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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Protest over 'puppy farm' grant
Protesters outside the Welsh assembly
Protesters gathered outside the Welsh assembly
Dog-lovers have publicly protested against a Welsh Assembly Government grant which can be used to set up dog breeding facilities on farms.

A 15,000-name petition objecting to the so-called 'puppy farm' grant was handed in at the assembly's headquarters in Cardiff on Tuesday.

The grant was introduced to help farmers to diversify and the money would help to pay for kennels and exercise yards, but not to buy the dogs.

But a number of animal welfare workers want the grant scrapped, claiming there were already too many unwanted dogs.

The campaigners dealing with the stray dogs cost 1.3m every year in Wales and nearly 13,000 strays were destroyed by local authorities throughout the UK over the same period.

Breeding dogs while flouting welfare and hygiene standards is not acceptable to me
Assembly minister Carwyn Jones

And in August organisations including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) reported a big increase in underground "puppy farms" - unlicensed breeding dens where pedigree puppies are reared simply with the aim of a quick profit.

Karen McGarrigle, co-ordinator of the Say No to Puppy Farms campaign said: "While we sympathise with the plight of the farmers affected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak, raising a puppy that is going to live with your family requires a far different approach to that used for rearing and animal destined for the meat market.

"There are already far too many stray dogs in this country and people should not be paid to breed any more dogs," she added.

So far, two grants have been awarded to farmers in Wales.

But the assembly government said the grants be given only to farmers trained in animal welfare and hygiene.

Puppies
Too many puppies are being abandoned, claim animal workers

Carwyn Jones, minister for environment, planning and countryside met the 40 campaigners and said he hoped he had "allayed their fears".

"Let me stress that nobody deplores the worst excesses of so-called puppy farmers more than I do and I totally understand the concerns of the campaigners," he said.

"Breeding dogs while flouting welfare and hygiene standards is not acceptable to me, nor to the Welsh Assembly Government, and there is no way we would support practices which did not comply with the most stringent of standards."

Criteria

But he said strict criteria had to be met by those applying for the grant, which had been achieved by two farmers.

"Both farmers are experienced breeders producing high-quality animals for family pets," said Mr Jones.

"Their puppies are Kennel Club-registered, and they are licensed by the local authority and subject to unannounced inspections to ensure they comply with licensing standards," he added.

Ms McGarrigle, who works at the All Creatures Great and Small rescue centre in Cwmbran, described his views as "unsympathetic".

"We will keep on fighting this until it is stopped even if that takes us 20 years," she said.




SEE ALSO:
'Puppy farm' grant row
13 Jun 03  |  South East Wales
'Huge rise' of puppy farming
26 Aug 03  |  Wales


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