'Don't let dodgy dog breeders cash in on COVID' warning

ANTRIM Town councillor and animal lover Neil Kelly has expressed concern on how the current COVID crisis is impacting on animal welfare - and particularly on pups and dogs.

The Alliance rep spoke out a week after his party proposed a Notice of Motion at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council calling for a register of people convicted of animal welfare offences.

Councillor Kelly (pictured below) said that with more people at home because of the coronavirus potentially seeking out a pet to keep them company and to provide distractions, less scrupulous breeders are starting to capitalise on the demand.

He also warned of dogs being stolen to order and of the scourge of puppy farms churning out animals with numerous health problems.

“We are in difficult times and the impact of COVID affects us all.” he said.

“Due to many people now spending more time at home there is an increased demand for pets and pups.

“There are legitimate breeders who work within the regulations but unfortunately there are those who do not.

“We need to ensure that those unscrupulous, cruel people are put out of business.

“Dogs and pups are being stolen from their homes and puppy farms are cashing in on the increased demand.

“Pups and dogs are reaching prices of up to three thousand pounds where pre-COVID prices would have been five or six hundred pounds.

“I have heard reports of pups being sold at five or six-weeks-old which is not in the best interests of the pups who need a minimum of eight weeks with the mother and litter.

“It seems the quicker they move the pups on and cash in the quicker they can produce more pups, these pups are ending up at the vets or indeed being left in animal shelters.”

Councillor Kelly said that everyone had a duty to be on their guard.

“We all need to be vigilant and protect our dogs from cruelty. I would ask people to keep an eye out and report anything suspicious to the police.” he said.

“I would ask people not to buy pups online from a mobile number and exchange money for pups on the roadside.

“I was pleased to hear that our council staff do monitor sites where pups are on sale and do follow up on this.

“If you are interested in getting a dog or a puppy, please be thorough and go and see the breeders or indeed contact your local animal shelter for advice and maybe consider a rescue dog.”

Speaking about his own beloved Irish Setter, he added: “I know we are in difficult times and dogs really are our best friends and I would be lost without my mate Murphy who is great fun and there is never a dull moment when he is around.

“Please take care and stay safe and if you want to get a pet please give it some consideration”

At council last week, a Notice of Motion was proposed this week by Alderman Julian McGrath, also a dog lover, and Alliance party colleague Councillor Kelly, seconded by Alderman Mark Cosgrove and Councillors Sam Flanagan, Michael Goodman and Ryan Wilson from the UUP, DUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP respectively.

It read that: “This council condemns animal cruelty in all its forms and acknowledges the work of numerous animal welfare organisations and of local councils, including ours, in tackling cruelty towards animals.

“(That) this council notes that there is currently no register of those convicted of offences against animals and there is no public register of licensed dog breeders, allowing unlicensed puppy farms to proliferate.

“(That) this council therefore resolves to write to the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to ask for the introduction of a Register of Banned Animal Welfare Offenders for those convicted of animal cruelty and a publicly accessible list of licensed dog breeders.

“Finally, council resolves to copy in each of the other ten councils to these requests.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has hit the headlines in recent years for its’ success in helping bring animal welfare offenders to justice in the courts.”

The motion was passed unanimously.

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