Amend current animal welfare licensing legislations across the UK [Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and equivalent devolved regulations] so all operators of establishments operating without direct involvement of an RCVS-registered veterinary surgeon require a licence, with mandatory inspections by trained Local Authority personnel.
  • Increase the penalties for those in breach of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, including non-veterinarians and non-veterinary nurses or non-RCVS-registered vets carrying out acts of veterinary surgery.
  • Strengthen Local Authorities’ (and other relevant devolved bodies’) enforcement capacity.
  • Improve data sharing between Local Authorities and establish a framework so that there is a consistent application of existing regulations.
  • Strengthen the legislation regarding the use of stud dogs under the dog breeding licensing regime and address the current legislative loopholes around the ownership of breeding bitches. It is currently possible for breeders breeding three or more litters in a year to circumvent licensing requirements by making use of a co-owning agreement with another person, who will take ownership of the dog while it is pregnant.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux said:

“Vets across the UK are extremely concerned about unscrupulous individuals cashing in on the huge demand for certain fashionable puppy breeds by offering dog breeding services like artificial insemination and blood sampling without any qualifications or veterinary oversight, fuelling a potential animal welfare disaster.

“The British Veterinary Association would like to see the Government act swiftly to clamp down on these unregulated and dangerous practices, including bringing in licensing, mandatory inspections, and tough penalties if they are found to be operating outside the law.

“Our advice to anyone looking to get a puppy or to breed their dog is to always speak to their vet first. Ask any dog breeding premises the right questions before using their services to avoid getting duped. This includes questions around the staff’s qualifications and training, how they are regulated, and about relevant health tests to make sure the dog is fit to breed in the first place.”

British Small Animal Veterinary Association President Carl Gorman said:

“The surge in the number of commercial businesses offering canine breeding services in the UK, driven by an increased demand for puppies, is a real cause for concern among vets in small animal practice. The procedures advertised by some such businesses, if carried out by unqualified laypersons, pose potential risks to the health and behaviour of the dogs involved and also their puppies.”

“BSAVA would encourage breeders and prospective owners of puppies to do their homework when engaging the services of a breeding clinic or when getting a new puppy. For clinics, always ask who the veterinary qualified professionals are for the premises and also if the business provides an out-of-hours service. For prospective puppy buyers, the new addition to the family is a long-term commitment and brings with it responsibility, so it’s important to find out about the breed of your new puppy and ask to see its parents, especially the mother.”

“BSAVA would like to see canine breeding services better regulated and unscrupulous breeding practices robustly tackled to protect animal health and welfare.” 

BVA and BSAVA’s recommendations on canine breeding services can be viewed at: https://www.bva.co.uk/take-action/our-policies/canine-breeding-services/

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