With a consultation still underway concerning the Government’s plans to crack down on puppy smuggling and ban the import of dogs with cropped ears or docked tails, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra) has now published a report calling for the import of puppies under six months to be banned, along with the import of heavily pregnant dogs.
The report reads, “We welcome the Government’s commitment to ban the import of pets younger than six-months-old, heavily pregnant pets, and pets that have been subject to poor animal welfare practices. We recognise the argument that ministers should be able to adapt regulations as science and intelligence evolve.
“However, we see no future where the movement of young animals, heavily pregnant animals or the import of animals which have been subject to poor welfare practices is acceptable.”
It continues, “The need to prevent pet smuggling is serious and urgent, introducing these bans through later secondary legislation will only create further delays, enabling this illicit trade to continue.”
The report also calls for better deterrents against pet smuggling by improving the prosecution rate and sentences, which are currently very low.
David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, said, “We prosecute puppy dealers who have been earning £2 million or £3 million a year, and they go to prison for 10 weeks. They are still puppy dealing in prison and, when they come out, they immediately start up again. We have to get that balance of deterrence right.”
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said, “If taken on board, the recommendations published today in Efra report would bring us one step closer to putting an end to the cruel puppy smuggling trade.
“Dogs Trust has spearheaded the campaign to overhaul pet travel legislation for over six years, are at the coalface caring for illegally imported puppies and has provided mountains of evidence to the Government about what needs to change, based on what we see daily. We echo EFRA’s concerns and urge the Government to action these in order to tackle this abhorrent trade – as promised in their Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
“Like the Committee, we welcome that the Government is already consulting on key areas, such as toughening penalties for puppy smugglers, raising the minimum age puppies can enter the country and banning the movement of heavily pregnant dogs.”
Boyden also commented on the importance of reinforcing visual checks for animals coming in the UK.
The lack of visual checks at the border to determine the age of the puppies is a pitfall Dogs Trust has been vocal about for years – even taking in a plush dog, ‘Charly’, through the border with a fake pet passport more than once without anyone realising it was not real dog. Dogs Trust is calling for more funds and resources to be allocated for better border checks.
Boyden added, “We are submitting our response to Defra’s consultation on the pet movement legislation and will continue to work closely with the Government to be the voice for innocent puppies and ensure all proposed legislation is robust and effects real change.”