The British Veterinary Association (BVA) released a statement in response to the recent King’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament.

This is where the government outlines its forthcoming parliamentary priorities  – very few of which focus on animal welfare and the protection of pets. This has raised some concerns for animal health and welfare in the UK.

Disappointment for ‘Few Measures’ in King’s Speech

British Veterinary Association President Anna Judson said: “Given this is likely to be the last Parliamentary session before a General Election, it’s disappointing that today’s King’s Speech announced so few measures to tackle the pressing animal welfare issues we know the public care most about.

“Whilst it’s positive to see the existing stop on live animal exports for slaughter will now be made permanent, the Government needs to urgently turn its attention to strengthening rules on animal importation which are exposing the UK to the serious emerging diseases like Brucella canis. In addition, the Government must deliver on its manifesto commitment to close the legal loopholes enabling the import of animals who have been subject to cruel and unnecessary mutilations which are illegal in the UK, like cropping dogs’ ears.”

As part of the Renters Reform Bill, the government unveiled plans to grant tenants the ‘right to request pets.’ This change should put an end to blanket bans on pet ownership in the private rented sector, with greater flexibility for pet owners in rental accommodation.

Unaddressed Pledges from the Kept Animals Bill

The Kept Animals Bill was the single most ambitious animal welfare Bill in decades, until the Government dropped it earlier this year: they did however pledge to bring forth the reforms through other, smaller Bills, each tackling a single issue. As well as the ban on importing dogs with cropped ears, the now defunct Kept Animals Bill included several measures concerning dog welfare that King’s Speech failed to mention. These unaddressed measures also include:

  1. Puppy Smuggling: The Bill included measures to combat puppy smuggling by increasing the age of imported puppies to six months, offering greater protection around the import of pregnant dogs, and limiting the number of dogs an individual or vehicle can bring into the UK. These measures would have cracked down on the illegal and cruel puppy trade, which continues to pose risks to dogs and buyers.
  2. Pet Theft: The King’s Speech did not mention any plans to create the specific offence of pet theft, as the Kept Animals Bill promised to do. Current laws treat pet theft in the same way as theft of inanimate objects, causing distress to pet owners who view their pets as family members – and resulting in disproportionately light sentences for perpetrators.
  3. Banning Shock Collars: Despite widespread public support and the introduction of legislation to ban shock collars in England, the progress on this front has stalled, with the King’s Speech making no mention of it.