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Ministers scrap law banning pet monkeys and protecting sheep from violent dogs

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An animal welfare law to protect sheep from aggressive dogs and ban monkeys being kept as pets has been scrapped by the Government.

Ministers dropped a flagship law containing several manifesto commitments, including to ban the export of live animals and crack down on puppy smuggling.

Mark Spencer, an environment minister, told the Commons the Government would instead pursue its plans through individual pieces of secondary legislation rather than with a flagship bill.

But animal rights campaigners accused the Government of an "astonishing betrayal of both animals and public trust".

Publicly, the Government has blamed Labour for playing "political games" by trying to amend the legislation to add more animal welfare protections.

The Government has a majority in the Commons and would usually defeat any opposition amendments to its legislation by voting them down.

The Telegraph understands ministers had concerns the Animal Welfare Bill would attract more amendments in the House of Lords, where the Government can be defeated, and could prompt debate about the use of dogs in hunting.

Legislation 'needlessly delayed'

Emma Slawinski, the RSPCA's director of policy, said: "While politicians dither, animals suffer. We are frustrated and disappointed that, despite overwhelming public support, the UK Government has delayed and delayed and has now broken up the Bill, leading to yet more uncertainty and lost time."

Tim Bonner, the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "It is disappointing that landmark legislation on important welfare issues like sheep worrying has been needlessly delayed for two years by MPs who are fixated by hunting and other rural activities.

"Their obsession has held progress on animal welfare back."

Mr Spencer promised that key measures would be reintroduced to Parliament as statutory instruments, saying: "We're committed to cracking down on puppy smuggling, we will ban the imports of young, heavily pregnant or mutilated dogs, and we will be able to do this more quickly with a single-issue bill than the secondary legislation required under the Kept Animals Bill.

"And we are committed to banning the keeping of primates as pets and will do this by consulting before the summer recess on the primate keeping standards, and they will be applied by secondary legislation being brought forward this year.

"We also look forward to progressing delivery of the new offence of pet abduction, and the new measures to tackle livestock worrying."

Cancelled law is 'betrayal' of animals

Jim McMahon, the shadow environment secretary said the announcement was "further proof that you can't trust the Tories to deliver on animal welfare".

He added: "The Government's decision to scrap the Kept Animals Bill demonstrates that it has lost the ability to get its own legislation through Parliament."

Mr Spencer also announced the launch of a new animal sentience committee, and a consultation on new financial penalties of up to £5,000 for those who commit offences against animals.

Claire Bass, of Humane Society International/UK, said: "The Government's decision to abandon the Kept Animals Bill is an astonishing betrayal of both animals and public trust.

"Vital protections for dogs, calves, sheep, primates and other animals have been sacrificed today at the Government's altar of self-serving political convenience."

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