The number of dogs being imported into the UK as pets from abroad is on the rise. Both the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA have categorised this type of smuggling as ‘puppy trafficking’.
I share the concerns of the Dogs Trust that there has been such a rapid increase in the number of dogs being imported into the UK. It is particularly concerning that these puppies are being identified as dogs from countries where rabies has been reported and where the health and condition of the dogs is unknown. It is also often the case that these imported dogs have not been properly micro-chipped or vaccinated.
I know that the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust have both released detailed reports outlining these problems and calling for urgent action to prevent illegal puppy trading and the potential spread of disease. I hope that the Conservative Government listen and respond to these reports. Conservative Ministers should be encouraging specialist training in order to help Border Agency staff to identify and handle animals that may be subject to trafficking. The Conservative Government also need to take steps to ensure that ferry operators do not inadvertently contribute to this illegal and dangerous trade.
The EU Pets Travel Scheme was introduced on 29 December 2014 and was intended to lead to stronger measures on compliance. I would like to see this Travel Scheme maintained as we exit from the European Union. I also appreciate that the RSPCA has warned that this scheme needs to be accompanied by significant improvements in enforcement and wider steps to prevent the risk of serious disease being reintroduced into the UK.
I hope the Conservative Government will work with organisations such as the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust on this. I also believe that there should be a comprehensive review of standards in the breeding and sale of puppies and kittens based on the principles of the Animal Welfare Act that was introduced in 2006 by the previous Labour Government.
I have now attached the Government's response to a letter that I sent to Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, about this issue.