On Tuesday 2nd April 2019, I led a parliamentary debate on puppy smuggling. I have been an active campaigner on animal welfare issues since I was elected in 2015 and this was the second time I have called a debate on the matter of puppy smuggling.
Puppy smuggling is a multi-million-pound underground industry and hundreds of illegally traded puppies are intercepted at British ports each year. While it is difficult to accurately assess the scale of puppy smuggling trade given that it is illegal in nature, it is likely the true number being smuggled across the border reaches into the thousands. Puppy smuggling is an industry perpetrated by people motivated purely by money and gangs can make up to £35,000 a week illegally transporting puppies through the border to be sold on to unsuspecting dog lovers in the UK.
The well-attended debate heard contributions from Members across the House and there was cross-party consensus on the need for further action. Many MPs joined me in identifying the ease with which the EU-wide Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) regulations can be abused as the root cause of the puppy smuggling trade and we urged the Minister to consider how the UK could close some of these loopholes after it has left the EU. MPs also echoed my calls for the Government to toughen up enforcement and pass legislation to increase in the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years – a change the Government has already pledged to enact but not yet implemented.
I called this debate to keep up momentum on the calls to tackle puppy smuggling and am pleased that so many colleagues from across the House were able to join me today. We are a nation of animal lovers and the Government should not underestimate the strength of feeling that the British public has about this issue. I receive a lot of correspondence from constituents about puppy smuggling and I have been fortunate to spend time with the Dogs Trust at its rehoming centre in Wickhamford in my constituency – one of the largest centres of its kind in the country. I was encouraged by both the tone and content of the Minister’s response during the debate, particularly his commitment to look at the effectiveness of two of my key recommendations – introducing on the spot fines and mandatory visual checks of vehicles passing through our border. But as was said many times during the debate, the time has come for action rather than words and I will continue working with colleagues to keep pressure on the Government to act.
You can read the full debate here: https://tinyurl.com/y4d2o8ka