I addressed the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals event on the impact of the dog trade on canine welfare on 9 November. The final report of the Scottish Government-funded research on the sourcing of pet dogs from illegal importation and puppy farms was presented to the event. We are taking forward the recommendations of that research into work with charities and enforcement agencies to create a robust strategy to combat the illegal dog trade and puppy farming. A particular concern is increasing public awareness of the dangers of buying animals on impulse without knowing where they came from.
Initial discussions on the responses to the consultation on the Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals Order 2011, which controls the import of pets from outside the United Kingdom, have already taken place. Over the coming months, the Scottish Government will continue to be involved in all further discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Government on completion of the review and on any future policy development on pet travel into the UK.
We think that our priority should be to work to ensure that the public fully understand the risks that are involved in buying puppies that have been illegally imported or bred by those whose sole interest is making money and who have callous disregard for animal welfare. We will work with partners to change buyers’ behaviour and reduce the financial gain that can be made from that reprehensible trade. We will also continue to support collaborative working between enforcement agencies. A number of other recommendations will be adopted as we take forward commitments that were made in the programme for government.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that, given the stress that is caused to seized puppies, which have to be kept in SSPCA kennels—at substantial cost to the charity—for the duration of the court case, which can sometimes take years, there is an animal welfare case for exploring a different approach to cases that involve the illegal trafficking of puppies? What action could the Scottish Government take to improve the current situation?
The member will have heard the indications that I gave to Emma Harper. It is the case that rescuers such as the SSPCA provide a very high standard of care for seized puppies, and the Scottish Government is keen to identify ways in which the cost to such rescuers might be reduced. There is a cost not just in financial terms, because many of the seized puppies require to be put down as a result of the circumstances in which they were born, which is a great sadness.
As we head towards Christmas, I re-emphasise the importance of people understanding that there are a lot of dogs waiting for new homes in rescue centres up and down the country. We must urge people who are considering getting a dog to look at rehoming as the first option, rather than continuing the reprehensible trade that we are seeing at the moment.