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Breeders raise concerns over Animal Welfare Bill

Issue: 22/03/2024

Breeders have expressed concerns over the Animal Welfare Bill currently making its way through Parliament.
Conservative MP, Saline Saxby, has seen her Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill pass its second reading in the Commons. The aim of the Private Members Bill, which has the support of the government, is to tackle puppy smuggling and many of its measures were in the Kept Animals Bill which was dropped by the government,
It will ban the import of puppies under six months of age as well as heavily pregnant dogs. The Bill will also reduce the number of dogs that can enter Great Britain under the non-commercial pet travel rules from five per person to five per vehicle and three per foot or air passenger.
Alongside these measures it will close the loophole with regards to ear cropped dogs and ban the import of these mutilated animals.
Breeder Lauren Hypson told OUR DOGS, ‘I have been following the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill for some time and its changes and it has just had its second reading.
‘There is a lot of sensationalism about it in the media especially from the “adopt don’t shop” sectors, but I was interested to see how many of your readers may be are aware of the implications of part of Clause 1 of the Bill?
‘Clause 1 has honourable points however alongside these the clause is also seeking to ban imports of dogs under the age of 6 months? Most people may think this only relates to commercial transit or to smugglers but it will affect ALL imported dogs (and cats).


‘For those of us that import new blood into our breeds from abroad, or rely on these to get started in breeds where breeding with the UK population comes with restrictions and limitations imposed by others in the breed I wonder how much impact this will have overall? 
‘Especially also on the vulnerable native breeds where they seem to be more popular outside of the UK, and also on rare breeds from other countries with worldwide breeding programs and low numbers worldwide?
‘This could be extremely problematic for UK breeders looking to improve lines and lower coefficient of inbreeding as well as improve their breeds health overall.
‘It can often be difficult to adjust an older dog to a new environment especially as they’re just becoming a teenager and also making it difficult for them to adjust to a new life, and new language. So behaviourally dogs will be affected.
‘Not to mention the breeders abroad may not be able to keep dogs for so long meaning they’ll either place the dogs elsewhere or it will limit who can import based on expensive kennelling fees until the dog comes of age, and then how is that better for a young dogs welfare to be raised in kennels? So financially and again behaviourally as well as the welfare of confining a young dog to a kennelled life amongst strangers in their most formative months!
‘Also, I noted that amongst the stakeholders mentioned (Dogs Trust and RSPCA) the Royal Kennel Club has not been mentioned nor has a public consultation taken place amongst the pedigree enthusiasts, and this Bill has taken to the Commons the week after the biggest dog show in Europe and the most prestigious in the world with barely any a mention from our KC or advocates?
‘In the media this is being touted as the puppy smuggling bill so I doubt many people are realising the wider implications for themselves and their breeds in its relation to themselves.
‘This will not affect puppy smugglers, they will continue to find ways to flout the law. This part of Clause 1 will only affect those who import for the betterment of their breeding programs and breed.
‘I have also contacted the House of Commons enquires and papers library to find out how this can be commented on from concerned parties.’

Work together

A member of the Import Register Support Group on Facebook is calling for breeders to work together and call on the government to exempt KC affiliated breed clubs from the rules.
Posting on behalf the Entlebucher Mountain Dog Club of Great Britian Lynn Gibbons argues that a ban on the import of puppies under six months would be “devastating for our breed and I am sure we’re not alone.
“We have been trying to get someone to listen to our request for an exception for FCI or KC affiliated breed clubs with no success. If you work with overseas breeders and import puppies, and would like to get an exemption from the six-month minimum age would you please let me know – either by replying to this post or messaging me.”
Opening the Bill’s second reading debate, Ms Saxby said: “As a dog owner myself, it is horrific to hear stories of puppies and kittens being smuggled across the border and the poor conditions they have to endure.
“Pets are more than just property, they are family, and the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill will ensure that pets are not sold or traded as objects.”
Former environment secretary Thérèse Coffey gave her backing to the Bill, and she urged the government to ensure its measures are rolled out swiftly.
Mark Spencer, The Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, said, “The Government take the issue of puppy smuggling and other illegal imports and low-welfare movements of pets very seriously, because it is an abhorrent trade that causes suffering to animals. Measures to tackle puppy smuggling were originally included in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, but in May 2023 the Government decided to withdraw that Bill because its scope had been extended beyond the original manifesto commitments and the action plan for animal welfare. 
“At that time, we committed ourselves to ensuring that all the measures in the Bill would be delivered through other means, and I am therefore pleased to announce that the Government will fully support this Bill today. I am also delighted to say that this is the last legislative measure within the kept animals Bill to be brought forward, fulfilling the promise made when it was withdrawn less than a year ago.”


The Kennel Club has welcomed the Bill  but has asked for provisions to be made for importations that improve animal welfare, by bringing in new genetic lines.
Although The Kennel Club welcomes the Bill and the benefit it will have on animal welfare, it has been working with Defra on the potential risks of the six-month minimum import age, on those breeds which are heavily reliant on the importation of new gene lines. 
The Kennel Club will continue to stress the importance of introducing a tightly controlled permit for the legitimate importation of dogs for genetic diversity reasons.
Said Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club: “We very much support this Private Members Bill. As a nation of animal lovers is critical that we tackle to issue of the illegal importation of dogs and of those animals that are heavily pregnant or that have suffered ear cropping.
“However, the six-month restriction poses potential risk to those breeds which are heavily reliant on the importation of new gene lines. We would like to ensure there is provision for a tightly controlled ‘permit’ mechanism that will allow for breeders to import on grounds of genetic diversity, so that we don’t end up with genetic bottlenecks.
“in the smaller and less genetically diverse breeds, or discourage those who are bringing in new genetic material in order to improve a breed’s health.”

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