Dogs Trust

Puppy price hikes during lockdown

With millions of people now working from home, demand for puppies has soared. Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ have increased by 115% since the UK went into lockdown in March. 

And sadly, unscrupulous sellers have exploited that demand, with prices for some of the most sought-after dog breeds reaching record levels, with the costs for some dogs increasing month on month since lockdown began. 

The asking prices for five breeds most often smuggled into the country - Dachshunds, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Chow Chows - has shot up.  

Our Puppy Pilot scheme rescues smuggled pups at the UK border, we've continued to intercept dogs being illegally imported into the UK, despite travel restrictions. Between the beginning of lockdown and now, we've rescued more than 100 puppies smuggled into the country from Central and Eastern Europe. These dogs were destined to be advertised online for extortionate prices, to line the pockets of cruel puppy smugglers. Among the dogs we’ve rescued recently are four Beagles, illegally imported into the country and found in the back of a van. At eight weeks old, the puppies each weighed just 2kg when they were seized from the vehicle and were all hungry and dehydrated. The average cost for a Beagle puppy online has increased by 151% - from £563 in March to  £1,414 in October.  

Unsuspecting buyers can be left heartbroken when online adverts turn out to be scams, or their pup becomes unwell or worse. Make sure you know the signs of a dodgy advert to avoid being dogfished.

Average puppy price increases from March to June

Dachshund puppy prices Chow Chow puppy prices Pug puppy prices Frenchies puppy prices English bulldog puppy prices

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.

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.

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.

What Dogs Trust is calling for:

For over six years we have been calling on Government to help put an end to puppy smuggling after exposing this abhorrent trade. Current legislation is not fit for purpose. We need urgent action to cut these markets off at the source and close the loopholes which put innocent puppies at risk.

With the end of the Brexit transition period on the horizon, the time is now for Government to act. They must:

  1. Raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable.
  2. Bring in tougher penalties for smuggling pups to deter deceitful sellers. Only a handful of cases have ever been prosecuted and you can get a longer sentence for smuggling cigarettes than you can for smuggling puppies.

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.

Report now

Don't be dogfished

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