Government plans to boost animal welfare

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14 July 2021
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The Government’s first-of-its-kind Action Plan for Animal Welfare has been warmly welcomed by the country’s dog welfare organisations and charities.

The flagship plan has been underpinned by the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which will recognise dogs — as well as all vertebrate animals — as sentient beings (so acknowledging they experience feelings such as joy and pain) for the first time in UK law.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK said: “Forty five of the UK’s most respected animal protection organisations have been united in calling for this Bill, which recognises that animals have the ability to experience feelings, including pain, joy, and fear, and that their emotions and welfare deserve consideration and protection when laws are made.” 

Hot on the heels of this announcement, the Government has launched a second important piece of legislation in the shape of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, designed to crack down on puppy smuggling and provide greater protection for pets, farmed, and kept wild animals.

New powers will be introduced to tackle the unethical puppy trade by reducing the number of pets that can travel, increasing the age of imported puppies, and restricting the import of pregnant bitches and dogs with cropped ears and tails.

As part of the action plan, a new Government taskforce will investigate the increasing number of dogs being stolen since the start of lockdown.

The Pet Theft Taskforce will work with police, law enforcement, and experts to understand the problem and make recommendations on ways pet theft can be tackled and reduced.

Environment Secretary George Eustice explained: “Pet owners shouldn’t live in fear so we’ve set up this taskforce to thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure that we have the measures in place to stop these criminals in their tracks.”

Other key reforms include the banning of remote-controlled electronic training collars (e-collars), further protection for racing Greyhounds, implementing licences for animal sanctuaries and rescue and rehoming centres, and a review of microchip database systems and checks.

● Under the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, police will also be handed new powers to respond to the most serious cases of livestock worrying by dangerous and out-of-control dogs, after a survey revealed 67 per cent of farmers have reported an increase in attacks over the last 12 months. More than half of farmers surveyed said they’d received abuse or intimidation when asking owners to put their dogs on leads around livestock. 

According to research by dog kennel manufacturer Benchmark Kennels, the average asking price for a puppy now ranges from £1,050 to £3,700
— more than double what it was before lockdown in 2020
— with the Chow Chow the priciest breed, followed by the Golden Retriever and Bulldog.

Pet welfare experts Itch researched what life’s been like for pandemic puppies and found that 62 per cent hadn’t left their home, 42 per cent hadn’t met another dog, and 49 per cent hadn’t been introduced to children.