As an owner of two dogs and an animal lover myself, please be assured that I recognise the importance of this issue. 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.
In August 2021, the Government carried out a consultation on proposed restrictions to the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain. The 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. I look forward to reading the Government’s response in due course.
I am aware that the Kept Animals Bill, introduced in June 2021, was designed to implement several of the Government’s ambitions for animal welfare. This included new restrictions on pet movements into Great Britain, as well as measures to tackle pet theft. However, I am aware that the Bill’s multi-issue nature means that there has been considerable scope-creep, and the Bill risks being extended far beyond the original commitments in the Conservative Manifesto that I was elected on and the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. Therefore, the Government will now be taking forward measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually during the remainder of the Parliament.
I am assured by my ministerial colleagues in Defra that the Government is fully committed to delivering its manifesto commitments on animal welfare and will work to maintain its strong track record on animal welfare and to deliver continued improvements, both in the course of this Parliament and beyond. I am assured that this will include continued action on pet smuggling.
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.