The government has been criticised for its decision to scrap an animal welfare bill.

Lib Dem candidate for the new Taunton constituency, Gideon Amos, accused the government of 'turning their backs on puppies' after they abandoned the Kept Animals Bill.

The Kept Animals Bill was introduced to parliament in May 2022. It contained measures which would have banned the live export of animals, in addition to introducing other new animal welfare standards.

However, the government has now withdrawn the bill, after it said they feared the opposition would hijack it. The Environment Minister Mark Harper warned that the Labour Party would take the opportunity to 'play political games' and attach a vote on hunting to the bill.

The Lib Dems accused the government of breaking a manifesto pledge - and tabled a new bill which aims to tackle the puppy smuggling trade.

 Gideon Amos said: “The Taunton and Wellington area is full of pet lovers and we must do everything we can to ensure the safety of our beloved animals.

“The Conservative party promised to deliver this Bill in their election manifesto, and the Government even drafted the wording of the new law. Therefore, the local MP should have no problems backing it.

"Conservative MPs cannot break this promise to protect animals from cruel smuggling gangs. 

“It would be shameful for area's current local MP and this Conservative Government not to support this Bill and pet owners, animal welfare charities and residents of Taunton and Wellington would be rightfully angry.

“The Liberal Democrats want to see greater protections for puppies, with criminals who target beloved pets handed harsher punishments.”

The government has pledged that the provisions contained in the Kept Animals Bill will be reintroduced into new laws before the time of the next election, but this is expected to delay the process further.

It follows animal rights campaigners targeting Rebecca Pow's office in March, when the group Compassion in World Farming stationed a digital billboard outside Ms Pow's office, encouraging her to pass the bill, and calling on an end to live animal exports.

A spokesperson for the government's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said: “The UK is a world leader on animal welfare, and we are fully committed to maintaining and enhancing our strong track record to date.

 "We are committed to delivering the Kept Animals Bill measures individually during the remainder of this Parliament and look forward to progressing these. We will be setting out next steps in due course.”