Animal Welfare Private Members’ Bills

12 Mar 2024

In 2021, the Government’s Kept Animals Bill began its journey into law. However, after a promising start, progress stalled and the Bill was eventually shelved in May 2023. In its place, three separate Private Member’s Bills (non-Government led legislation) have been introduced in Parliament in 2024, covering the import of dogs and cats, pet abduction and livestock worrying.

The Kept Animals Bill had a potentially major role to play in protecting dogs and cats and clamping down on puppy smuggling, so Battersea is working with other animal charities to try and support the three new pieces of legislation introduced in its place.


Since the UK left the European Union, the rules on bringing animals in and out of the country have needed review. An increased demand for kittens and puppies in recent years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic made clear the need for stronger restrictions on pet imports. Unscrupulous breeders looking to cash-in have exploited the current law to bring puppies and kittens into the country, with very little concern for the welfare of these vulnerable animals.

The Kept Animals Bill proposed introducing stricter limits on how many dogs and cats an ordinary pet owner could bring into the country when they go on holiday, travel for work, or other reasons that don’t involve selling the animals – under ‘non-commercial’ pet travel. This will affect people travelling overseas and back with their pets by ferry or the Channel Tunnel.

Current pet travel rules allow each person in a non-commercial vehicle, including cars, to bring five dogs or cats in and out of the UK. This means a car with four people in it could bring 20 dogs into the UK. These rules are exploited by unscrupulous dealers to bring puppies, often bred in low welfare conditions, into the UK for sale, illegally avoiding the rules that are supposed to govern commercial puppy imports and protect dog welfare.

Furthermore, it’s expected that the new Import Bill will carry forward measures to tackle the import of animals with cruel and unnecessary mutilations, such as ear cropping in dogs. We have seen a worrying increase in animals at Battersea which have been mutilated in this way, often purely for aesthetic reasons. The Import Bill should help us more effectively tackle this problem. 


The Pet Abduction Bill has also been introduced this year, which would make this a new, specific offence in law. Dog and cat abduction is currently treated in law akin to stealing an inanimate object, with sentencing depending in great part on the monetary value of the stolen animal. The existing law fails to fully consider animal welfare or the impact on pet owners of a crime that can be devastating. We’re therefore supporting this new Bill, which will more accurately recognise the emotional significance of losing an animal in this way, and will provide for improvements in data recording of the crime too. 



Finally, Battersea is also supporting measures contained in the new Dogs Protection of Livestock Bill. It’s important that dog owners always keep their dogs under control when in the countryside and particularly whilst around livestock. Owners should also ensure that their homes are properly secured when leaving a dog unattended. This Bill is expected introduce new powers to tackle livestock worrying, which Battersea supports.


All three Bills have begun their passage through Parliament in the first quarter of 2024, but face hurdles to becoming law. Private Members’ Bills are given less time in the parliamentary calendar, and time is even more pressured this year with the expectation of a General Election being called in the coming months. Unless all the Bills make progress rapidly, they risk falling entirely and leaving us back at square one.


You can keep up to date on our work to support each of these Bills by following our Battersea Public Affairs Twitter account and by signing up for Battersea campaign updates. 

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