Key changes to dog welfare this month

The last month has the potential to be one of the most momentous in the history of dog welfare.

The Government has made several key announcements and set out a plan to tackle some of the biggest welfare issues that affect dogs, many of which we have been campaigning on for years.

We’re proud to be part of an unprecedented coalition of 50 charities that urged the Government to make these important changes through the Act Now For Animals campaign.

As a nation of dog lovers, we want to know our government is doing its best for our four-legged friends, but sometimes it can be hard to understand the political jargon. So, we’ve consulted with our pawlitical experts to bring you the highlights — keep reading for everything you need to know about what the proposed changes mean for dogs now, and in the future.

Dogs Trust exists to better the lives of dogs in the UK and across the world, so we’re thrilled that the Government has responded to our demands and is putting plans in place, but we won’t stop fighting until we believe the Government has fulfilled their promises. 

We want to say an enormous thank all our dedicated supporters and the MPs who have been with us on this journey — from people who have rehomed smuggled puppies, to MPs who have lobbied on our behalf as part of the Puppy Smuggling Taskforce and to our wonderful staff who care for our dogs, day in and day out. We know you'll join us as we continue our work to ensure all dogs can live a happy life.

Cracking down on puppy smuggling

For the last six years, we’ve been calling on the Government to crack down on the cruel puppy smuggling trade — during that time, we’ve produced five undercover reports highlighting the problem and cared for thousands of puppies who’ve been seized at the border. So, we’re absolutely thrilled to see the Government’s commitment to tackle the problem.

Maltese puppies cared for through our puppy pilot scheme

The Government has pledged to:

  • Increase the minimum age that dogs can be imported into the country to make importing puppies less lucrative and make it easier to spot underage pups being brought into the country. We want this to go further with the requirement of a rabies blood test and an appropriate wait period before entry into the country. 

  • Reduce the number of dogs that can be moved under the pet travel rules to prevent criminals taking advantage of loopholes in the Pet Travel Scheme. 

  • Restrict the ability to move heavily pregnant dogs into the country. It’s already illegal to transport a pregnant dog in the last 10% of her pregnancy but we know it’s happening anyway. We've rescued nearly 50 pregnant dogs through our Puppy Pilot scheme, who gave birth to 217 pups. So, we welcome increased measures to stop this cruel trend. 

  • Ban the importation of dogs with cropped ears or docked tails. The abhorrent, painful practice of ear cropping is illegal in the UK already; this new ban would stop dogs with cropped ears being sourced from abroad to meet demand in the UK.

Find out more about our work on puppy smuggling.

Pet theft

The Action Plan also promises to tackle the issue of pet theft. A new Pet Theft Taskforce has been set up to investigate the reported increase in these crimes and draw up action to address the problem.

Pet theft isn’t a new issue but given the high demand for dogs in recent months and the increase in prices, it is no wonder criminals have been taking advantage of the situation. 

We look forward to working alongside the Taskforce to hopefully see real action to crack down on this despicable crime. We would like to see tougher penalties to act as a deterrent to pet thieves, pet theft treated as a specific crime that reflects the emotional trauma it causes and more accurate recording of incidents by the police so we can ascertain the scale of the problem.

Banning remote controlled electric shock collars

We’re delighted that the Government has committed to ban remote controlled e-collars. We totally oppose their use, which is both unnecessary and cruel. They not only cause discomfort but can have a serious negative impact on dogs’ mental and physical wellbeing.  

It’s been over three years since the Government committed to banning their use. We hope that there will also be a ban on their sale and the use and sale of all aversive training devices.  

Animal Sentience Bill

The recognition that animals are aware of their feelings and emotions, and can experience pain and suffering, is the foundation of all animal welfare principles. The introduction of the Animal Sentience Bill is a massive step forward for dog welfare. It means that dogs will have a legal right to feel happiness and not be subjected to suffering or neglect.

Since leaving the EU, the UK has had no legislation in place recognising animals as sentient beings, whose welfare should be protected on these grounds. We have been urging Government to put this right since 2018. 

Reviewing microchip databases

The Government has promised to review the operation of the current microchip database systems, with a view to introducing improvements. This is long overdue. 

In 2016 it became compulsory for every dog to have a microchip and it’s a legal requirement to keep these details up to date. Currently there are lots of different national databases to choose from to register your dog, which can cause issues for reuniting lost dogs with their owners. We hope the plan will see the creation of a central database, or at least a single point of contact, and make it easier to keep dogs and their owners together. 

Licensing of animal sanctuaries, rescue & rehoming centres

Currently anyone can set themselves up as an ‘animal sanctuary’ or rehoming organisation without any of the expertise or proper procedures in place to safeguard the welfare of the animals in their care. 

We’ve been calling for proper regulation of rehoming organisations and animal sanctuaries for many years — we want to see licenses introduced, with regular inspections to ensure the welfare requirements of the dogs in their care are met. 

These latest announcements are definitely a huge step in the right direction, and they have the potential to be a very significant milestone in dog and wider animal welfare, but our work isn’t done. It’s all about delivery, so we’ll keep fighting, as well as being ready to play our part, in helping to make it all happen. For now, all of us who care about dogs should celebrate the positive steps taken. 

To find out more about the Government’s plan, read the full Action Plan for Animal Welfare.

A huge step in the right direction

These latest announcements are definitely a huge step in the right direction, and they have the potential to be a very significant milestone in dog and wider animal welfare, but our work isn’t done. It’s all about delivery, so we’ll keep fighting, as well as being ready to play our part, in helping to make it all happen. For now, all of us who care about dogs should celebrate the positive steps taken.

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