The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed moves by the Government to crack down on illegal puppy imports.
The measures, which form part of Defra’s Action Plan on Animal Welfare and have been set out for consultation (21 August), will raise the minimum age for importing a puppy from 15 weeks to six months; ban the import of dogs with cropped ears and docked tails; and prohibit the import of heavily pregnant dogs to help protect puppy and mother welfare.
Statistics from a BVA survey earlier this year revealed that almost 6 in 10 (58%) small animal vets have been presented with dogs with cropped ears in the last year. The Doberman was the breed most commonly presented to vets with cropped ears, with American Bulldogs and Cane Corsos the second and third most likely breeds to be seen.
A successful campaign, spearheaded by BVA and The FOAL Group alongside a wide range of veterinary and animal welfare organisations under the #CutTheCrop #FlopNotCrop banners earlier this year, amplified the call for swift action to end the legal loopholes that allow ear cropping to continue.
Veterinary organisations have also repeatedly raised awareness of the plight of pets that are illegally smuggled into Great Britain, sometimes by criminal gangs who dupe new owners into buying sick or poorly socialised pets. Three in ten (29%) companion animal vets surveyed in 2018 had seen puppies that they were concerned had been brought into the country illegally, with the French Bulldog the most commonly mentioned breed.
Responding to the consultation announcement, BVA Senior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:
“We’re delighted that the Government has listened to concerns raised repeatedly by veterinary and animal welfare organisations and is acting decisively to clamp down on the evils of puppy smuggling, ear cropping and tail docking.
“The Government’s commitment to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears comes less than six months after the launch of our joint #CutTheCrop petition calling for swift action to close legal loopholes that permit dogs with cropped ears in this country. We know that vets have been seeing more and more cases of ear cropping in practice, and the strength and depth of public support for the campaign clearly showed the need to clamp down on this completely unnecessary and painful mutilation.
“We are also pleased to see measures to regulate the import of dogs via both commercial and non-commercial pet travel routes. We have long raised concerns over how easy it is for organised criminals to bring puppies into the UK for sale by abusing the current controls and have called for stricter legislation. Raising the minimum age so they enter Great Britain at an age where they cannot be marketed as young puppies should have a real and lasting impact on this illegal trade.