In the run-up to Christmas, when many families may be thinking of buying a puppy, I welcome the Minister for Animal Welfare's recent comments to ensure that we choose a reputable seller.  Lord Gardiner has set out five simple steps to choosing the right pet:

  • Always consider a rescue dog in the first instance.

  • If you are buying a puppy, only buy from reputable breeders and sellers – and make sure they’re licensed if buying from a business rather than private seller.

  • Never buy a puppy that’s younger than 8 weeks old.

  • Check the puppy’s health history – check vaccinations, make sure it’s microchipped, and consider asking the seller to complete the 'Puppy Contract'.

  • See the puppy interact with its mother. 

In addition, the government announced earlier this year that some of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group's minimum standards will become mandatory for online sellers as part of a swathe of reforms to the animal licensing system.  The reforms will make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks and require anyone breeding and selling three or more litters a year to apply for a formal licence. Anyone trading commercially in pets online will need to be properly licensed.

The plans will be laid in Parliament in the new year and will empower local authorities to take tough action on ‘backstreet breeders’ and help ensure the pets we buy are healthy, happy and from reputable sellers.

Lord Gardiner recently hosted a roundtable with a number of animal charities and websites including Gumtree, Preloved and Vivastreet to discuss the progress made so far. The Minister has since written to those invited to the roundtable to praise their work in helping to stop illegal sellers and encouraging further action.

This announcement comes as the UK embarks on a package of reforms to make sure we are a leader in animal welfare once we leave the EU. From bringing in tougher prison sentences for those who abuse animals to mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses, the UK is leading the way with some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.