Northern Ireland puppy farm ban not possible until Stormont stalemate comes to end
Belfast City Council says it is powerless to ban the sale of puppies and kittens by pet shops and other business sellers.
It comes after the Government announced a consultation on a ban on puppy farms and other third-party commercial dealers.
It would mean anyone buying or adopting a pet less than six months old will have to deal directly with the breeder or a rescue sanctuary.
But with Stormont in limbo and unable to introduce similar legislation in Northern Ireland, Green Party councillor Georgina Milne had called on the council to take action.
Ms Milne had hoped a council policy amendment could limit the lucrative trade, which forces illegally imported animals to endure harrowing journeys that can result in horrific injuries or death.
"Many puppy farms are associated with horrendous acts against vulnerable animals," she said.
"They include keeping pregnant dogs and puppies in filthy conditions, lack of food and water, denying the animals healthcare, and taking young pups from their mothers before they are ready.
"I will be raising this with Belfast City Council to ensure that this important law is adopted as council policy."
However, last night the council said such a move was not possible.
"There is no legislation in Northern Ireland to deal with third-party sales of pets and the council cannot implement any policy without appropriate legislation to underpin and regulate the activity," it said.
The effort to protect animals from unethical, profit-driven breeders comes on the back of the prominent 'Lucy's Law' campaign, which calls for an immediate halt to the sale of young pets by third-party commercial dealers.
A petition supporting Lucy's Law has been signed by nearly 150,000 people and was debated in Parliament in May.
Ms Milne praised Lucy's Law and said it will significantly restrict "a cruel way of breeding puppies" which are sold to unsuspecting owners throughout Britain.
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the Government would back the ban to ensure no one profits from what he branded a "miserable" trade.
The Dogs Trust welcomed the move but said it also wanted to see the ban implemented here "alongside other measures" to ensure no loopholes exist.
However, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said "legislation regarding animal welfare and the licensing of pet shops and dog breeding remains a devolved matter" and any decision would be for a minister to take.