There is currently no licensing regime for dog breeders in the Cayman Islands, despite the provision being part of the Animals Law for more than 15 years.
The Department of Agriculture confirmed it has not issued a single license for dog or cat breeders to operate in the territory. Brian Crichlow, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, acknowledged the law requires anyone involved in the breeding or sale of pets to have a license.
But he said the necessary regulations to accompany the law had never been introduced and no licensing system has been set up. This oversight will be corrected in a coming review of the law, Mr. Crichlow claimed.
Animal welfare charities have warned that the failure to follow through with rules and regulations for breeders is fueling Cayman’s feral dog problem and is linked to a whole host of other animal welfare issues.
Lesley Agostinelli, of the Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts, said the charity frequently encounters issues related to unethical breeding practices.
She said CARE made a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Agriculture to obtain a list of all licensed breeders in an effort to identify illegal operators and educate them about their responsibilities under the law.
She said she was surprised to learn that there was no licensing regime at all.
“It is sad and demoralizing for us as an animal charity that is trying to support these laws and educate people on their obligations to find that we are not being supported in that sense,” she added.
CARE funds a free community spay and neuter program, offers preventative vet care for pets in underprivileged communities, and has developed an education program on animal welfare for schools.
Ms. Agostinelli believes a proper licensing regime would help end unscrupulous “puppy mills” – breeders that churn out pups for profit without any concern for the welfare of the dogs in their care.
She said tighter regulation could also help ensure puppies were properly vaccinated, spayed and neutered, registered and linked to an owner to create a chain of accountability.
“We are not against breeding if it is done properly but the only way that will happen is if premises are licensed, and pets are required to be vaccinated and vets records maintained,” she said.
Jason Jairam, of the Cayman Islands Humane Society, said he supported a proper licensing system for breeders.
“If you go on e-Cay or Facebook, any average Joe is selling dogs,” he said. “Licensing would be a really good step for the government and for the community as well.”
The Animals Law was amended in 2002 to require anyone breeding pets to be licensed and follow certain standards. But the regulations, which give the necessary detail to implement the law, were never created.
Mr. Crichlow indicated the law would be updated in the coming year and the regulations brought in.
“The Department and Ministry of Agriculture have recognized this and other shortcomings in the Animals Law and support a comprehensive update of the law to address these matters,” he said.
Even without licensing, Mr. Crichlow said the Department of Agriculture could still investigate any abuses under broader animal protection legislation.
“Although no operators licenses have been issued in relation to the breeding of pet animals,” he said, “any animal owner or person breeding a pet animal is required to adhere to accepted standards of animal welfare as set out in the Animals Law. Where the Department becomes aware of a situation where a person may be keeping an animal in conditions that do not meet acceptable animal welfare standards, such cases are actively investigated by the Department’s Animal Welfare Officers.”