Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill


Constituents have contacted me about the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.

As the highest ranked G7 nation on World Animal Protection's Animal Protection Index, the UK is a world leader on animal welfare. In 2021, the Government's Action Plan for Animal Welfare set out reforms for this Parliament and beyond. Since then, the Government has enacted many of the reforms. This includes passing the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, recognising the sentience of vertebrate animals and some invertebrate animals. In addition, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act introduced tougher sentences for cruelty, increasing maximum sentences. The Ivory Act came into force in 2022 and was recently extended to cover five more endangered species. In April, the Government made cat microchipping compulsory.

I am assured that the Government remains fully committed to delivering its manifesto commitments on animal welfare. I am aware that the Kept Animals Bill, introduced in June 2021, faced the risk of scope-creep. In light of this, and the successful progress made so far with single-issue legislation in this Parliament, the Government will be taking forward the measures originally in the Kept Animals Bill individually when parliamentary time allows. Ministers believe this to be the quickest and most effective way of achieving our aims.

In the King’s Speech, the Government announced the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill, which will ban the export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain, stopping unnecessary stress, exhaustion and injury caused by exporting live animals. This Bill will ensure that animals are slaughtered domestically in high welfare slaughterhouses in the UK, reinforcing the UK’s position as a world leader on animal welfare.

With regards to the practice of non-exempted mutilations such as cropping dogs' ears, I agree is abhorrent which has rightly been banned in the UK for 15 years. The cropping of a dog’s ears is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Since the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 came into force, anyone convicted of such an offence face being sent to prison for up to five years, or receiving an unlimited fine, or both.

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. I look forward to reading the Government’s response in due course.

I am aware that the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill, sponsored by Selaine Saxby, seeks to tackle the import of dogs with cropped ears. The Bill aims to introduce stringent measures to regulate the import of the titled pets, ensuring their health and safety during transportation and deterring illegal trade practices. Its Second Reading is scheduled for Friday 15th March. I am supportive of the ambitions of the Bill and will follow any developments relating to this Bill closely.

My ministerial colleagues in Defra are committed to animal welfare and to delivering continued improvements, both in this Parliament and beyond.

Fiona Bruce 21/02/23