Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the (a) adequacy of the regulation and enforcement of pet imports, (b) trends in the level of pet imports during the covid-19 outbreak and (c) effect of the UK leaving the EU on pet imports.
Defra takes the illegal importation of pets seriously. It is an abhorrent trade which causes suffering to animals and puts the health of pets and people in the UK at risk.
In terms of the regulation and enforcement of non-commercial pet travel movements, we operate one of the most rigorous and robust pet travel checking regimes in the world. All pet animals entering Great Britain on approved routes under the EU Pet Travel Scheme undergo documentary and identity checks, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) works collaboratively with Border Force and other operational partners at ports, airports and inland, sharing intelligence to enforce the Pet Travel Scheme, disrupt illegal imports and seize non-compliant animals. Any animals found to be non-compliant with the Pet Travel Scheme rules may be refused entry or detained until compliant.
Regarding changing levels of pet imports (both commercial and non-commercial) during the COVID-19 lockdown, APHA has confirmed that during the initial period of lockdown (March-April 2020), we saw a reduction of pet movements. This increased to relatively routine figures as COVID-19 movement restrictions were eased. On non-commercial pet travel, 14,718 pets were moved into Great Britain in March 2020. Numbers of movements then fell to 1,834 in April 2020 and rose to 4,810 in May 2020. On the commercial imports of cats, dogs and ferrets under the Balai Directive, 2,506 animals were imported into the UK in March 2020, falling to 1,114 in April 2020. Numbers of commercial imports are steadily rising again and now sit at 6,741 for the month of August 2020.
The end of the Transition Period may open up new opportunities for managing our own commercial and non-commercial import and pet travel arrangements. The Government will be considering our pet travel and import arrangements (including for puppies and kittens) as part of cracking down on puppy smuggling in line with our manifesto commitment.