Animal Welfare

Alex Davies-Jones Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
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Diolch, Mr Mundell. I am grateful to be able to follow the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly), and I echo his comments regarding Gizmo’s law being brought in as soon as possible. I am also grateful for being called to speak in this debate on a topic that is close to heart for so many of us, and about which I have spoken at length in this place. The welfare of animals big and small has undeniably taken a hit as a consequence of the pandemic, but it is our duty and moral obligation to protect animals from harm. Like many others, I have fears that the Government’s action plan for animal welfare does not stretch far enough.

Residents across my Pontypridd constituency topped the signature count for the petition focused on the worrying rise in the ear cropping of dogs, so that is where I will focus my comments. Let us be clear: ear cropping is a barbaric and illegal practice that is completely unnecessary and which brings no welfare benefit to dogs. There are some fantastic charities out there that are leading the way on tackling this issue—none more so than Hope Rescue, which is a dog rescue charity based in the constituency of my neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore). Hope Rescue does genuinely brilliant work and is a proud former partner of the “flop not crop” campaign, which is a collaboration led by the Focus on Animal Law Group and the British Veterinary Association.

The strength of feeling on ear cropping is particularly clear in south Wales, and Hope Rescue is currently caring for eight micro-bully puppies seized from a breeder. Of the eight, six have had their ears cropped. It is all very well to outlaw such cruel practices, but it is clear that in the case of ear cropping, the law is doing nothing to protect dogs that are at risk. As others have mentioned, although it is illegal to crop in the UK, it is not illegal to sell cropped dogs, import them from abroad, or take dogs abroad to be cropped. Such loopholes act as a smokescreen for illegal cropping in the UK. Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic, and the overall increase in demand for dogs and puppies, has seen an increase in demand for dogs with cropped ears. It is utterly shocking that the RSPCA has reported a 621% increase in reports of dogs with cropped ears over the past five years, and this is clearly something that charities on the ground are having to cope with too. In the past few weeks alone, Hope Rescue has reported a number of breeders across south Wales to both the police and relevant local authorities, but ultimately the severe delays in the court system are having a major impact. Sadly, the ability to create meaningful change is very limited.

It is absolutely vital that when we consider issues of animal welfare, including those covered by the petitions that we are debating today, we also consider the knock-on effects and long-term problems that animals may face in years to come. Puppies that have been subjected to ear-cropping have often been subjected to poor breeding techniques that consequently impact their overall health and welfare too.

Put simply, in its current form the Government’s action plan for animal welfare does not go far enough to protect animals, both now and in the years to come. If we are truly to get a grip on tackling the abuse of animals, part of the conversation is to improve law enforcement practices. Although I welcome the recent introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty offences will do little to change the situation on the ground and are unlikely to lead to meaningful and much-needed change for animals that are suffering today.

I urge the Minister to take forward my concerns and those of colleagues across the political divide in her conversations with colleagues in the Home Office. The Government have the opportunity to improve practices, but they are dragging their heels when it comes to ear cropping. I truly hope that today’s debate will make it clear to the Minister that urgent action is required, and required now.

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (in the Chair)
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I now call Jim Shannon to speak. Mr Shannon, if you stick to four minutes, then the Minister and the opposition spokespersons will have plenty of time to contribute.