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The recent rise in demand for dogs has been truly unprecedented, with Google searches for “buy a puppy” increasing by 166% after the first lockdown was announced. Faced with the isolation and loneliness presented by Covid19 lockdowns, people have sought comfort in the companionship provided by pets, often becoming owners for the first time.

While many dogs found themselves welcomed and loved as a member of the family, others face abandonment as household incomes have fallen, or those who have purchased a dog during lockdown find themselves unable to accommodate it as normality resumes.

The increase in “pandemic puppies” is deeply concerning, with Dogs Trust warning that up to 40,000 more dogs are at risk of abandonment.

The past year has already had a huge impact on animal charities struggling to meet this huge rise in demand for their services. These challenges come after traditional fundraising opportunities all but disappeared, with events cancelled, while charity shops had to close for a time.

In light of this, I recently visited Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre at Uddingston to meet their dedicated staff and discuss the vital work they carry out to safeguard the welfare of dogs, and where I also met the adorable Holly.

One deeply troubling impact of this rise in demand for dogs is that it has increased the opportunities for dog-related crime, as puppy smugglers and irresponsible breeders seek to cash in.

Puppy smuggling is a cruel and barbaric crime; one which I have repeatedly raised at Westminster since I was first elected in 2015. Tens of thousands of young puppies are trafficked across Europe, often in terrible, distressing and harmful conditions. The puppies involved are very likely to suffer from significant long-term health problems as well as behavioural challenges. Sadly, many do not survive long, leaving new owners heartbroken, and out of pocket.

Puppy smuggling is a Europe-wide issue and despite Brexit, the UK Government must work with our European neighbours to tackle this, with better enforcement at ports. Tighter licensing rules for breeding puppies are also needed.

Another important issue I discussed with Dogs Trust is the ear-cropping, which mutilates dogs’ ears mutilated for aesthetic reasons. This painful procedure leaves them vulnerable to infection and adversely affects their quality of life. While it is illegal in the UK and the EU, loopholes in legislation permit the selling of ear-cropped dogs, as well as their importation, creating a smokescreen for those illegally cropping dogs’ ears in the UK and making enforcement more difficult. There has been a shocking increase of 621% in cases between 2015 and 2019, and legal loopholes need to be closed to tackle this cruelty.

I know how important animal welfare is to many of my constituents and it’s something I take very seriously. I will continue to support Dogs Trust’s efforts to improve dog welfare and carry on raising these issues at Westminster at every opportunity, to ensure that Scotland and the UK have the highest possible standards of animal welfare.


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