The government has launched an eight-week consultation on proposals to reduce puppy trafficking and ban the importation of dogs with cropped ears and cropped tails.
Demand for pets in the UK has skyrocketed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with people seeking the companionship and comfort of animals, especially dogs.
This has led to criminals getting involved in the illegal puppy and dog trade, as per animal prices soared to four digits for preferred breeds. So-called puppy farms, with low levels of animal welfare, are also a recognized problem.
The proposed new powers include:
- raising the minimum import age for a puppy from 15 weeks to 6 months
- ban the importation of pregnant mothers to help protect the welfare of puppies and mothers
- prohibiting the commercial and non-commercial movement of dogs with severed ears and severed tails to Britain.
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According to figures from the Animal and Plant Health Agency, more than 66,000 dogs were imported commercially into the UK in 2020. However, the government has noted an increase in low-welfare imports and smuggling activity. , with border officials seeing a 260% increase in numbers. of young puppies intercepted for failing to follow UK rules on importing pets – from 324 in 2019 to 843 last year.
The consultation asks the public and stakeholders to give their views on new penalties for violating these rules, changes to the detention and placement process, and whether the proposals should be extended to cover cats and ferrets .
A government spokesperson said: “Puppy trafficking is a sinister business, and we are determined to crack down on it. Raising the minimum import age for puppies will help protect the thousands of animals that are brought into the country each year and prevent criminals from taking advantage of the increased demand for pets.
Chris Sherwood, Director of the RSPCA, said: “In recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of dogs imported commercially into the UK as well as the number of dogs reported to have undergone mutilated procedures such as severed ears. . .
“These are major dog welfare issues that urgently need to be addressed to protect dogs from unnecessary suffering and to protect the public from the victims of criminals who attempt to cash in on the value of these dogs.”
Puppies imported too young are at a significantly higher risk of developing disease or even dying. Many are separated from their mothers prematurely and often carry illnesses when traveling. Very pregnant mothers are also regularly smuggled into the UK.
Raising the minimum age for bringing puppies to the UK will ensure that they are not separated from their mothers too soon and allow them to develop further before they are embarked on long and stressful journeys which can have a strain on them. lasting impact on their temperament and behavior.
The RSPCA recently reported a 620% increase in reports of dogs having their ears cropped, spanning 2015 to 2020. Ear trimming is a painful process in which a dog’s outer ears are surgically or completely altered. removed to make them more aggressive. .
The surgical procedure, which has been illegal in this country since 2006, can hamper their ability to communicate with other dogs and their owners.
The majority of these dogs are believed to have undergone the procedure abroad and under the proposed rules would be prohibited from entering the country.
Last year, the Dogs Trust warned the public about the risk of buying dogs online after rescuing dozens of puppies illegally imported into the country. Earlier this year, the government announced a series of measures to curb pet theft, which has also skyrocketed since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.