It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) on bringing forward this important debate. Puppy smuggling is an abhorrent crime, carried out with no regard for the welfare of puppies trapped in unimaginable conditions for days at a time. Like everyone else, I want to do everything I can to bring it to an end.
Those involved in the puppy smuggling trade rely on low animal welfare standards and high-volume breeding, treating these beautiful animals like products on a production line that runs from puppy farms in eastern Europe to homes in the UK. There is no doubt that puppies raised and sold through the industry suffer life-long physical and mental impacts, leading to chronic health conditions and often severe behavioural problems.
It is clear that the Government cannot eradicate the problem alone. We all have to take responsibility for ensuring that puppies are not sourced through third parties. Guidelines and advice from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the buying of puppies and dogs have not gone far enough in ensuring that those wishing to purchase puppies know the harm that third-party selling and puppy smuggling can cause. Demand and supply go hand in hand, and the scourge of puppy smuggling cannot be eradicated unless both are addressed and preventive measures are upheld to deter and stop those at both ends of this cruel supply chain.
I am sure all Members welcomed, as I did, the Government’s announcement that they intended to bring forward stricter punishments for animal cruelty offences. Tougher custodial sentences are long overdue for those who inflict harm on animals, such as the barbaric and unscrupulous criminals who facilitate puppy smuggling. I remain concerned, however, that the Government have not laid legislation to that effect before Parliament.
Brexit presents us with an opportunity to improve and tighten the rules and regulations on animal welfare. It is incredibly clear that the Government must take action to protect animal welfare and end puppy smuggling for good. We cannot delay any longer. We risk falling behind on the issue, and to do so would be to fail every one of the puppies trapped in this barbaric trade.