Once again, animal welfare organizations have united their voices to express grave concerns for the welfare of animals in the United Kingdom and overseas. The cause for alarm stems from the recent announcement by the government that the long-promised ‘Kept Animals Bill’ will be withdrawn from Parliament.
In a statement on 25th May, Mark Spencer MP, the Minister for Food, Farming, and Fisheries, outlined the government’s decision to withdraw the current Bill and reintroduce it as multiple pieces of legislation in the future. This revised approach would involve the creation of separate Bills aimed at banning the importation of young, pregnant, or mutilated dogs, as well as criminalizing pet abduction.
Leading charities including Battersea, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, and The Kennel Club have all expressed their deep concerns over this latest setback. They fear the repercussions for animals who will continue to suffer without the vital protections the Bill could have provided. This includes victims of puppy and kitten smuggling, dog and cat abduction, and the importation of dogs with cropped ears and declawed cats. The disappointment is exacerbated by the fact that government officials had previously publicly pledged to advance the Bill as soon as parliamentary time allowed, making this a significant blow after nineteen months of promises.
Peter Laurie, Chief Executive of Battersea, conveyed his profound disappointment, stating:
“We are incredibly disappointed by today’s announcement and the detrimental impact this may have on the welfare of thousands of animals. As we head back to square one with this legislation, we fear that many dogs and cats will continue to needlessly suffer, some of which will ultimately end up at Battersea or another rescue in desperate need of help. We hope that new legislation addressing all of the key issues will be brought forward as a matter of urgency.”
Hannah Evans, Deputy Head of Public Affairs at Dogs Trust, voiced her concerns, stating,
“Dogs Trust is disappointed the UK Government has dropped the Bill created to protect the thousands of dogs that are cruelly, unnecessarily, and illegally smuggled into the country each year. Not only does this go against their manifesto promise and the wishes of our nation of animal lovers, but it means that even more animals will suffer at the hands of criminals at home and abroad. Dogs Trust alone has now cared for approximately 2,256 illegally imported puppies and mothers, which is ultimately funding this inhumane activity and lining the pockets of smugglers with millions. Under their new proposals, I urge the UK Government to not neglect the key issues that the Kept Animals Bill so critically addressed.”
Dr. Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club, expressed his disappointment, emphasizing the importance of protecting animals, stating,
“We’re deeply disappointed by this setback, which means that our nation’s animals will continue to be without the protections that they deserve. This long-awaited piece of legislation – which has much cross-party backing and the support of the animal-loving British public – would tackle serious problems, such as the legal importation of animals into the UK that have endured the barbaric act of ear cropping, through to the paltry penalties for pet theft, which are the same for stealing a laptop as they are for stealing a beloved family pet. This is too important to fall by the wayside, and we urge new legislation to tackle these issues, which are the cornerstone of our responsibilities as an animal-loving nation.”
These concerns highlight the urgent need for the Kept Animals Bill to progress as promised. One tragic example of an animal that could have been better protected if the Bill had been enacted is Yoko, a Cane Corso who found herself at Battersea as a stray with a foreign microchip. Showing signs of being repeatedly bred from, the five-year-old dog had endured the brutal act of having her ears cropped and her tail docked—both illegal in the UK but currently allowed in another country before importing the dog. The Kept Animals Bill aimed to put a stop to such practices.
Meanwhile, three heavily pregnant Dachshunds were discovered at one of Dogs Trust’s centers after being illegally brought into the country along with 50 other animals. These three young dogs gave birth while in the care of the charity but displayed signs of trauma following their ordeal, including anxiety-related behaviors. Although it is already illegal to import dogs in their final stage of pregnancy, stricter laws are needed to effectively prevent such incidents from continuing.
The withdrawal of the Kept Animals Bill represents a significant setback for animal welfare in the UK. The collective efforts of animal welfare charities are now focused on urging the government to expedite new legislation that will address the critical issues at hand. The protection and well-being of animals must remain a priority, and the animal-loving nation eagerly awaits the implementation of comprehensive and effective measures to safeguard the lives of countless vulnerable creatures.