Puppy Smuggling Crackdown Dropped in Major Government U-turn

The government has scrapped proposals for a bill that prohibited live exports and cracked down on puppy smuggling, infuriating animal-welfare activists and specialists.

The Conservatives' election manifesto includes the Kept Animals Bill, a prohibition on primates as pets, a ban on puppy smuggling, and improved protection for sheep from dangerous dogs.

The commitments were central to the government's broad animal-welfare action plan for 2021, and the Bill was one of Boris Johnson‘s signature projects.

Rishi Sunak committed to restricting live animal exports and supporting the Kept Animals Bill during his Tory leadership candidacy last year.

When the heads of almost 30 campaign organizations pressed him and competitor Liz Truss to honor the promises, Mr. Sunak's team responded:

“Rishi looks forward to championing this Bill as it progresses through parliament.”

Additionally, the measure would have addressed pet theft, enhanced zoo animal care regulations, and prohibited the importation of dogs with chopped ears.

Mark Spencer, the minister for rural, agricultural, and environmental affairs, claimed the government was abandoning it, claiming a lack of time in the legislature.

However, sources claim the government was concerned it may spark discussions over the hunting ban.

Campaigners for animal welfare slammed the prime minister with violating Tory promises.

Humane Society International/UK's senior director of campaigns and public affairs, Claire Bass, stated: 

”The government’s decision to abandon the Kept Animals Bill is astonishing for both animals and the public trust.

According to her, the law required a few more hours in the Commons to pass, proving that the lack of legislative time was not the underlying problem.

According to Whitehall sources, she claimed that the Bill was abandoned because of worries that it may “act as a vehicle for uncomfortable debates that the government does not want holding on polarizing issues such as hunting with dogs.”

The Hunting Act of 2004 forbids using dogs to hunt wild mammals.

Charities used a banner urging Coffey and Sunak not to ‘hang animals out to dry'
Charities used a banner urging Coffey and Sunak not to ‘hang animals out to dry.' Photo: The Independent

Govt’s Low Priority on Animal Welfare: Animal Orgs Condemn the U-turn 

“Vital protections for dogs, calves, sheep, primates, and other animals have been sacrificed today at the government’s altar of self-serving political convenience,” Ms. Bass said.

In a joint statement denouncing the change of heart, Battersea, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, and The Kennel Club stated that:

“Animals will now continue to suffer without the protections the bill could have provided, including victims of puppy and kitten smuggling, dog and cat abduction, and the importation of dogs with cropped ears and declawed cats.”

Before Brexit, over 6,000 calves were shipped from Scotland via Northern Island, largely to Spain and Italy, while an estimated 4,000 lambs were carried from the UK to Europe each year for slaughter. Northern Ireland continues to export.

Lambs on a lorry in Scotland
Lambs on a lorry in Scotland. Photo: The Independent

The Bill had been in limbo since the Commons' report stage, and the government had been under pressure to resume work on it.

Malcolm Morley, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: 

“News that the Kept Animals Bill will not progress through parliament is extremely disappointing. This crucial legislation, and the package of measures it contained, would have prevented the immeasurable suffering of thousands of animals.”

The RSPCA expressed its frustration and disappointment that the government had “delayed and delayed” and has now fragmented the measure, despite resounding popular support.

The RSPCA's head of policy, Emma Slawinski, stated:

“We have been waiting for almost 2 years for the Kept Animals Bill to improve the lives of billions of animals, and now it’s effectively been scrapped. While politicians dither, animals suffer.”

Mr. Spences indicated that the measures could be enacted through Private Members' laws, although these laws rarely get through the legislature.

Nick Palmer, head of Compassion in Worl Farming UK, said: 

“This cruel and outdated trade has been a stain on British farm animal welfare standards for far too long, and the Kept Animals Bill would have finally consigned it to the history books. But sadly, the government has let this opportunity slide.

We urge MPs who are successful in the ballot for Private Members’ Bills in the autumn to take up the band and propose legislation to finally end this horrific practice which has caused so much suffering over the years.”

Ms. Bass said the U-turn was “indicative of the low priority the government now evidently places on animal welfare.”

Others who support animals called the action “shameful,” and one added:

“The UK is supposed to be one of the leaders in animal welfare. What a joke that is, especially where the Tory government is concerned.”

Mr. Spencer told MPs: “We will be taking forward measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually during the remainder of the Parliament.

We remain fully committed to delivering our manifesto commitments — and this approach is now the surest and the quickest way of doing so, rather than letting it be mired in political game-playing.”

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How Aubrey describes love is a wet nose and a happy tail. She now has over a year of experience writing about canines with a particular emphasis on health and behavior. She enjoys sharing dog tips, fun facts, and pet med topics, among other things. Her passion for both writing and dogs inspired her to share her knowledge and experience with other dog parents so they could provide the greatest care for their pets. She also stands against alpha, leader, and dominance theories. She believes there’s no need to do extra things like eating prior to your dogs.