Dogs Trust

About puppy smuggling

In 2012 the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) rules were changed, resulting in the relaxation of the UK’s pet passport rules. Now puppies as young as 15 weeks can travel to the UK, whereas previously the minimum age was ten months.

Unfortunately, these changes have resulted in a sharp increase in the numbers of puppies entering Great Britain for sale – these poor dogs are often forced to travel thousands of miles in cramped, squalid conditions.

With Brexit around the corner, we want the Government to fulfil its manifesto promise to fight this cruel trade. We want to see:

  • A requirement for a rabies blood test before entry into the UK, together with a wait period which is in line with the incubation period of rabies.
  • Introducing visual checks at ports conducted by somebody with animal welfare experience.
  • Introducing stronger penalties for puppy smugglers caught illegally importing dogs into the country.

Average price paid for French Bulldogs in...

UK - £1,570 Poland - £685 Lithuania - £610 Hungary - £520 Romania - £460 Czech Republic - £450

Our investigations

Map of puppy smuggling trade Map of puppy smuggling trade
These are the countries we investigated. Other countries are also suspected of puppy smuggling.

For over five years, we have investigated the puppy smuggling trade and seen how the industry has developed and grown, flaunting the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme.

Our initial undercover investigation revealed the high level of corruption at the heart of the puppy smuggling trade and the very worrying welfare risks being imposed on dogs.

Since then, our puppy smuggling investigations have been ongoing, focusing on puppies travelling into Great Britain under the Pet Travel Scheme. Our investigations found dealers and vets in source countries willing to falsify documents stating that puppies were older than they actually were. These puppies often then end up getting sold on to unsuspecting buyers in this country.

Our 2018 report highlighted a growing trend of heavily pregnant female dogs being brought into the country with little care and consideration for them and their unborn puppies’ health. A lack of visual checks at the borders and insufficient penalties for illegally importing mean there is no real deterrent for puppy smugglers.

Fake mum

Fake mum

In one seizure, ten French Bulldog puppies aged approximately three to four weeks of age were discovered heavily sedated in a car travelling from Poland. The pups were found hidden in the hollow of the back seat under a pile of blankets and under one of the front seats.

The adult female French Bulldog (which had a pet passport) travelling with them was thought to be their mum, but the assessing vet doubted this as she had no milk. The suspicion was that she was being brought across to act as a fake mum since buyers increasingly ask to see the pups with their mum (as we would advise).

Puppy smuggling facts

fact 1

In our undercover investigations, puppies being transported over long distances were given water only twice in 30 hours and had no food or toilet breaks.

fact 2

Smuggled puppies can suffer life-threatening health conditions or life-long behavioural challenges and, sadly, some have very short lives.

fact 3

We have repeatedly shown that the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is being used as a cover to import underage puppies from Central and Eastern Europe for commercial reasons. It is illegal to import dogs to Great Britain via PETS with the intention of selling them.

Dogfish alert!

If you suspect a seller is acting suspiciously, or if you think your puppy may have been illegally imported, please report them to Trading Standards.

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