Puppy imports and theft law ‘rescued’ by MPs in Private Members’ Bill ballot
General / Sat 9th Dec 2023 at 12:07pm
THE RSPCA has welcomed news that legislation to tackle pet theft, crackdown on puppy, kitten and ferret smuggling, as well as the import of dogs with cropped ears, is to be taken forward as Private Members’ Bills.
This comes after the UK Government’s Kept Animals Bill, which among other important issues would have helped to crack-down on the cruel puppy trade, was scrapped by the UK Government. However, today (Wednesday), Selaine Saxby MP has agreed to ‘rescue’ the pledge by taking it on as a Private Members’ Bill, following a recent ballot of MPs.
If passed, this new legislation – the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill – will tackle the cruel pet trade by increasing the minimum age permitted for imported dogs and cats to six months and ban the import of heavily pregnant bitches.
The Bill will also make it more difficult and less profitable for traders to fraudulently import animals for sale under the guise of pretending to be owners travelling with their own pets, addressing a common abuse of non-commercial rules that compromises both welfare and biosecurity.
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “We’re thrilled that this crackdown on pet imports has been picked up as a Private Members’ Bill and are thankful to Selaine Saxby MP for rescuing this important issue.
“Puppy smuggling is a cruel trade where criminals get rich by selling sick and dying puppies to unsuspecting families, resulting in serious welfare issues and leaving owners distraught.
“Puppies tracked across borders are forced to travel long distances which as a young pup can be very stressful. Buying an imported puppy leaves new owners open to the very real risk that they are supporting cruel overseas puppy farming, with the parent dogs often kept in terrible conditions which would be illegal in the UK, and used as breeding machines.. Buyers are then left with puppies who are at risk of serious diseases or future behavioural issues.
“We are delighted that Selaine Saxby’s Bill will give the UK Government another opportunity to support an end to this cruel trade, and we urge them to ensure that this Bill is given enough parliamentary time to succeed – and for MPs across the House of Commons to support it.”
The Bill will also ban imports of dogs with cropped ears and declawed cats – cruel and barbaric mutilations which are illegal in the UK.
David added: “Steps to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears will also send a powerful message against the painful and unnecessary mutilation of dogs for fashion which is often carried out by untrained individuals without pain relief. Time and time again our investigators cannot stop dogs with cropped ears on the streets of Britain due to this loophole, as it is so difficult to prove the dog wasn’t imported. It’s about time we saw this loophole closed for good.”
Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, added: “As a dog owner myself, it is horrific to hear stories of puppies being smuggled across the border and the poor conditions they have to endure. Pets are family, not property. Since being elected in 2019, I have continuously supported the Government’s Kept Animals Bill, however, due to the lack of parliamentary time this has been unable to become law. Many residents in North Devon have written to me about their support for the Bill and I am happy to announce that I will be bringing the Puppy Smuggling part of the Bill forward and am optimistic that we will successfully take it through to become law.
“The Bill will safeguard the welfare of thousands of puppies, dogs, cats and ferrets that come into Great Britain from overseas each year. It will also prevent the heartache of families who unknowingly buy young and ill pets that often come with hidden health conditions.
“We really are a nation of pet lovers, I look forward to working collaboratively with organisations such as the RSPCA and Dogs Trust to ensure that this legislation is successful and that the UK is leading the world when it comes to animal welfare.”
MP for Southend West Anna Firth has also rescued the Pet Abduction Bill which will tackle pet thefts by creating a specific offence for dog and cat abduction. Pet theft is devastating for owners who understandably see their pet as one of the family but currently the law treats the theft of a pet the same as the theft of a mobile phone.
MP for Warley John Spellar has revived the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill to prohibit the import of hunting trophies into Great Britain, and the Public Procurement (British Goods and Services) Bill has been rescued by MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion which will make provision about public procurement in respect of British goods and services, food and labelling.
The RSPCA welcomes that these MPs have taken forward these measures for animal welfare which had previously been scrapped or abandoned – but the charity remains disappointed that many other issues previously promised by the UK Government, such as tackling sheep worrying and banning cages for farmed animals, remain on the scrapheap of broken pledges. This is especially disappointing given there is such overwhelming public support for these policies for animals.
From 2021 to date, the RSPCA has seen nearly 100,000 people taking action and contacting their MPs calling on them to use their influence to ensure the Kept Animals Bill and other vital animal welfare issues are taken forward by the UK Government.*
UK Government’s broken promises for animal welfare
Caged farm animals – The UK Government had promised to consult on banning farm animals being kept in cages in England. Currently, around 10 million hens live in cages in the UK which gives them on average less usable space than an A4 piece of paper. Around 60% of UK sows (about 200,000) are kept in farrowing crates just before giving birth and for around four weeks after their piglets are born. These metal crates are so small that the sows can’t even turn around.
Banning the use of shock collars – following a consultation showing overwhelming support for a ban on shock collars in England the Government introduced legislation in April to achieve this. Whilst it was quickly approved by the House of Lords it has stalled and has yet to be introduced to the Commons. Although we are yet to see an actual backtrack we’re concerned that this too could be abandoned, despite Wales having a ban since 2010.
Livestock worrying – this was also part of the dismantled Kept Animals Bill, and would have given police extra powers to provide protection to livestock against dog control and bite incidents which can result in serious injuries and even death.
Imports of fur from abroad – fur farming has been banned in the UK for more than 20 years but sadly fur can still be imported from countries where animals raised for their fur often live in cramped, barren cages – with little ability to exhibit natural behaviours – and some are killed in horrific and inhumane ways. An RSPCA survey showed that 95% of the public would never wear real fur, but many items for sale in the UK are either incorrectly labelled or not labelled at all and without a ban on imports this is set to continue.
Sale and import of foie gras – this product can only be made through a process that is very cruel to ducks and geese. Production of foie gras has never occurred in the UK and was essentially banned as long ago as 1968, but despite pledging to ban imports of foie gras, this has now been allowed to continue.
Trade negotiations with high welfare standards – the UK Government vowed to safeguard high animal welfare standards in free trade agreements following Brexit. However, it has now signed three Free Trade Agreements (Australia, New Zealand, Trans Pacific) none of which included measures to ensure imports met the UK’s animal standards.
Food labelling consultation – plans for a consultation into mandatory welfare labelling on animal products was recently abandoned. Currently, consumers cannot make an informed choice because there is no clear labelling on the products they buy to show how the animal has been reared and cared for. This comes despite four out of five people* thinking having some knowledge about the way an animal has been cared for is important when making a purchase.
Call for evidence on snares – the UK Government committed to launch a call for evidence on the use of snares in England but this was sadly dropped. The RSPCA is opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all snares and any traps which cause suffering to an animal – and these devices were recently banned by the Welsh Government. Foxes are often the target of such traps, but also other animals such as badgers and domestic cats can be potential victims.
Review of slaughter legislation – the Government committed to reviewing the slaughter legislation but no progress has occurred on this despite the Government agreeing that lobsters and crabs are sentient animals and need to have protection when being killed and that fish need specific regulations on slaughter.
Consultation on game birds – the Government promised a consultation on updating the standards on keeping game birds but no progress has occurred whatsoever.
How can a government with prominent members who, with family members are active participants in illegal hunts of foxes and deer, be trusted to deliver on the promises they made?