Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill

James Daly Excerpts
Monday 5th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con)
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I always agree with every word said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), and I endorse every single word of her powerful speech today. Everyone who has chosen to participate in this debate will say that, quite simply, the Bill is a good piece of legislation. It is needed, and we encourage the Government to get it on the statute book at the earliest opportunity. This debate gives Members an opportunity to discuss issues related to the Bill, which is important. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) said, Conservative Back Benchers will do nothing that will risk the Bill making the statute book. However, we are able—quite rightly—to raise concerns and suggest additions. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon did just that when she raised concerns that cats are excluded from the new offence of taking a dog without lawful authority.

I want to comment on the scope of the Bill. Perhaps it is my tender years in this place, but I look to the eminence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) to correct me if anything I say is wrong. I think we all received a brief from the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. We are told that the Bill is broad-ranging and includes farm animals and domestic pets. I took that as a starting point, and asked what the phrase “kept animals” means if we take it away from the nature of the Bill. I could not find a satisfactory dictionary definition, so I went to the Bill’s long title, which says the Bill is to

“make provision about the welfare of certain kept animals that are...imported into, or exported from Great Britain.”

It appears that the scope of the Bill relates to the import and export of farm animals and domestic pets, but that does not seem to be the case. As we have just heard, one of the provisions relates directly to an offence that can only be committed when taking a dog without lawful authority in the jurisdiction of this country. The Bill presents an opportunity for the Government to consider not many amendments, but probing amendments that are not simply related to import or export—however important those issues are.

We need to look at the scope of the Bill in relation to pets and domestic animals. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon said, the reason for that is important to us all. My dog Bertie is my best mate; he is part of my family. I will take any opportunity I get to talk about animals and how we treat domestic pets. The scope of the Bill hopefully allows us to do that. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong.

You would expect me, Mr Hollobone, to take the opportunity to refer to the Pets (Microchips) Bill—my private Member’s Bill that I have put before the House on three occasions. I will briefly mention why it is appropriate to talk about this issue, and to at least consider it being part of the provisions of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. Gizmo’s law, which is part of my Bill, comes from a campaign run by a lady called Helena Abrahams from Bury North. As her constituency MP, I have a duty to talk about that campaign; it has been going on for many years.

Many Members may not know this, but if a cat is found deceased in a local authority area, the general action of a council—not all councils, because I am sure that some councils will be outraged by what I am about to say—is that that cat is immediately disposed of in landfill. There is no scanning of the microchip; there is no attempt to reunite that cat with its owner. When we consider the point that my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon made, namely that cats as well as dogs are valued members of our families and a part of who we are as individuals, we should at least consider whether legislation can be brought in to address that situation.

Working with a pet food company, the Gizmo’s law campaign has been able to provide scanners to all local authorities in the country to allow them to scan a cat to see whether there is a contact address, and then to give the owner the opportunity to come and collect that cat, if that is what they want to do; if not, the cat will be disposed of. At the heart of a Bill that is about the best of animal welfare, the cost of such a scheme is not even minimal; the cost is non-existent. However, it could be a positive addition to the Bill.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
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My hon. Friend raises a really important issue relating to what is called Gizmo’s law. I know that the Department has looked at this issue multiple times over many years. Indeed, four or five years ago, it was a requirement for the Highways Agency to scan animals—that was an administrative requirement handed down by the Department for Transport. However, does he not think that that may be something that could be addressed in a non-legislative way, such as simply making it a condition of some of the grants that local authorities receive, so that they actually show the due diligence to scan roadkill cats and dogs when they encounter them?

James Daly Portrait James Daly
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As ever, my right hon. Friend makes a powerful point. However, I would argue that legislation is the correct vehicle for doing this. Establishing a legal duty reflects what I hope would be Parliament’s view as to the necessity for such a condition. However, I fully accept the point that has been made and his suggestion may well be another way of dealing with this matter.

The second part of my private Member’s Bill is Tuk’s law. In different circumstances, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson), with his expertise in this area, would be able to correct what I am about to say. In essence, however, a person might take a healthy animal to a veterinary surgeon and they say to a vet—again, this only occurs very infrequently—that they would like, for whatever reason, a healthy dog to be euthanised or put down. That has happened in the past and it continues to happen infrequently.

Tuk’s law would require veterinary surgeons and veterinary staff to scan what is called the rescue back-up—the chip that is on the dog—which would highlight the breeder or somebody else, at least to give that healthy dog an opportunity for a life, or a different set of circumstances. Whatever the reason is that a healthy dog is brought into a veterinary surgeon, we should be doing everything possible, if that dog is not a threat to human beings, to rehouse it elsewhere. Tuk’s law is a duty to do that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border and I have had the opportunity to discuss this issue and we will not turn it into a debate now. However, for a Bill—I have talked about its scope before—that aims to address directly how we as a Parliament and we as a country view our beloved animals, whether they are farm animals or pets, it is an important matter that should be considered in the round when this Bill is brought back. It is a good Bill and I wholeheartedly support every comment that has been made so far.

I have talked to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about my private Member’s Bill. If the Minister wishes to discuss it with me further, I am happy to do so at any point. It is a good private Member’s Bill, it costs nothing, and it adds to the great strides that our Government have taken in respect of animal welfare since we came into power in 2019.