New law to crackdown on puppy smuggling a massive win for animal welfare, say vets

New legislation to crackdown on illegal puppy smuggling and pave the way for a ban on the import of dogs with cropped ears has been hailed by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

The measures form part of the new Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill introduced today under Defra’s Action Plan on Animal Welfare, which was announced last month. The Bill also covers a ban on live animal exports for slaughter and fattening, a ban on keeping primates as pets, action on livestock worrying, and improvements to zoo regulations.

BVA has previously raised awareness of the plight of pets that are illegally smuggled into Great Britain, sometimes by criminal gangs who dupe new owners into buying sick or poorly socialised pets. The Bill will reduce the number of animals that can travel under pet travel rules and introduce new powers that will enable the government to bring in new restrictions, such as increasing the minimum age that puppies can enter the country.

These new powers will also enable the government to bring in measures to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears, which BVA and The FOAL Group have campaigned for through the #CutTheCrop campaign, which has received over 104,000 signatures of support.

Welcoming action on illegal puppy smuggling, BVA President James Russell said:
“Every day veterinary practices see the devastating consequences of illegal pet smuggling. Puppies that have been poorly bred and taken away from their mothers at a very young age often suffer from disease, other health problems, and poor socialisation leading to heartache and financial costs for new owners. We welcome changes to the law that will stop criminal gangs abusing pet travel rules for profit.
“We’re also delighted to see that the Government has moved a step closer to a ban on the import of cropped and docked dogs putting an end to the alarming trend of ear cropping that vets have been calling for through our #CutTheCrop campaign. “Taken together these measures will be a massive win for animal welfare.”

On the ban on live exports, James Russell said:
“BVA supports action to improve welfare at transport, but any changes need to be evidence-based. We don’t support a ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening, as this risks disproportionately focusing on journey time and distance, rather than looking at conditions during transport. But we are keen to work with Defra and the livestock industry to put measures in place to ensure improved welfare for animals on all journeys.”

On the other welfare measures in the Bill, Mr Russell added:
“We’ve long argued that it’s almost impossible for private owners to meet the complex needs of primates and so we warmly welcome the ban. We also support ongoing improvements in zoos where animal welfare and conservation work is led by veterinary teams.

“Livestock worrying is a scourge on rural communities. Legislative measures to tackle the problem must be supported by ongoing efforts to raise awareness and educate dog owners.”

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