Monday 28th June 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con) [V]
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. These two very important petitions essentially deal with the same matter—the fact that there is no legal requirement on veterinarians, local authorities or highways agencies to scan dog or cat microchips in any circumstances, and variations of legal problems that flow from that fact. I will confine my remarks in the main to Tuk’s law, for reasons I will outline in a second. However, I fully support Fern’s law. I will not add to what other hon. Members have said, but I do not think the Minister will be unsuspecting of what I am about to say. Fern’s law asks for it to be made compulsory to scan and check all microchips, to reunite stolen dogs and cats. The request behind Gizmo’s law is that more legislation should be brought in for deceased cats and other pets, and I urge my hon. Friend the Minister—she is the most fantastic Minister on such issues—to ensure that Gizmo’s law is given due consideration at the earliest opportunity, which I know I say to the Minister every single time I meet her in and outside the main Chamber. Gizmo’s law is an important part of the animal legislation that I believe the Government should bring forward.

Like many other Members, I am a dog owner. My friend is Bertie, a 16-month-old black lab, and I do not know what I would do without him. Tuk was a 16-month-old rescue dog—the same age as my dog—and, sadly, he was destroyed on 22 December 2017. This debate follows on from that event and that sacrifice. Tuk was not scanned prior to euthanasia, and his rescue back-ups were not contacted or notified of his death, even though he had full rescue back-up registered on his microchip and on the original database. It required only the microchip to be scanned for the rescue back-up to be contacted and for Tuk to be saved, which highlights the importance of the legislation.

I have worked with Sue Williams, Dawn Ashley and Dominic Dyer. I introduced a private Member’s Bill on Tuk’s law, which sadly fell, in the last Session, but I have decided to make my remarks about Tuk’s law their words, because they are the passionate campaigners who have driven the campaign forward. They are the people who have got over 100,000 signatures in their desire to protect animals.

What is a rescue back-up registration on a microchip? As part of the adoption contract, rescue organisations register their details on the original database as a secondary contact. In times of vulnerability, the secondary contact is there to protect the animal from being unnecessarily euthanised and to alert the veterinarian that an alternative is in place.

What is rescue back-up? Once an animal is adopted and rehomed, the rescue remains a presence in their life, offering rescue back-up to the adopter for the duration of the pet’s life. The rescue is available for advice, and should the adopter no longer be able to care for the animal, the rescue will support them and find an alternative new home. For those reasons, I am therefore delighted that Tuk’s law has been included in the Government’s action plan for animals, and I thank the Minister and the Government for that.

I want to point out some of the concerns of the Tuk’s law campaign. I know the Minister is aware of them, but they bear repeating. As ever, the Tuk’s law campaign continues to lobby the Government to ensure that all microchipped details, including the rescue back-up contact details for the rescue organisation, are confirmed on the original database prior to the euthanasia of a healthy or treatable animal. The Tuk’s law campaign also requests that, once confirmed, any identified rescue back-up details, including the rescue organisation’s contact details, are registered on veterinarian practice databases, and that should an animal ever be in a vulnerable position, the veterinarians agree to communicate with the rescue or second contact prior to the euthanasia of the healthy or treatable animal.

Obviously, we have heard that DEFRA, the RCVS and BVA have taken some positive steps to prevent the unnecessary euthanasia of dogs. However, the Tuk’s law campaign is dedicated to ensuring that lives are not unnecessarily lost. The campaigners consider that the commitment in its current form does not go far enough, and they believe that the omission of the word “treatable” in the recent change to the RCVS code of conduct leaves many animals still at risk. Although there is appreciation that the BVA has concerns regarding the levels of intervention that the veterinarian profession is willing to undertake, those steps should be taken when the life of any animal is at risk.

This is a subject that I could speak on for a long time. It is rooted in common sense, legality and the desire of all our constituents to ensure that no healthy animals— like Tuk, Bertie and the pets that right hon. and hon. Members have talked about—are ever in a position, be it through theft or loss, whereby they lose their lives through no fault of their own, even though a rescue back-up is in place to help them, to protect them and to ensure that they continue to be the constant companions that we all value and treasure as part of our everyday lives.