Dogs Trust welcomes puppy smuggling inquiry and calls for overhaul of pet travel laws

Dogs Trust has today (August 1st) enthusiastically welcomed the announcement of a vital parliamentary inquiry into the cruel Puppy Smuggling trade. 

The House of Commons Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is launching its call for evidence into the cruel practices of illegally importing puppies into the UK from Europe. 

Dogs Trust has published four investigative reports exposing the trade, including the growing trend of heavily pregnant female dogs being brought into the country with little care and consideration for them, or their unborn puppies’ health.

Recent figures released by Defra show that imports of dogs to Great Britain via the flawed Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) hit 307,357 dogs in 2018, up from 287,016 in 2017. This is the sixth year in a row that numbers have increased since the controversial changes to PETS in 2012 harmonised pet travel across the EU. In 2011, before the changes, this figure was 85,786. 

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said: 

“We are delighted that MPs have launched this vitally important inquiry as we have long been urging the government to take forward our clear recommendations to overhaul pet travel legislation, including increasing penalties for those fuelling this despicable trade. 

“A lack of visual checks at the borders and insufficient penalties for illegally importing puppies mean there is no real deterrent for puppy smugglers capitalising on the huge demand in this country for desirable breeds such as French Bulldogs, Dachshunds and English Bulldogs.  

“Great Britain remains a target for dealers because of this demand and the vast sums people are willing to pay for such breeds.”  

The four undercover investigations that Dogs Trust has carried out into the abuses of the PETS have provided the government with a mountain of evidence. 

Dogs Trust investigations have repeatedly shown that 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. 

With a persistent demand for French Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Pugs, and prices ranging anywhere from £800 - £2,000 per dog, set against the limited prosecution for smugglers if caught, it is unsurprising that over the past four years nearly 1,000 dogs have been cared for by Dogs Trust as part of its Puppy Pilot*. 

Dogs Trust will be submitting its evidence to the Committee as a part of the inquiry and will urge the Committee’s MPs to encourage the government to tackle this trade and put a stop to puppy smuggling.

Further information 

The EFRA Select Committee has today (1st August) launched an inquiry into puppy smuggling. It can be viewed here: 

Immediate action is needed to improve enforcement of the Pet Travel Scheme, including:

  • Increased maximum penalties for those caught illegally importing dogs, together with the introduction of punitive Fixed Penalty Notices
  • The focus on enforcement of pet travel legislation must be shifted from carriers - the ferry companies and Eurotunnel - to Government agencies and visual checks of all dogs entering the country need to be undertaken
  • The introduction of a centrally accessible database to log pets’ microchip numbers and date of entry into Great Britain, something that is not currently required, a serious concern in the face of an outbreak
  • Intelligence led enforcement to identify dealers and traders that are regularly importing multiple puppies

Dogs Trust is also calling for Government to review and amend legislation governing pet travel, trade and disease control. This includes the possibility of reintroducing important animal health requirements that are not currently permitted under EU legislation post EU exit: 

  • Reintroduce a requirement for a rabies blood (titre) test before entry to the UK, together with a wait period in line with the incubation period of rabies
  • Reintroduce a requirement for dogs and cats to be treated against ticks before entering the UK
  • Shorten the tapeworm treatment window for dogs before entry into the UK from 120 hours to 48 hours as previously required. Reintroduce a requirement for cats to be treated against tapeworm
  • Reduce the number of dogs allowed under non-commercial movement rules

Dogs Trust is asking members of the public to contact their MP via the Dogs Trust website to help put an end to the cruel puppy smuggling trade. To find out more please visit

The charity has also published advice for buyers to help reduce the number of people being caught out by rogue sellers: 


  • Ask to see mum and pup together
  • Ask the breeder lots of questions
  • Expect a breeder to quiz you too
  • Visit your new pup more than once
  • Get all your pup’s paperwork before you take them home
  • Walk away if you have doubts or feel pressure to buy
  • Report suspicious online sellers or breeders to Trading Standards


  • Meet somewhere that isn’t the pup’s home
  • Buy a pup from anyone selling multiple breeds of dog
  • Buy a pup that looks small and underweight
  • Buy a pup that you suspect has been imported illegally

Further advice can be viewed at

*The Puppy Pilot is a scheme established by Dogs Trust to aid the interception of dogs seized by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at the ports and provide care and rehabilitation for them prior to finding them new homes.