Renewed effort to combat puppy smuggling presented to Parliament


Efforts to crack down on the illegal smuggling of puppies and kittens into the UK are being revived nearly three years after the government initially pledged to tighten regulations.

The proposed legislation would impose a ban on importing dogs and cats under six months of age, prohibit the importation of heavily pregnant animals, and establish limits on the number of pets an individual can travel with. Scheduled for debate in Parliament on Friday, the bill seeks to address longstanding concerns about animal welfare and the exploitation of vulnerable creatures.

The proposed legislation, known as the Animal Welfare Bill, is spearheaded by Conservative MP Selaine Saxby and is supported by major animal welfare organizations such as the RSPCA, the Dog's Trust, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. It aims to close existing loopholes that allow for the importation of animals subjected to illegal mutilations, such as ear-cropping, which is already banned in the UK.

While the bill has garnered widespread support from animal welfare advocates, some organizations involved in rescuing dogs from abroad have expressed reservations. Rachael O'Regan, who runs The Responsible Dog Rescue, warns that raising the import age could expose young puppies to increased risks, particularly in harsh conditions and overcrowded shelters. However, proponents argue that increasing the age limit would prevent puppies from being separated from their mothers too early, reducing the likelihood of disease and behavioral issues.

The proposed legislation also seeks to address concerns about the misuse of the Pet Travel Scheme to smuggle dogs into the country. By limiting the number of animals individuals can travel with, the bill aims to deter traders from exploiting loopholes in the system.

Despite the government's previous promises to tackle puppy smuggling, the issue has persisted, prompting calls for urgent action. The bill represents a renewed push to fulfill these commitments and has received backing from both major political parties. However, there are no guarantees that it will pass all stages in Parliament before a general election.

Conservative MP Selaine Saxby has vowed to push the bill forward, emphasizing the importance of protecting both animal welfare and legitimate breeders in the UK. Labour has also voiced support for the legislation but criticized the Conservatives for delays in addressing the issue.

As the bill faces debate in Parliament, the Department for the Environment, Farming, and Rural Affairs has reaffirmed its commitment to combating puppy smuggling and will outline its position on the proposed legislation in due course. Photo by kitty.green66, Wikimedia commons.

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