I believe that the humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society and it is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that the illegal importation of puppies is a cruel practice that must stop.
In March 2017, the Government acknowledged the issue of puppy smuggling but noted that transport companies are obliged to check all pets travelling under the EU Pet Travel Scheme. The Government also stressed that stringent penalties are in place for those who illegally smuggle animals or use false documentation. However, the operation of the Pet Travel Scheme is currently being reviewed and this includes the pet checking and carrier approval process. I will follow the outcome of this review closely.
I support tighter controls on puppy smuggling and I have long believed that more should be done to block wholesale puppy imports which are abusing the Pet Travel Scheme, and to ensure that all puppies have legitimate documentation. It is also vital that Government agencies have the resources they need to enforce the current legislation. At the recent General Election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to recruit 500 more border guards to add to our safeguards and controls.
I also strongly believe that Brexit must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare. The current Government has said that it intends to retain our existing animal welfare standards once we have left the EU. I will certainly hold it to account on this.
I agree with the Dogs Trust that there is an opportunity for more progressive and ambitious domestic policies which go beyond EU standards. I would like the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards and I can therefore assure you I will continue to press for animal welfare standards to be protected and strengthened as we leave the EU, and for action to tackle the illegal importation of puppies.