Scanned in from the News Letter
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Opinion: Puppy Farms - South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells
South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells, who serves as chairman of the Assembly All-Party Group on Animal Welfare, explains why he is backing the News Letter's campaign against puppy farming
Pic:MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Jim Wells and his dog Mollie
I TOTALLY support the News Letter's campaign against puppy farming - not only because I believe puppy farming is cruel but also because it is totally unnecessary.
Anyone looking for a family pet does not need to buy a dog from a puppy farm - all he or she has to do is go down to their local council dog pound or USPCA shelter.
I speak from first-hand experience as I am the owner of two rescued dogs.
I found Annie 12 years ago tied to a post near Templepatrick. Whilst she was well-fed her owner simply did not want her and I had no hesitation in bringing Annie home.
Nine years later my daughter found Mollie - another mongrel - at the local council pound and both dogs have been very much part of our family ever since.
If all of the dog lovers in Northern Ireland gave good homes to the thousands of strays and refused to support puppy farming this horrible trade would die out almost immediately.
Unless someone has had direct experience of looking after a rescued dog they have no idea how rewarding it can be.
Annie had clearly had a bad experience with cars before she came to us.
She gets very nervous when put in any vehicle - but until recently she could run the legs off anyone who produced a lead and she can still walk for Ulster.
As a child I had a dog - Simon - from when I was four until I was 21. He was a wonderful pet who went everywhere with me. For the first 13 years of his life he ran behind my bike as I cycled down the hill in Moira to the canal.
For his last four years he sat on the handlebars watching everyone as we freewheeled down the same hill - another mongrel who brought great pleasure.
Not only am I angry when I learn of people who ignore strays and buy from puppy farms, I am also even more concerned that progress has been so slow in reforming the animal welfare legislation which currently permits the mass production of dogs in awful conditions.
At present the law in Northern Ireland (Welfare of Animals Act 1972) is 36 years old and totally inadequate to deal with the organised gangs who are making a fortune through puppy farming.
It is very frustrating for animal welfare organisations such as the USPCA to discover animals which are clearly being ill-treated but nothing can be done because the law is so outdated and inadequate.
The Minister of Agriculture [Michelle Gildernew] has promised reform but every time she is asked for an update she keeps repeating that she wants an all-Ireland animal welfare strategy.
This stance means that nothing can be done to tackle the evils of puppy farming in Northern Ireland until the Republic updates its own legislation.
Unfortunately progress on this issue has been very slow south of the border and meanwhile this very cruel trade continues unabated.
There is clearly a cross-border element to this evil trade and I have no problem with close cooperation between the two jurisdictions to tackle this activity but if the minister wants an all-Ireland strategy then could I suggest that she promotes legislation which will make Northern Ireland a world leader in the field of animal welfare and then encourages the Republic to follow her lead.
Only when the legislation is for the 21st century can we really tackle puppy farming and all the other cruel practices which the vast majority of people in the Province find so appalling.