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The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill 2021-22 was introduced in the House of Commons on 8 June 2021 as aGovernment Bill. It would have made provisions about the welfare of certain kept animals that are in, imported into, or exported from Great Britain (see below). Second Reading took place on Monday 25 October 2021Committee stage took place between 9 and 18 November 2021. The Bill was carried over to the 2022-23 parliamentary session and was awaiting a date for Report stage.

On 25 May 2023, the Mark Spencer, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced that the Bill would not continue any further. Instead, the government would taking forward measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually as single-issue bills during the remainder of the current Parliament. The Secretary of State referred to concerns about “scope-creep” for the Bill, including that the Labour Party would attempt to widen the scope of the Bill. The statement also set out the areas the government would be taking forward:

  • A ban on the imports of young, heavily pregnant or mutilated dogs as a single-issue bill
  • Banning the keeping of primates as pets through secondary legislation
  • “Progressing delivery” of a new offence of pet abduction
  • New measures to tackle livestock worrying

After the announcement, Sky news reported on 26 May 2023 that government ministers had expressed concerns that the Labour Party had intended to try to widen the scope of bill to include hunting.

The Kept Animals Bill proposals

The Bill aimed to address commitments made in the Conservative Party 2019 Manifesto and government’s 2021 Action Plan for Animal Welfare. The five overarching provisions in the Bill related to:

  • Keeping primates as pets
  • Dogs attacking or worrying livestock
  • Export of livestock
  • Importation of dogs, cats and ferrets
  • Increasing the conservation focus of zoos

The provisions related to primates would have prevent keeping these animals as pets. Where primates were kept in captivity, the Bill would have introduced new licensing requirements to ensure that their welfare needs were met.

Under the Bill, the police would have had new powers to provide greater protection to livestock from dangerous and out of control dogs. Additional species, such as llamas, ostriches and game birds, would have also been given protection.

The Bill also included proposals to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, although the measures would not have covered poultry.

In addition, the Bill would have restricted the number of pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) that are imported on a non-commercial basis. It would have also restricted the import of animals that were pregnant, under a certain age, or which had undergone mutilations such as ear and tail cropping.

The Bill would have amended the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 with the aim of improving zoo regulations and increasing that conservation focus of zoos.

The Bill also included powers for the Secretary of State to amend, or revoke retained direct EU legislation related to animal welfare.

Animal welfare is a devolved matter. The measures in the Bill would have varied in their territorial extent within Great Britain, however, none of the measures would have applied to Northern Ireland.

During Committee stage, there were several government amendments to the Bill and no successful opposition amendments. Government amendments included the addition of a new offence of taking a pet without lawful authority, aimed at tackling pet theft, and extending the proposals on the keeping of primates to Wales.

Stakeholder reaction

There were concerns about the Bill being dropped from a wide range of animal welfare organisations, including the RSPCA, the Dog’s Trust, the Humane Society International (UK) and the British Veterinary Association.

Recent government announcements

The government has made announcements on several issues since withdrawing the Bill:

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