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The Risks of Importing Animals | Animal Welfare

The Risks of Importing Animals | Animal Welfare

Anyone with pets will know that travelling can be very stressful for our pets, especially if they are spending many days travelling. This is often the case even when they are accompanied by their owners and when all precautions have been taken to make them feel relaxed, so you can imagine how hard it can be when they are being imported by people who prioritise making money over the welfare of the animals they are transporting. Battersea is currently working to raise awareness of the welfare risks around pet imports by working on the Kept Animals Bill alongside the Government and other animal charities. 


The price of puppies bred in the UK has increased rapidly, with the average price now being around £2,000. This makes the trade of breeding and selling dogs very tempting for many people who are only interested in the money and who do not have the interest in animals or their welfare. Dog breeding is licensed in the UK however the demand for puppies is often outweighing the supply. This can lead to many people searching for puppies online, which in turn leads to puppy dealers and customers paying to import dogs from other countries to sell here in the UK. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to know the conditions in which puppies are bred outside of the UK, so they could be bred in poor conditions that do not protect their welfare. For example, many puppies and kittens are taken away from their mothers when they are too young which is not only distressing for both the baby and the mother, it can also lead to health complications. 


Being transported into the UK can also create difficulties for animal welfare too. Dogs will often spend days in cramped, dirty conditions where they are packed into the backs of vans and lorries that take them across Europe and into the UK. Sometimes they are even smuggled by being put into small secret compartments. Oftentimes puppy dealers will pretend that the animals are their own pets in order to get around import checks. Sadly, some animals die during or as a result of transportation and others suffer long term health impacts from travelling in unsanitary conditions. 


Whilst puppy smuggling and poor welfare puppy imports dominate animal welfare campaigning on pet imports, cats are also at risk. Cat or kitten smuggling is believed to be an increasing issue, particularly for expensive and desirable cat breeds like Persians and Scottish Folds which have been popularised by social media.Cats are territorial animals, so they are likely to find being transported from one place to another highly stressful at the best of times. When they are being imported by sellers who do not give any thought to their welfare, this distress is made even worse. 


Not only are imports a danger to the animals who are transported, they can pose a risk to animal and human health here in the UK. Imported pets may not have had all the vaccinations and treatments they need to prevent disease, increasing the risk of diseases such as rabies entering the UK and spreading to animals already living here. At Battersea, their latest research showed that 10% of stray dogs in London had a foreign microchip, meaning they could have been imported from abroad. When they encounter a dog that could be from a country where rabies is prevalent, they have to quarantine them, which can be distressing for the dog and takes a lot of time and resources away from the charity. 


This year, the Government has introduced the Kept Animals Bill into Parliament. If it becomes law, it will enable national authorities to place restrictions on animal imports, including provisions which aim to introduce a minimum age at which dogs can be brought into the UK. The Bill also introduces restrictions on the number of animals that one person can bring into the country under pet travel schemes, a loophole that allows smugglers to pretend the pets are their own and has been exploited for a very long time. 


You can read more about the Kept Animals Bill here


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