Thank you for contacting me about cats and the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.
The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and it is only right that we continue to improve our world-leading standards. I welcome that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will bring in some of the world’s strongest protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals.
I am glad that the Bill will tackle the unethical trade of puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets, including dogs, cats and ferrets, that can travel under pet travel rules. The Bill also contains an enabling power to allow the Environment Secretary to make regulations about the importation of cats, dogs and ferrets for the purpose of promoting their welfare.
In August 2021, the Government launched an eight-week consultation on proposed restrictions to the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain. I am aware that this consultation did not include proposals to increase the minimum age of kittens imported or non-commercially moved to six months or ban the import of heavily pregnant or declawed cats. I understand that this is because there is limited evidence of a significant illegal trade in cats or significant numbers of low welfare movements.
I understand that the number of movements of cats into Great Britain is much lower than for dogs, and my ministerial colleagues are not seeing the same issues with young kittens and pregnant cats being imported. In 2020, for example, no pregnant cats and only 17 kittens (under the age of 15 weeks) were seized and detained. I am assured that my ministerial colleagues are currently analysing the responses to the consultation.
I welcome that the Bill has now passed Committee Stage in the House of Commons and will return to the House as soon as parliamentary time allows.
I understand that the estimate of 70,000 cats detailed in the Cats Protection’s ‘Cats and Their Stats’ report appears to be based on an estimate of the number of cats obtained between March 2020 and March 2021 and the proportion of individuals that reported in a survey that they had sourced a pet from abroad during the same period. I am aware that official Government statistics show that between March 2020 and March 2021, 27,601 cats entered the UK under the non-commercial rules and 8,511 cats entered under commercial rules.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP