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Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill | Commons debates

I thank the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) for introducing the Bill. I join everyone else who has spoken in support of it.

People in Croydon love their pets. We are lucky enough to be one of the greenest London boroughs with beautiful parks, as people will know. We have thousands of animal lovers and pets in our borough. As has already been mentioned, during the covid pandemic, there was a big increase in the number of people deciding that they wanted a cat or a dog. Croydon has seen a large increase in the same way. We need to ensure that, when people get a cat or a dog—or, indeed, a ferret, about which we learned much from my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Samantha Dixon)—things are done in the right way, and they are not buying an animal that has been illegally smuggled into the country.

Other Labour Members have pointed to the Labour Government’s record on animal welfare. My right hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) herself introduced legislation. In 1997, I was working for a Labour MP, and we were introducing the banning of foxhunting. I remember that we received literally hundreds of handwritten letters—we did not really use email back then—from people who were desperate to see an end to foxhunting, cosmetic testing and all the other things for which legislation was introduced under the last Labour Government.

I join colleagues in their disappointment that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was not passed. We are grateful to the hon. Member for North Devon for bringing in some measures that we can all support. Like other Members, many of my constituents have written, asking me to support the Bill. Jan, a big supporter of Cats Protection who writes to me often, says that according to the Cats Protection stats of 2023, 50,000 cats were obtained from an overseas source in the 12 months preceding its survey. Of course, it is unclear what condition those cats or kittens were subjected to during their travel.

When I was shadow Policing Minister, I would talk to senior police officers up and down the country about crime in their areas, and I heard increasingly about the smuggling of pets. I remember talking to a senior police officer in the north-east who said that they were dealing with very serious and large criminal gangs, with a presence across multiple countries, who would smuggle people, drugs, vapes and pets—it was big business. Of course, there was not much enforcement to stop that practice from happening.