Like you, I consider the practice of non-exempted mutilations such as cropping dogs’ ears abhorrent, and it has rightly been banned in the UK for 15 years. I am proud that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the Government is fully committed to delivering its manifesto commitments on animal welfare.
The cropping of a dog’s ears is already an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Now that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 has come into force, anyone convicted of such an offence, faces being sent to prison for up to five years, or receiving an unlimited fine, or both.
The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would establish measures relating to the low welfare movements of pets into Great Britain and includes powers to introduce further restrictions on pet travel and on the commercial import of pets on welfare grounds, via secondary legislation.
These powers will allow the Government to prioritise the welfare of dogs by prohibiting the importation, and non-commercial movement, of dogs into Great Britain that have been subject to low welfare practices such as ear cropping or tail docking, in line with the UK’s domestic legislation on these practices.
Further, under existing legislation, the Animal and Plant Health Agency can undertake checks on pets, including documentary, identification and physical checks. All non-commercial dogs entering Great Britain on approved routes under the Pet Travel rules undergo full documentary and identity checks by authorised pet checkers.
However, I am aware that the importation of dogs with non-exempted mutilations such as cropped ears or docked tails is still allowed under the current pet travel rules. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ran a consultation on changes to the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain, which included a proposal to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears. Defra is carefully reviewing the feedback gathered from the consultation.
Finally, I am aware that Ministers plan to take forward measures originally in the Kept Animals Bill, including those relating to puppy smuggling, individually through other means during the remainder of this Parliament. I am aware that the Government would be supportive of legislating to ban the import of dogs with mutilations, such as cropped ears and docked tails, as a single-issue Bill when parliamentary time allows.
I look forward to reading the Government’s response in due course and I will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill carefully.