Puppy Smuggling

Part of Youth Inmates: Solitary Confinement – in Westminster Hall at 5:13 pm on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour/Co-operative, Islwyn 5:13 pm, 2nd April 2019

I thank you for calling me to speak, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate Nigel Huddleston on calling this important debate. I am a dog lover. I lost my Labrador 18 months ago, and I still think about him every day, as sad as that might sound. [Hon. Members: “Aw.”] I have the sympathy of the audience, which is always a good move.

The issue goes beyond DEFRA. There should be cross-Department, joined-up thinking. Each element of the debate about puppy smuggling touches on three major Departments. It is estimated that more than 80,000 puppies a year come from places such as Ireland, Romania, Hungary and Lithuania. As we heard from the hon. Gentleman, criminal gangs can earn more than £2 million annually from the puppy trade. A ring of puppy dealers in Manchester was found to be earning £35,000 a week, with puppies being sold for anything between £550 and £1,000, depending on the breed, despite being purchased for only around £200 each from a puppy farm in Ireland. The trade costs the Treasury millions in lost tax revenue. The issue should be addressed by the Treasury.

If we are talking about puppies being smuggled in, the Home Office has to look at controls at border inspection posts. They are few and far between and are often ineffective, meaning that more puppies are allowed to be smuggled into the UK. It is unclear how that will operate post-Brexit. Checks that do take place are insufficiently intelligence-led, meaning that information sharing needs to be improved between agencies, carriers, customs officials and vets. That issue should be addressed by the Home Office.

We have the DEFRA Minister here, and there is one thing he can do. I want to join other voices in paying tribute to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Dogs Trust for their campaign to increase animal cruelty sentences from six months to five years. I cannot tell the Chamber how important that would be in tackling puppy smuggling. It has to be introduced right now. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield—