Madam Deputy Speaker, I have already been speaking for six minutes and I have not even started my speech, so I need to move on quickly. We want to get this legislation on to the statute book quickly, and people will be frustrated.
My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Oliver Heald mentioned Finn’s law. Given that you are a fellow Essex Member of Parliament, Madam Deputy Speaker, and that my hon. Friend Giles Watling was interested in the matter, I should say that I was privileged to be at the event at which Paul Nicholls, together with the chief of police, unveiled the monument to police dogs. I met Finn and the whole thing was just a tear-jerker. My right hon. and learned Friend spoke about the dog barking when the legislation went through the House of Lords, and I can testify to that.
Now to my brief speech. It is true that a dog is a man’s best friend but, as we have heard already, there are too many examples of cruelty. There is a danger that we will talk about more and more horrific things, such as dogs being forced to fight against each other and the latest thing, which is sport trophy hunting. How is it that companies can be trying to attract Brits to go abroad, where these magnificent animals are enclosed, so that they can cut off their tusks and heads and so on? It is absolutely barbaric. Shame on anyone who goes on one of those holidays.
I am told that 26% of households in the United Kingdom own a dog and 18% own a cat. The vast majority of British people look after their pets well. We have one or two farmers present; introducing children to animals at an early age is a good way to get them to treat animals well. I know that not all children can necessarily empathise with animals, but I think that that would help. I join others in saying I am so glad that, as a developed country renowned for its historical championing of animal welfare, we are to have this legislation.
In 2017, the RSPCA investigated 141,760 complaints. That is a huge number. In 2018, the RSPCA phone line received 1.1 million calls. I am sure that none of them was made from the constituency of my right hon. Friend Mr Francois, but an awful lot were certainly made in Essex. The way in which the animals are protected is the first vital part of the Bill. The second important part is that it will act as a deterrent. The Bill recognises that the root of the problem is really with animal abusers, and although it may take a few months to kick in, all the literature that I have read agrees that this legislation will act as a meaningful deterrent.
There are too many examples of animal cruelty. Recently, in a national newspaper, we heard about a French bulldog that had just had puppies. How could someone have chained that dog to a car—we all saw it—and dragged it along the road? That is just horrendous, and the person responsible has still not been caught. I am glad to say that the RSPCA is on the case.
Just last week, The Independent reported that a driver in Somerset was luring birds on to a road with chips before mowing them down. That is sick behaviour beyond belief. In another shocking example, which took place at the end of last year, a man in the UK hit a dog with a hammer and strangled it with a washing line just because it was getting on his nerves—perhaps he had mental health problems. None the less, these are absolutely despicable incidents, and they are happening in our country.