Due to his extensive veterinary expertise Dr Neil Hudson was invited to chair the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s evidence session which focussed on a wide range of animal health and welfare issues still prevalent among our nation’s pets.
The session was the latest step in the Committee’s Inquiry into Pet Welfare and Abuse, instigated by the veterinary MP and saw cross-party MPs quiz experts on unscrupulous puppy farms, unregulated puppy smuggling, the mutilation of domestic animals and the dark side of puppy yoga.
The inquiry hinges on a sharp uptick in pet ownership linked to the pandemic. From this, national demand increases have seen markets rely on unscrupulous foreign traders, more inexperienced pet owners sometimes poorly educated on responsible pet buying and maintenance and a general increase in health and welfare issues among pets.
Keen to uncover the human impact, the panel also heard about trends in criminality which see puppy smuggling gangs involved in other crimes and the link between pet abuse and domestic abuse within households.
Dr Neil Hudson MP, veterinary surgeon and Member of the EFRA Committee said:
“For practices such as industrial puppy farming, pet smuggling and animal mutilation to be increasing in the UK in the year 2023 is deeply worrying and we must demand better. Our session also evaluated the pressures in the equine sector in terms of the number of owners struggling to keep their horses and highlighting the concerning facts that potentially thousands of horses are illegally exported to Europe for slaughter each year.”
“As a vet and an animal lover, I was shocked to hear such powerful testimonies from our panellists who spoke of increased demand for mutilated animals; animals being brutally imported in such poor conditions that some had to be put down upon arrival in the UK; and animal charities becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of abandoned animals.
“Clearly the pandemic has represented a sea change in pet ownership. More pet owners have led to an increase in illegal puppy smuggling to appease the demand and a boom in puppy farms.
“Furthermore, these new pet owners can sometimes be inexperienced, leading them to irresponsible pet buying, such as purchasing declawed cats and dogs with cropped ears; and an inability to properly care for their animals.”
“Now more than ever I would urge people to be responsible when getting their pets – ensuring animal health and wellbeing is at the forefront of their decision making.”
Dr Hudson began the session drawing attention to the dark side of puppy yoga which was recently exposed by undercover ITV reporters. The social media craze sees punters pay to practise yoga among young puppies. While seemingly a mix of relaxing wellness and cute animals, animal rights experts have shone a light on this worrying practice which potentially breaks the Animal Welfare Act.
From removing puppies from their mothers before the legal 8-weeks and harassing the animals while they try to sleep or escape from the worrying environment to withholding water – the practice is potentially very damaging for puppies as they navigate a crucial stage in their development.
Panel member and fellow vet Justine Shotton also highlighted that unvaccinated puppies mixing at puppy yoga could compromise biosecurity, spread diseases among puppies and fuel irresponsible pet buying.
Beyond that, Dr Hudson has long campaigned on stamping out the cruel puppy smuggling trade that has boomed since the first lockdown. The trade has been industrialised due to higher asking prices for dogs in the UK and can often see animals shipped hundreds of miles with little care for their welfare. These include underage dogs, heavily pregnant dogs and animals carrying infectious diseases -which has its own implications for the UK’s biosecurity.
A more full explanation of the issue is available here: www.neilhudson.org.uk/news/veterinary-mp-dr-neil-hudson-fact-finding-mission-scourge-puppy-and-dog-smuggling
Pet ownership was also a running theme in the session. Since the pandemic, pet ownership has increased. Known in dogs as ‘pandemic puppies’, but extending to other species too, there has been a significant increase in behavioural issues in pets.
Inexperienced owners and poorly socialised pandemic animals has led to an increase in the reports of abandoned animals which then compounds issues faced by charities in rehoming neglected animals.
Moreover, following the pandemic, cost of living pressures have led to people lacking resources to properly care for their animals. Again, this leads people to give up their animals to charities or even abandon them. As such, Dr Hudson took the time to publicly thank charities and animal welfare organisations for all they are doing at this trying time to support pets across the UK.
As the only vet elected to the Commons since the 19th Century, Dr Hudson was keen to explore pressures facing the veterinary industry which include workforce shortages and mental health pressures. More information on veterinary issues can be found here: www.neilhudson.org.uk/news/dr-neil-hudson-hosted-leading-veterinarians-parliament-raise-awareness-pressing-veterinary-and
The Committee will now continue to gather its findings into a published report with recommendations to Government which Ministers are obliged to respond to.
Expert panellists included:
- Dr Justine Shotton, Senior Vice President, British Veterinary Association
- Dr Sean Wensley, Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Animal Welfare and Professional Engagement at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)
- Sarah Carr, CEO Naturewatch Foundation (campaigners against animal cruelty)
- Dr Melisa Donald, President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
- Dr Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director, Dogs Trust
- Dr Maggie Roberts, Director of Feline Welfare, Cats Protection
- Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross (pet welfare and treatment network)
- Jessica Stark, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, World Horse Welfare
You can watch the proceedings in full here: www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/ea3016b0-8842-4e87-9eee-979d19913954#player-tabs