Cats Protection welcomes proposals to close legal loopholes on kitten sales after 47,000 supporters back its campaign to protect feline welfare

02 February 2017
Cats Protection welcomes proposals to close legal loopholes on kitten sales after 47,000 supporters back its campaign to protect feline welfare

The UK’s largest cat charity has welcomed proposals for a change in the law on pet sales after over 47,000 supporters backed its campaign to protect kittens sold by those more motivated by money than welfare.

Cats Protection says recommendations in a government review of animal establishments will mean anyone operating a business selling pets will require a licence – marking a major step forward in improving feline welfare.

The proposals come following the charity’s True Cost of Kittens campaign, which saw over 47,000 supporters contact their MP or write directly to the government to demand an urgent update in the law to address a growing but un-licensed market in kittens. The campaign highlighted that kittens are being sold sick and underage, often by unlicensed sellers effectively operating a pet selling business from the family home and using legal loopholes to avoid being licensed.

Proposed changes in the government report, published on 2 February, will include licencing requirements for anyone selling pets as a business and an end to the sale of kittens under 8 weeks old.

Licencing requirements will also apply to ‘animal activities’ rather than individual establishments, making it much clearer that online sales of kittens could be considered as a business activity requiring a licence.

Cats Protection’s Advocacy Manager Jacqui Cuff said the charity was pleased the government had listened to its supporters concerns about the growing, unregulated market in kittens.

She said: “The growth of the internet and social media has made it easier than ever for people to breed kittens for sale in order to make a quick profit. The result is a huge number of kittens being born in unsuitable conditions, with many sold sick and underage, too young to be separated from their mother.

“We launched our True Cost of Kittens campaign to call on the government to ban the sale of kittens under 8 weeks old and strengthen regulation and licencing conditions for those who sell cats commercially. We are delighted that the government has listened to our supporters and is proposing to take action to protect the welfare of kittens and cats.

“We are particularly pleased that new regulations will refer to ‘animal activities’ as opposed to establishments. A major loophole will be closed so that people who breed kittens in their own homes and advertise them for sale in online adverts will be regulated if they are operating a business.

“It is hugely encouraging that the government has accepted that anyone breeding and selling kittens as a business should be licenced. Moving forward, it will be essential to examine closely how a business is defined. It will be vital that local authorities look at a range of factors when determining business activity, including regular sales activity and repeat online adverts.

“We would still like to see commercial activity better defined with reference to the number of litters bred for sale. We recommended to government that a commercial business could be defined by reference to the number of litters of kittens sold over a 12 month period. A first litter can often be accidental and due to a failure to neuter. However, where breeding persists to a second and subsequent litters and the kittens are sold it is our view that this shows business activity and needs to be licensed.”

Jacqui added that the charity was also pleased the proposals include the potential for enshrining key requirements into the new model licensing conditions.

She said: “Getting the right conditions for these new licences will be all-important. We’d like to see all model licensing conditions for pet sales made mandatory as part of the new Regulations.  

“The proposal to make it a licence condition that pets should not be sold ‘at too young an age’ is especially welcome. This shows a clear indication that the government has listened to our campaign for a ban on selling kittens under 8 weeks old and marks a huge step forward for feline welfare.”

The charity also welcomed the invitation by Defra for Cats Protection's Director of Veterinary Services, Maggie Roberts, to join a panel of experts which will drive forward the new regulations and licence conditions.

Cats Protection launched its True Cost of Kittens campaign in October to highlight growing concerns for cat welfare resulting from the market in kittens, and to call for changes in the law to protect kittens and cats.

Since then, over 40,000 supporters have contacted their MP to ask for support – an average of 60 letters per MP – and more than 7,000 supporters sent postcards to the Minister at Defra calling for a change in the law. 

Jacqui added: “We are pleased the government has listened to our concerns with these proposals, and that it has asked for Cats Protection to join its panel of experts.

“There is still much to be done and detail to be finalised about exactly how this new licensing scheme will work and which licence conditions will be mandatory. We will continue to look at ways to ensure that the welfare of cats and kittens is safeguarded.”

Cats Protection is the UK's largest cat charity, helping around 500 cats a day - or 200,000 cats a year - through a national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 centres. 

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Notes to Editors:

  1. Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity and helps 500 cats a day – or around 200,000 cats each year - through a national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 centres.
  2. The full copy of the report ‘The review of animal establishments licencing in England, Next Steps’ can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/588817/animal-licensing-review-next-steps.pdf 
  3. Cats Protection’s vision is a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs.
  4. Cats Protection’s registered charity number is 203644 (England and Wales) and SC037711 (Scotland). Founded as the Cats Protection League in 1927, the charity adopted the name Cats Protection in 1998. We ask that you use the name Cats Protection when referring to the charity in all published material.
  5. More information about the work of Cats Protection can be found at www.cats.org.uk