UPDATE: 8th November
Please be aware that the consultation below, on veterinary services, has now closed.
UPDATE: 11 September 2023
Many constituents have contacted me to raise concerns regarding the cost of vet services in our area.
After raising their thoughts with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) I am pleased to see a review has been launched which will look at consumer experiences and business practices in the provision of veterinary services for household pets in the UK.
The CMA wants to hear from pet owners and people who work in the industry. You can take part via this link (open for up to 6 weeks): How to respond to the veterinary services market for pets review - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
UPDATE: 12 July 2023
Please see below a Written Parliamentary Question I have recently submitted:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions officials in her Department has had with (a) other Government Departments and (b) third-party stakeholders on policy formation on tackling (i) puppy smuggling and (ii) pet theft."
And here, for the response from Trudy Harrison MP:
"Defra officials have regular discussions with other Government Departments, including Border Force, and third-party stakeholders such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Cats Protection and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, on policy formation on tackling puppy smuggling.
"In response to concerns about the apparent increase in pet theft since the start of the pandemic the Government set up the Pet Theft Taskforce in May 2021. The Taskforce was a cross-government initiative including Defra, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. The Taskforce published their findings in September 2021 with input from animal welfare groups and experts in relevant fields. We are in the process of taking forward the Task Force’s recommendations together with relevant Departments."
UPDATE: 22 June 2023
Last week I, along with other MPs, met with Lord Benyon to continue our call for the introduction of tougher pet theft measures, to put an end to this and the abhorrent crime of puppy smuggling.
I've been pleased to see:
- Increased maximum animal cruelty sentences
- Recognised animal sentience in law
- Improving farming standards through the animal Health and Welfare Pathway
- Made microchipping for cats compulsory
- New fines for offences against animals
- Ivory Act came into force in 2022, banning certain ivory sales
- Banning glue traps
- Give police additional powers to tackle hare coursing
- Supporting a ban on advertising low welfare animal activities abroad
- Supporting a ban for the import and export of detached shark fins
As you can see the Government has been making good progress on animal welfare, but there is always more to do.
There is no doubt that we are a nation of animal lovers. I personally have lived around animals my whole life and I am now the proud owner of two mischievous and adorable whippets.
It therefore may come as no surprise that since becoming the MP for Bosworth in 2019, I have campaigned relentlessly for stronger protections for our beloved pets and harsher punishments for those who seek to do harm. I have continually promoted animal welfare, whether within our fields or our homes, and lobbied the Government to strengthen animal rights.
Here you can find an overview of some of the work I have been doing on this issue and the Government’s subsequent response:
- Through written questions, speeches and interventions in Parliament, and meeting with campaigners and local police, I have raised the issue of puppy profiteering – breeders who place potential profits ahead of welfare to sell puppies whilst demand is high. You can watch a Ministerial question I raised here: https://bit.ly/336Al3n
I became aware of the spike in demand, price of puppies and thus pet theft during the pandemic when I sought to acquire my two Whippets, only 6 months apart the prices had risen nearly 200%.
After joining forces with Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, and specifically asking the Government to consider the merits of establishing a national task force to tackle pet theft, I greatly welcomed the announcement of a Pet Theft Taskforce.
You can find out more here: https://bit.ly/3rylTdF
- After the Taskforce reported its findings and my office met with Battersea Dogs and Cats Charity, I am pleased a new offence of pet abduction will be introduced - Legislating to recognise this specific crime reflects the sentimental value our pets hold as beloved family members, and takes into account the emotional distress caused to both the owner and pet. In turn, with the increased sentencing, I am pleased more appropriate and consistent penalties will be handed out to pet thieves and police recorded offences will be significantly improved to understand the extent of the problem.
- Building on this important campaign, I welcome the new proposals, considered within a public consultation, to restrict commercially imported dogs with specific characteristics. The plans would ban the import of dogs with cropped ears or docked tails, raising the minimum age for importing a puppy from 15 weeks to 6 months, and banning the import of heavily pregnant dogs.
You can find out more here: https://bit.ly/3sqwqXG
Raising the minimum age would allow more thorough and accurate checks of the age of the puppy to ensure they are not removed from their mother prematurely. I understand this was a specific ask from the Dogs Trust when I campaigned as part of their Parliamentary Puppy Smuggling Taskforce. You can find out more here: https://bit.ly/3oABCHp
- To ensure constituents do not fall victim to puppy profiteering, I spoke about puppy smuggling and Government plans to help tackle it on BBC Radio Leicester: https://bit.ly/3HFMHP0
If you are considering buying a puppy, you can find useful advice on buying responsibly on the Dogs Trust website: www.dogstrust.org.uk
And the Government’s Petfished tool: https://getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk/
- Losing a pet can be devastating and I understand this is of significant concern to my constituents, being within the top 10 of 650 constituencies to sign the petition on micro-chipping pets. I was therefore pleased to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of constituents in the Westminster Hall debate about the value of protecting our beloved pets: https://bit.ly/3Gz7qCB
- After meeting Finn, a former police dog who was horrifically injured in an attack whilst chasing an armed subject, and supporting the introduction of Finn’s Law within the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act, I was also pleased to actively support another Bill introduced by my colleague to increase sentencing for animal cruelty. The Animal Sentencing Act increased the punishment for animal cruelty from the previous of 6 months imprisonment to some of the toughest in Europe, sending a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated. Find out more here: https://bit.ly/3GCoFmw
This is part of wider Government work on animal welfare which I will continue to support:
- Animal Welfare Action Plan – providing an overview of over 40 policy reforms the Government intends to tackle around five key themes: sentience and enforcement, international advocacy and trade, farm animals, pets and sporting animals, and wild animals: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/action-plan-for-animal-welfare
Many constituents have also contacted me about including cats within the Kept Animals Bill to include restrictions on commercial and non-commercial movement, similar to that of puppy's as mentioned above.
I am aware that the Government's eight-week consultation on the movement of pets into Great Britain did not include proposals to include as thankfully there is limited evidence of a significant illegal trade in cats or significant numbers of low welfare movements.
I understand that the estimate of 70,000 cats detailed in the Cats Protection’s ‘Cats and Their Stats’ report appears to be based on an estimate of the number of cats obtained between March 2020 and March 2021 and the proportion of individuals that reported in a survey that they had sourced a pet from abroad during the same period. I am aware that official Government statistics show that between March 2020 and March 2021, 27,601 cats entered the UK under the non-commercial rules and 8,511 cats entered under commercial rules.
Overall, it would appear that the number of movements of cats into Great Britain is much lower than for dogs and fortunately, there is not significant evidence to suggest there are the same issues with young kittens and pregnant cats being imported. In 2020, for example, no pregnant cats and only 17 kittens (under the age of 15 weeks) were seized and detained.
Nonetheless, I understand constituent concern and I am pleased the Government have introduced compulsory cat microchipping by 20 weeks of age, helping to reunite lost or stolen pets with their owners. While 74 per cent of cats are already microchipped, it is estimated 2.8 million are unchipped. It is hugely important that cats are microchipped as this is often the only hope owners have of seeing a lost cat returned safely to their home. In addition, Ministers will review the operation of the current microchip database systems with a view to introducing improvements.
You can find out more here: Cat microchipping to be made mandatory - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
I have been continually raising these key topics in Parliament and I am pleased Government is taking strong action.
- Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill - after contributing as a member of the Kept Animals Bill Committee, I was pleased to raise constituent concerns regarding the provisions of the Bill, including protection for farm animals in the field, live animal exports and zoos: https://bit.ly/337vE9m
- During the pandemic, myself and colleagues wrote urgently to the Prime Minister to expand the restrictive eligibility criteria to allow Zoos to access the £100 million Zoo Animals Fund, including our own Twycross Zoo: https://bit.ly/3srJqMT
- After meeting with and receiving correspondence from constituents on Breed Specific Legislation, I raised concerns regarding enforcement with the Policing Minister, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and with Leicestershire Police. After meeting with a canine specialist who is working with the police on the enforcement of the legislation to prevent assessment delays, I was pleased to hear that Leicestershire police have been identified as excellent upholders of animal welfare when assessing if a dog is of “type” and I am looking at how to follow this up locally.
- After speaking with local farmers and the local NFU, I understand the barbaric practice of hare coursing has been a serious problem in our local community. I therefore publicly backed plans to strengthen the powers and penalties available in the upcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: https://bit.ly/3uzzbsv
- In the spirit of animal welfare, I believe it is important to highlight the significant investment of £19.9 million into our local treasure Twycross Zoo. After formally recommending the project for the Levelling Up Fund and continually raising the zoo within Parliament, I am excited for work to start for a new National Science and Conservation Centre: https://bit.ly/3oBjTj8
- Trophy Hunting - The 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government has a strong commitment to ensuring that the UK’s domestic policy does not threaten the conservation of species abroad. The proposed ban on imports of hunting trophies goes beyond the manifesto commitment and, with no exemptions, means that the UK will be leading the way in protecting endangered animals and helping to strengthen and support long-term conservation. While I recognise that some conservationists believe trophy hunting can be an effective conservation tool, it is also important to acknowledge concerns around the practice of trophy hunting. I am glad that the Government has proposed a new Animals Abroad Bill to tackle animal cruelty and include bans on the trade of hunting trophies.
- Fur - I welcome that fur farming has been banned in England and Wales since 2000 and since 2002 in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I am pleased there are restrictions on some skin and fur products which may never be legally imported into the UK, including products from cats and dogs, seal skins and from commercial hunts. The UK has established controls on fur from endangered species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and this country does not allow imports of fur from wild animals caught using methods which are non-compliant with international humane trapping standards.
While there are the existing import restrictions listed above, it is still possible to import other fur from abroad. I therefore hope you were able to have your say in the call for evidence on animal welfare as well as the social and economic impacts associated with the fur trade, both at home and abroad. I was pleased that there were nearly 30,000 responses and I understand that the views, data and case studies received will be vital to helping to inform future government policy in this area. I look forward to reading the results in due course, so with the Government considering the consultation responses at this time, there are limitations about what I can do to explore this matter further at this time.
- Foie Gras - I am clear that the production of foie gras from ducks or geese using force feeding raises serious welfare concerns. I am glad that this method of production has been banned in the UK for over 15 years following the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which brought forward a legal requirement to provide for an animal’s welfare needs, such as supplying a suitable diet and protecting the animal from injury and disease. Under this legislation, it is a criminal offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal. In regard to the sale and import of foie gras, I welcome that the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare sets out the Government’s vision to introduce a range of world-leading reforms to improve the welfare and conservation of animals at home and abroad. Through this Action Plan, my ministerial colleagues have committed to building a clear evidence base to inform decisions on the import or sale of foie gras.
I understand there is still work to do to make the process of buying a pet safer, to stop criminals exploiting market demand and to improve and maintain animal welfare, from farm and field and within the home.
I will continue to provide a voice for our adored pets, treasured zoo’s and valued farms.
As a final note, I would like to reassure constituents that there has been no change in legislation and that the ban on using animals for the testing of finished cosmetic products remains in force.
However, I am advised that animal research still plays a role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines and improving our understanding of how biological systems work in health and disease. Further, I am assured that animals, including dogs, are only used in research when there are no suitable alternatives, and any tests are carried out under controls that keep suffering to a minimum. This is known as the last-resort principle, which has been retained and strengthened in the new Environment Act.
I am opposed to animal tests where alternative approaches could be used.
I am pleased the Government is actively supporting and funding the development of alternatives to animals in science through the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research—NC3Rs—which works nationally and internationally to drive the uptake of technologies and to ensure that advances are reflected in policy, practice and regulations on animal research.