I believe that the humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilized society and it is very important that we send out a strong and powerful message that the illegal importation of puppies is a cruel practice that must stop.
I am aware that Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer has written to EU countries to raise concerns over illegal smuggling of puppies and animals and that the Animal and Plant Health Agency has worked in partnership with the Dogs Trust in Dover where approximately 600 puppies have been seized and taken into quarantine since the initiative.
I know that DEFRA also works closely with the Pet Advertising Advisory group to drive up standards for online advertisements and make potential pet owners and website operators more aware of rogue dealers to reduce demand. However, the operation of the Pet Travel Scheme is currently being reviewed and this includes the pet checking and carrier approval process. I will follow the outcome of this review closely.
I support tighter controls on puppy smuggling and I long believed that more should be done to block wholesale puppy imports which are abusing the Pet Travel Scheme, and to ensure that all puppies have legitimate documentation. It is also vital that government agencies have the resources they need to enforce the current legislation.
At the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to recruit 500 more border guards to add to our safeguards and controls. Increasing the number of border guards would have a positive impact on tackling animal crime. To tackle this trade, we must have greater co-operation between police forces internationally.
I also strongly believe that Brexit must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare. The current government has said that it intends to retain our existing animal welfare standards once we have left the EU. I will certainly hold it to account on this.
However, I agree with Dogs Trust that there is an opportunity for more progressive and ambitious domestic policies which go beyond EU standards.