I have been contacted by several constituents about the breeding and sale of kittens and puppies.

As a nation of animal lovers it is vital that we maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. The Government is serious about improving welfare in breeding establishments and at the point of sale, and is reviewing the laws that regulate pet sales, including the breeding of dogs and cats.

These plans would introduce a single 'Animal Establishment Licence' for animal boarding establishments, pet shops, riding establishments and dog breeding. Following a recent public consultation I have been assured that the Government's final proposals will be outlined shortly.  

It is already the case that anyone in the business of breeding dogs or running a pet shop must be licenced by their local council. They must demonstrate that: the animals have suitable accommodation, food, water and bedding material; are adequately exercised and visited; and all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent the spread of infection.  

Local Authorities can also restrict which animals a pet shop can sell, and new guidance stresses the need for interaction with people. Meanwhile, the Government has created a voluntary code regulating advertising on the internet, which has resulted in 130,000 adverts being removed since the start of 2014. While there are no plans to ban the sales of dogs by third parties, there are proposals to tighten welfare standards when this does occur.  

For dogs bred by so called "hobby breeders", who are not in business but do breed occasionally, there is the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal or fail to provide for its welfare. Anyone breaking this law could face an unlimited fine and/or 51 weeks imprisonment.

Cat breeding does not, however, require the same level of control as dog breeding, which can lead to issues relating to public safety and nuisance. There can of course be unscrupulous people who exploit the desire for pets, but all captive animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.   To accompany the Act, the Government has published a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats which, if breached, can be used to supply evidence supporting a prosecution. You can read the Code of Practice in full here: http://tinyurl.com/heh4d6k 

Anyone who believes that kittens or puppies are being treated poorly by a pet shop should report their concerns to the Local Authority or the police, which have the power to take action to safeguard their welfare.