Christine Grahame MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon.
By Bill Heaney
What measures have been taken to prevent the casual purchase of pets for Christmas, veteran MSP Christine Grahame asked the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.
Mairi Gougeon replied: “We understand why some families might be tempted to get a puppy as a gift at Christmas, but we encourage people to think carefully about doing so. Christmas is probably the worst time of year to bring a puppy into a household, because it needs a calm environment and an established routine to help it to adjust to its new life and surroundings.
“We also know that unscrupulous puppy farmers seek to cash in on increased demand in the lead-up to Christmas, which makes the chances of buying an illegally bred or sick puppy even higher than usual.
“In the run up to Christmas, and in support of the ongoing campaign by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, we have released social media messaging to discourage prospective owners from buying a puppy for Christmas.
“Our messaging also provides advice on how to spot the signs of an unlicensed dealer. There are key checks that can help to ensure that people are buying safely. They include meeting the puppy’s mother with her litter and ensuring that all the correct paperwork is in place.
“If something does not feel right, buyers should walk away and report their concerns to the Scottish SPCA.”
Christine Grahame said: “Campaigns and advice have their place and are very important. However, as the cabinet secretary has said, illegal trading from horrendous puppy factory farms and online purchasing continue. Those practices often involve sick animals and cause a great deal of distress and unhappiness for owners.
“Will the cabinet secretary support, in principle, my new welfare of dogs (Scotland) bill—a version of which fell during the previous session of Parliament because of time pressures—which I intend to introduce early in the new year in order to encourage, in law, responsible dog ownership? A “Yes” from the cabinet secretary would make my Christmas.”
Mairi Gougeon assured her: “I know that Christine Grahame is passionate about animal welfare and has pursued the matter for some time. The Scottish Government welcomes any proposal that seeks to improve animal welfare in Scotland.
“We will carefully consider the content of her bill. I look forward to discussing in due course the measures that will be set out in it, and to working with her on the measures that she hopes to introduce.”