North Devon MP Selaine Saxby announced last week that she would bring forward a new Private Members’ Bill to crack down on puppy, kitten and ferret smuggling after the Government scrapped the Kept Animals Bill.

The RSPCA has welcomed the move which, if passed, would increase the minimum age permitted for imported dogs and cats to six months and ban the import of heavily pregnant bitches.

Ms Saxby said: “As a dog owner myself, it is horrific to hear stories of puppies being smuggled across the border and the poor conditions they have to endure. Pets are family, not property.

“Since being elected in 2019, I have continuously supported the Government’s Kept Animals Bill, however, due to the lack of parliamentary time this has been unable to become law.

“Many residents in North Devon have written to me about their support for the bill and I am happy to announce that I will be bringing the puppy smuggling part of the bill forward and am optimistic that we will successfully take it through to become law.”

The bill will also make it more difficult and less profitable for traders to import animals fraudulently for sale under the guise of pretending to be owners travelling with their own pets, addressing a common abuse of non-commercial rules that compromises both welfare and biosecurity.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “We’re thrilled that this crackdown on pet imports has been picked up as a Private Members’ Bill and are thankful to Selaine Saxby MP for rescuing this important issue.

“Puppy smuggling is a cruel trade where criminals get rich by selling sick and dying puppies to unsuspecting families, resulting in serious welfare issues and leaving owners distraught.”

From 2021 to date, the RSPCA has seen nearly 100,000 people taking action and contacting their MPs calling on them to use their influence to ensure the Kept Animals Bill and other vital animal welfare issues are taken forward by the UK Government.

In the last few months the charity saw more than 10,000 people take action on caged farm animals and the 15 broken promises, and a staggering 30,000 people supported the charity’s shock collar campaign.

Following a consultation showing overwhelming support for a shock collar ban, it it was quickly approved by the House of Lords but has stalled and has yet to be introduced to the Commons. Wales have had a ban in place since 2010.