Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill

The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and it is only right that we continue to improve our world-leading standards. The Government remains fully committed to delivering its manifesto commitments on animal welfare. 

Already, The UK has one of the most rigorous pet travel border checking regimes in the world and this ensures that every dog travelling into Great Britain on approved routes has its microchip and paperwork checked to make sure they are all properly vaccinated and are old enough to travel. Further, Ministers have taken action to tackle the practice of puppy farming. Following the introduction of Lucy’s Law in 2020, everyone must now buy directly from breeders or consider adopting from rescue centres, which is a major step in stopping the illegal pet trade. If an individual sells puppies or kittens without a licence, they could receive an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months. 

Anyone commercially importing dogs, cats, and ferrets into Great Britain from Belarus, Poland, Romania or Ukraine must have Approved Importer status. This replaces the temporary suspension of commercial imports of dogs, cats, and ferrets from those four countries, which currently present a high risk of rabies transmission. Ministers are aware of cases of serious non-compliance in movements, exacerbated by the present crisis in Ukraine. This scheme will therefore remain in place until the Government is satisfied risks have been reduced enough to allow controls to be lifted. This measure only applies to commercial imports, including rescue animals. 

The Government is backing the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill, sponsored by Selaine Saxby, which seeks to tackle the unlawful dog, cat, and ferret smuggling trade. The law aims to prevent puppy smugglers from importing poorly or ill dogs and bans people selling pets from importing puppies under six months old, while heavily pregnant dogs would also not be allowed to travel. The Bill also answers to our constituents’ wishes to protect dogs with cropped ears by stopping the import of ‘mutilated’ pets. Applying strengthened penalties for pet smuggling will send a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated and will enable our courts to take a firmer approach to cases where pets are illegally imported. 

Prior to this law, the abhorrent practice of non-exempted mutilations such as cropping dogs' ears had rightly been banned in the UK for 18 years. The cropping of a dog’s ears is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Since the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 came into force, anyone convicted of such an offence face being sent to prison for up to five years, or receiving an unlimited fine, or both. However, the importation of dogs with non-exempted mutilations such as cropped ears had been allowed under the existing pet travel rules and we believe the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill will solve this problem once implemented. I will be following the implementation of this Bill closely.