Dogs Trust's CEO Owen

It's time to stop the puppy trade

With 2,000 smuggled puppies rescued, let’s stop this cruel trade once and for all

We have long campaigned against the underworld trade in smuggled dogs and puppies, which has tragically flourished as a result of increased demand for dogs during the pandemic, and it seems we’re finally starting to make some progress.

The grim realities of puppy smuggling

Smuggling involves transporting dogs between countries, often in terrible conditions, and with no regard to whether they’ve been separated from their mothers too young, are heavily pregnant or are unfit to travel. The legal age for puppies to enter the UK from another EU country is 15 weeks – yet we’ve cared for puppies seized at just four weeks old; far too young to have been taken away from their mother, let alone transported thousands of miles across borders.

These poor dogs are then sold on to unsuspecting buyers in the UK, who often pay well over the odds and can then be landed with big vet bills and behavioural problems, resulting from the pup’s traumatic start in life.

Last week our Puppy Pilot, which helps APHA (the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency) to intercept puppies illegally imported to the UK and provides care and rehabilitation before finding them homes, reached the grim milestone of 2,000 puppies rescued since the scheme was set up in 2015. This number represents only a fraction of the dogs being smuggled by these criminals - the trade has been fuelled by soaring demand for dogs during the pandemic and shows no sign of letting up, unless the government takes further action to stop it.

Welcoming the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill 2021

We have long campaigned for the Government to take action and help stamp down on dog smuggling. So, we’re hugely welcoming of The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill 2021, which has the potential to diminish the money-making opportunities for illegal traders and make puppy smuggling a less lucrative prospect. This Bill, which is currently making its way through the parliamentary process to become law, introduces new powers to tackle some of the abuse of the Pet Travel Scheme and we very much welcome the proposal to ‘reduce the number of pet dogs, cats and ferrets that can be moved under the pet travel rules which apply to non-commercial movements, in order to prevent unscrupulous traders from exploiting our pet travel rules.’

As a part of the Bill’s progress through Parliament, our Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden, has been invited to give evidence to the Public Bill Committee, tomorrow, about the cases we have seen and how reducing the number of pets that can travel could make a real difference. Paula will be advocating that there is still room for improvement, as currently the Bill proposes a maximum of five pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) can be moved into Great Britain per vehicle.

We believe this must be reduced to three pets per vehicle to have any real impact on puppy smuggling. We know this principle would have cross-party support and we’ll be working closely with MPs to do all that we can to ensure this crucial measure is amended so the Bill has the best chance of tackling the abhorrent smuggling trade. As less than 3% of dog owners have more than three dogs, this would have minimal impact on ordinary dog owners, while making a serious dent in the cruel puppy trade.
We’ve rescued 2,000 pups. Let’s make sure it doesn’t become 3,000, or 4,000, or 10,000 and that, as a nation of proud dog lovers, our Government does not miss the opportunity to put the right powers in place to protect our canine friends, wherever they may be.