Proposals to crack down on puppy smuggling clear first Commons hurdle

A new law to ban the commercial smuggling of puppys and cats has taken its first step forward, ITV News' Leyla Hayes reports

Fresh proposals to crack down on the “unscrupulous” commercial trade of puppy, kitten and ferret smuggling has cleared its first hurdle in the Commons.

Conservative MP Selaine Saxby said the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill will ensure that pets are not sold or traded as objects.

The Private Member’s Bill, which has the backing of government, proposes to ban dogs and cats under six months from being brought into the UK.

It also prohibits the importation of heavily pregnant animals and those with mutilations, such as cropped ears or a docked tail.

Ministers also heard during the debate that Disney Pixar films such as Up and celebrity culture are normalising ear cropping in dogs, from Conservative MP Neil Hudson.

Tory MP Selaine Saxby has urged the government to clamp down on 'unscrupulous' puppy smuggling. Credit: PA

Opening the Bill’s second reading debate, Ms Saxby said: “As a dog owner myself, it is horrific to hear stories of puppies and kittens being smuggled across the border and the poor conditions they have to endure.

“Pets are more than just property, they are family, and the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill will ensure that pets are not sold or traded as objects.”

The North Devon MP added: “This Bill will deliver a manifesto commitment to crack down on puppy, kitten and ferret smuggling by closing loopholes exploited by unscrupulous commercial trading.”

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Conservative former environment secretary Therese Coffey gave her backing to the Bill, but urged the government to ensure its measures are rolled out swiftly.

She raised concerns that new rules on limiting the number of pets a person can travel with would not come into force as soon as the Bill passes into law.

“I appreciate there might be transition but at the moment it says six months,” the Suffolk Coastal MP said.

Elsewhere, Mr Hudson, a vet and the Tory MP for Penrith and The Border, said the portrayal of ear-cropped dogs in children’s films is wrong.

Former Tory minister Therese Coffey backed the bill calling on the government to act swiftly. Credit: PA

He said: “We’ve got to have a look at popular culture as well, if you look at the popular animated films – one of my favourite films that I watch with my children was the Disney Pixar film Up, which we all absolutely love.

“But if you look really closely at the dogs in that film, many of them are cropped. And so if people are going to the cinema with their kids, and seeing this on the big screen, that looks normal and that is wrong.

“Equally so, in the last couple of years there was another hugely successful animated film, The Super Pets film, again the lead character was an ear-cropped dog.

“Now a lot of people then, in our country, they love their animals but they don’t realise that ear cropping is not normal and so they want to have those dogs, and unfortunately there is a popular culture, a celebrity culture, as well.

“So we need to educate people that these dogs have been horrifically mutilated. So this law, when it comes in, will really close that loophole down.”

The new law would ban importing dogs and cats younger than six months old. Credit: PA

Ms Saxby told MPs that despite not receiving “strong representations” from the ferret community, they are included in the Bill because ferrets are in the same category as dogs and cats when it comes to the risk of rabies.

Labour MP for Chester Samantha Dixon joked that the Commons had not discussed ferrets enough in the current Parliament as she spoke in support of the Bill.

She told MPs: “I thought I would take the opportunity as it hasn’t been taken many times during this session of Parliament to actually talk about ferrets a little more, because obviously with the exception of the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) I don’t think we have talked about ferrets in this place at all, maybe talking more likely about reverse ferrets than actual ferrets.”

During the debate it was revealed that Attorney General Ms Prentis previously had a pet ferret called Roulette.

Environment minister Mark Spencer confirmed the government would be backing the Bill, telling the Commons: “I would like to thank (Ms Saxby) again for taking forward this important Bill, and look forward to seeing it progress through the remaining stages in the House and in the other place (House of Lords).”

MPs will continue scrutiny of the Bill at a later date.

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