I will come to that. That historic change to the legislation will be the first major legislative step to help tackle not only illegal puppy smuggling and selling from abroad, but legal licensed puppy farm cruelty in this country.
Secondly, I am chair of the all-party parliamentary dog advisory welfare group, APDAWG. The group has successful meetings on this subject and well-attended members’ events. APDAWG—backed by a well-supported early-day motion and an e-petition, which secured over 100,000 signatures in just 13 days, and supported by the RSPCA, the Kennel Club and almost every other welfare organisation in the UK—was instrumental in the success of Lucy’s law. I commend all the work done to bring that forward.
Since I am the owner of a rescue dog, Rossi—a French bulldog, which is one of the most popular breeds for smugglers—it is not surprising that puppy smuggling is a subject close to my heart. It is also close to the hearts of my constituents in Scotland, where it is not uncommon for puppies to be smuggled in from Ireland and sold on via third-party dealers. The smuggling of puppies into the UK mainland for resale has been ongoing for many years and has repeatedly been raised by organisations such as Dogs Trust, which I commend for its work.
Welfare issues in pups and adult dogs include the conditions at breeding establishments where puppies are born and reared; the age at which puppies are separated from their mothers; the conditions under which puppies are transported; the length of travel time; the low standards of hygiene and increased risk of disease in undernourished, stressed young animals; the risk to public health and the health of the resident pet population from non-endemic and potentially zoonotic diseases entering the UK; and false documentation, fraud and tax evasion. That is by no means a complete list, but it gives some idea of the serious nature of the issue and how it affects both animals and humans.
The commercial sale of puppies through licensed third-party dealers provides a legitimate market for puppies imported from outside the UK. The existence of that market has significantly facilitated the lucrative legal and illegal puppy trade. Illegal dealers have been able to advertise and trade alongside licensed sellers because, under the outdated and recently repealed Pet Animals Act 1951, it has been perfectly legal for puppies to be sold on a commercial basis by persons other than the breeder, away from where they were born and without being seen alongside their mothers.
The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, which were introduced in October, have considerably tightened up the licensing requirements for dog breeding and selling. As we have heard, in December 2018 the Government committed to banning third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England in a measure known as Lucy’s law. That will be a significant development in the fight against puppy smuggling, so will the Minister give us a date for bringing it to fruition?
It is hoped that Wales and Scotland will also ban commercial third-party puppy sales to ensure that legislation is consistent across the UK and that anyone who sells a puppy on the UK mainland is totally traceable and accountable. Both legislatures have consultations under way on the issue.
I hope that I have suggested what the issues today are. I look forward to the Minister’s response.