As the owner of two dogs myself, the suffering of animals is deeply upsetting to me, and I want to see any animal suffering minimised to the greatest extent possible. I am grateful to you for sharing the RSPCA's key campaigning areas with me, which I have read with interest. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and it is only right that we continue to strengthen animal welfare further.
I welcome the Government’s achievements on animal welfare, including the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, recognising the sentience of vertebrate animals and some invertebrate animals, as well as the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, which increased sentences for cruelty. Microchipping became mandatory for dogs in 2015 and this was extended to include cats earlier this year.
Regarding animal testing, I am aware that the Government’s approach is to support the development of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs), primarily through funding from UK Research and Innovation for the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs). The NC3Rs are committed to investing 75 per cent of their research and innovation budget on replacement technologies by the end of 2024.
I am assured that the Government seeks to advance international co-operation on animal welfare and promote high welfare standards. The UK will safeguard its ability to maintain its high animal welfare and food standards in new trade agreements. Ministers continue to work with industry to explore how to harness the market to improve food information for consumers and raise animal welfare standards.
Regarding fireworks, there is a comprehensive regulatory framework in place for fireworks, which aims to strike the right balance for people to enjoy fireworks, while reducing risks to animals and people. I am not aware of plans for the framework to change.
Further, under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs and/or who breeds three or more litters in a twelve-month period needs to have a valid licence from their local authority. All dog breeders are obliged under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to protect their animals from suffering and provide for their welfare.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it is an offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control. The Government is working with the police, local authorities and animal welfare groups to help prevent dog attacks by promoting responsible dog ownership and ensuring that the law is fully applied. Following a concerning rise in dog attacks and fatalities which appear to have been driven by the American XL Bully dog, Ministers are convening experts to define the breed, before legislating to add it to the list of dogs banned under the Act. I will continue to monitor this issue closely.
I hope this letter has reassured you that the Government takes the welfare of all animals seriously, and that it will continue to take further action where necessary.