On 16 March, Luke Pollard spoke in a debate on animal welfare, calling for a comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill.

The pandemic has had a negative effect on the welfare of animals, both on farms and in homes. Higher demand for dogs and cats, due to people working from home, has led to a rise in illegal puppy smuggling and the selling of pets by unscrupulous breeders. Social distancing has meant that fewer people are taking their pets to the vets for routine treatments, resulting in pets missing vaccinations and not getting neutered.

On farms, a reduction in meat sales has led to overcrowding in many animal pens, whilst social distancing has again meant that farm animals are not receiving routine medical care from vets.

Research by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home found that 1 in 5 households who bought a pet during the pandemic hadn’t considered the long-term implications of becoming a pet owner. This statistic, along with the likely recession Britain will face after the pandemic, suggests that many families who bought pets over lockdown may return them to shelters once restrictions have lifted.

At a time when many animal charities are struggling financially – particularly smaller charities – this is a concerning prospect.

It is therefore high time that the Government introduced a comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill, in order to provide Britain’s animals with the dignity and care they deserve. The welfare issues facing animals are broad and varied, but there is no point wasting time in trying to tackle each issue in a separate bill.

Animal welfare is an issue with cross-party support and can and should be tackled head-on, with a single piece of comprehensive legislation.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers, but this is not currently reflected in UK law. This needs to change, to ensure that animal welfare is held to a high standard in our courts and justice system. A comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill would do that, providing animals with the protections and care they deserve.

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