U nder a commitment in our programme for government, we are currently investing £300,000 to work with charities and enforcement agencies on a communications campaign on the risks of buying puppies that are advertised online and on rehoming dogs that have been supplied from abroad. I reinforce that message, which is pretty much, “If there is no mum and no paperwork, walk away.” Cinema and media advertisements will run until 8 December 2018, and the effectiveness of the campaign in reducing public demand for illegally traded puppies will then be evaluated. I thank Emma Harper for all the work that she has done on the issue, which she has continued to raise, highlight and campaign on.
As all members across the chamber will be acutely aware, Brexit is potentially only a few months away and there is still much uncertainty as to what that is going to mean right across our society and in different businesses and organisations including our ports. However, I can say that the Scottish Government will continue to be vigilant when it comes to any illegal activity, including the illegal puppy trade, and we will continue in all our work and efforts to tackle that trade.
There is an ever-increasing awareness of the link between puppy farming and organised crime. Instead of having £20,000-worth of drugs in their van, a criminal today may have £20,000-worth of puppies. A drug seizure of that kind could result in a lengthy jail sentence, but a puppy seizure would not. Will the minister advise whether the Government plans to increase the length of jail sentences and/or expedite court hearings in cases of animal welfare, particularly in instances of puppy breeding and smuggling?
The minister will be aware that my consultation on responsible dog ownership for the proposed responsible breeding and ownership of dogs (Scotland) bill has concluded. Will the minister meet me to discuss how the proposed bill may curtail the cruel activities of puppy factory farms?