Animal Welfare

Lisa Cameron Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)[V]
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It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in such an important Petitions Committee debate, Mr Mundell. I thank all those who have spoken, the people of the United Kingdom who signed petitions of the utmost importance on dog and shark welfare, and the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) for his dedicated work on animal welfare issues and for leading the debate. I also thank the numerous animal welfare charities, organisations and experts who have been in touch, including the Kennel Club, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, SSPCA, Blue Cross, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, CARIAD, Marc Abraham and the League Against Cruel Sports, to name just a few.

I must declare an interest as the owner of Rossi the rescue French bulldog, who came fourth in the Westminster dog of the year competition a few years ago. We are very proud of Rossi. I am chair of the all-party parliamentary dog advisory welfare group and we have been championing Lucy’s law, cross party, for so long, as Members know. It has had such success across the United Kingdom. We are proud of that, but this debate shows that there is much more work to be done and that we can work together, across parties, to ensure that that happens.

The contributions have been absolutely excellent. I highlight my hon. Friends the Members for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Steven Bonnar), for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) and for Angus (Dave Doogan), who proudly raised the Scottish Government’s work on animal welfare and the work that will be taken forward by the Scottish Parliament over the next five years. I was also particularly delighted to hear about the experiences of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson), who is himself a veterinary surgeon, and the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), who spoke passionately about puppy welfare.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) speaks in so many of these debates, and his wife works on the frontline of puppy welfare, so he spoke with great family expertise. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) works endlessly on animal welfare issues on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and always attends these debates. He is dedicated to the issue of animal welfare. I could not believe my ears when I heard the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) say he was a keen shark keeper. I was glad that he clarified that he meant little tropical tank sharks. He is assiduous in speaking on animal welfare across the House and has achieved so much in raising and taking forward these matters. The hon. Members for Bury North (James Daly) and for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) gave detailed rationales against cropping dogs’ ears and on the need for Government action, particularly in relation to the petition on that aspect of animal welfare legislation.

In line with others who have spoken, I press the Government on their commitment to increase the minimum age at which dogs can be moved non-commercially and imported commercially. I place on the record my support for the recommendation of the Scottish animal welfare commission and the more than 120,000 members of the public across the UK who signed the petition calling for the Government to increase from 15 weeks to six months the age at which puppies can be imported to the UK. Under present restrictions, it is incredibly difficult to identify by appearance alone whether a puppy is 15 weeks old, and therefore almost impossible to effectively enforce current legislation, as attested by the fact that documentation such as pet passports can be easily forged or falsified. Much more must be done.

There is growing scientific evidence that a single rabies vaccination at 12 weeks is largely ineffective for puppies, which means that the pups imported from countries where rabies is endemic pose a significant public health risk of rabies transmission among humans and dogs in the UK. As we have heard, there is increasing evidence, collected by the Dogs Trust, that suggests that puppies are bred in absolutely horrific conditions and endure journey times of often over 20 hours with little food or water in order to be sold in the UK. The mental and physical health risks associated with travel and unscrupulous low-welfare breeding have led not only to tragic deaths in transit but to the potential transmission of infectious diseases, some of which are zoonotic, including parvovirus, E. coli, brucellosis and parasitic infestations of ticks and tapeworms. Those are extremely serious medical conditions.

Lucy’s law, on which many of us worked hard on a cross-party basis during the previous parliamentary Session, has gone some way to improve the welfare of pups and their mums, but the loophole remains and more must be done. The loophole continues to allow breeders to sell puppies that have not been born in licensed and inspected breeding premises. That flies in the face of the Government’s advice that puppies should always be seen interacting with their mum in the place they were born. By introducing a ban on the importation of puppies younger than six months, the Government would not only protect young puppies from arduous travel and curb the spread of potentially fatal diseases; it would also be a far more robust system. A puppy’s age can now be verified by visual appearance due to their adult teeth being visible, and puppies would be travelling after a much more effective full course of two rabies vaccinations.

I would also like to press the Government on their commitment in the action plan to prohibit the importation into the UK of dogs that have been subject to low-welfare practices such as ear cropping and tail docking—[Inaudible.]

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (in the Chair)
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We are slightly struggling to hear you, Dr Cameron. Could you repeat the previous sentence?

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Cameron
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Thank you for pointing that out, Mr Mundell.

I want to press the Government on the commitment made in the action plan to prohibit the importation into the UK of dogs that have been subject to low-welfare practices, including ear cropping and tail docking. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has documented a 200% increase in the number of dogs with cropped ears coming through its gates since 2016. That is absolutely startling. The RSPCA reports a 621% increase in instances of the cropping of dogs’ ears in the past six years.

This ear-cropping phenomenon is often carried out in a crude and amateurish manner with no pain relief, causing immense amounts of pain and trauma to young puppies at a crucial stage in their development and socialisation. Until recently, DIY cropping packages, including scalpels, blades and scissors, could be purchased online for £30. Disturbingly, the phenomenon seems to be fuelled by a growing number of celebrities posing on social media with cropped-ear pets. This really must be addressed.

I echo hon. Members’ calls for the Government to act on the importing of shark fins. Other hon. Members have covered the issue at length, and once again there appears to be broad cross-party agreement. It is not only the public who wish for it to be addressed; animal welfare organisations are also in agreement. The Government must now act.

I thank everyone who has contributed to this excellent debate and my constituents across East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow who signed the petitions in their droves. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments and to working on a cross-party basis to take these issues forward.