As an owner of two dogs and an animal lover myself, please be assured that I recognise the importance of this issue. Therefore, I welcome that 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. I welcome that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will bring in some of the world’s strongest protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals. The Bill includes new restrictions on pet movements into Great Britain, which covers the non-commercial movements of cats as well as dogs and ferrets. The Bill also contains powers to restrict the import of cats, dogs and ferrets on welfare grounds.
However, 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.
In August 2021, the Government also launched an eight-week consultation on proposed restrictions to the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain. I am aware that this consultation proposed to maintain the existing requirements for cats, as there is currently limited evidence of a significant illegal trade in cats or significant numbers of low welfare movements.
The consultation sought views on whether maintaining the existing requirements in relation to cats was the right approach. I know that my ministerial colleagues are currently analysing the responses to the consultation and will soon publish a summary.
Finally, I know that the Bill also includes a new offence of taking and detaining a dog as part of our response to a recommendation made by the Pet Theft Taskforce. The new offence, which was added to the Bill at its Commons Committee stage, is initially limited to the abduction of dogs in recognition of the Taskforce's finding that seven out of 10 pet abductions in England and Wales involved dogs. However, the Bill also includes a power to extend the offence to other pets, including cats, if necessary.
I welcome that the Bill has now passed Committee Stage in the House of Commons and will return to the House as soon as parliamentary time allows.