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

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. If someone is caught smuggling drugs or people, they face years in prison. From the information I have looked at, if the police do a sting—they do so sometimes, although not often, because they do not have the resources —and manage to catch someone who has been smuggling pets into the country illegally, that person will be looking at a couple of months’ imprisonment as a maximum, and probably not even that. For a criminal gang managing the risks, it is a worthwhile crime to introduce the puppies into this country, particularly given that their cost can run into several thousand pounds each. We need to do more to get rid of and stamp down on this practice. I welcome the Bill’s provisions, but, as other Members have said, I think we need to go further on enforcement and other measures.

I want to briefly touch on my journey trying to buy and getting a pet. During the covid pandemic, my children were pushing me to get a dog, while my husband was very against it, which I think is not uncommon in families. My children finally won the argument, and we decided to get a dog. I had not bought an animal before and I realised that the whole situation was a bit of a minefield. The first thing I did was to go online, where there are hundreds of websites selling pets, and I had no idea where they had come from or what their quality of life had been so far, nor whether they had been brought into this country legally or not. Pets4Homes is a big site; and Gumtree sells thousands of pets, as do and

I looked on many different sites and did not know what I was looking for, nor how to avoid doing something I should not. I looked at some charities, which provide really useful information on what to do and what not to do; Dogs Trust has particularly good information about what to avoid. I found out that I needed to see good pictures of the animal with its mother, and to ring up the person who was selling it and have a conversation with them. I then needed to go and see the animal, make sure its mother and father were there, and look at the surroundings. On several occasions, that meant I was able to pick up on something slightly dodgy. I reported several cases because I could not see the animal’s mother or its background, and the owner was not asking me anything about my background; it did not feel right. I also reported a seller when I went to visit some puppies in a flat, because the flat was immaculate and there was no evidence that anyone was living there—there was just a crate of puppies and a man. I was just not comfortable that the situation was what it should have been, so I reported the situation.