As an owner of two dogs and an animal lover myself, please be assured that I recognise the importance of this issue. That is why I am pleased that the UK has a long history of leading the way on animal welfare. I know that ministers are committed to improving our world-leading standards through a series of ambitious reforms, as outlined in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. In addition, the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will bring in some of the world’s strongest protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals. I look forward to supporting the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament.
Primates are highly intelligent animals with complex needs that require specialist care. I am aware that through the Bill the Government will deliver on the manifesto commitment to introduce a ban on keeping them as pets, ensuring that all primates being kept privately in England are kept at zoo-level standards and that ownership of primates at levels below these standards is phased out.
I also understand that live animals can endure excessively long journeys during export, causing distress and injury. EU rules prevented any changes to these journeys, but the UK Government is now able to pursue plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, This Bill will ensure that the UK is the first European country to end this practice.
I would like to reassure you that I take the issue of illegal puppy imports very seriously. I know that the Bill will tackle the unethical trade of puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets, including dogs, cats and ferrets, that can travel under pet travel rules. The Bill also contains an enabling power to allow the Environment Secretary to make regulations about the importation of cats, dogs and ferrets for the purpose of promoting their welfare. Further restrictions could include an increase in the minimum age of imported puppies, as well as the prohibition of the import of pregnant dogs and dogs with mutilations such as cropped ears and tails.
I also fully appreciate the concerns raised about livestock worrying, which happens when a dog attacks or chases livestock on agricultural land or is at large in a field with sheep. This can result in significant injury and suffering and can have devastating consequences for livestock keepers. I understand that the Government has proposed to modernise existing legislation through the Kept Animals Bill. This includes amending definitions within the legislation to broaden the scope of the offence, as well as improving enforcement mechanisms to help the police deal with and investigate incidents of livestock worrying more effectively.
Further, in the most serious cases, the police will have powers to seize dogs after particularly serious incidents, if there is reason to believe that the dog may pose an ongoing risk to livestock. This will help reduce the risk of dogs reoffending, which is a serious problem.
I am aware that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill has been carried over into the new parliamentary session and will return to the House as soon as parliamentary time allows.