Puppy smuggling

Our work to end puppy smuggling

Puppies are paying the price

Since 2012, the Pet Travel Scheme, intended to enable owners to take family pets on holiday, has been abused by unscrupulous traders. They’ve taken advantage of the scheme’s simple set up to illegally import thousands of puppies for sale, making huge profit at the cost of welfare.

This has resulted in puppies which are often too young, unvaccinated and in poor welfare, being transported to the UK in terrible conditions, to be sold on to unsuspecting buyers.

Having first exposed this cruel puppy smuggling trade in 2014, we have been pushing for changes to the law to help stop this illegal trade ever since.

Stand with us against puppy smuggling

We’re urging the UK Government to introduce visual checks at the border. Support us and email your MP today.

Email your MP

Our latest report: investigating online sales of smuggled pups

In our 2020 investigative report, we examined the scale of online sales of illegally- imported puppies in Britain.

We reviewed more than 640 online advertisements from sellers in England, Scotland and Wales over six weeks from September to November 2020. Our key findings were: 

  • 91 of the adverts were for imported dogs – 14% of the ads 
  • 18% of the imported puppies were confirmed by the seller as being under the minimum age for importation of 15 weeks. We suspect more were underage 
  • Ads for imported puppies were found on all four of the websites we checked
  • The youngest puppy advertised was only seven weeks old when imported – too young to legally leave its mother. 

In the report, we recommended that the UK government:

  • raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable for purchase
  • bring in tougher penalties for smuggling pups to deter deceitful sellers

Read our latest report (2020)

Read our previous puppy smuggling reports

Campaigning against puppy smuggling since 2014

In 2012, the UK’s Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was changed to harmonise pet travel across Europe. This reduced the age at which puppies could enter Great Britain, the unintended consequences of which effectively invited unscrupulous traders to illegally import underage puppies into the country for sale.  

The number of puppies imported under PETS rose from 85,299 in 2011 to 307,263 in 2019, an increase of 260%. We’ve conducted four on-the-ground investigations to expose puppy smuggling, and produced four previous reports in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. All of these call on the government to take action to stop this harmful and illegal trade. 

Bringing real change for dogs

After years of campaigning, we were pleased when the UK Government pledged to target puppy smuggling in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare, published in May 2021.  

How to buy a puppy safely

Want to buy a puppy? Our buying advice will help you find a healthy, happy dog from a responsible breeder, while avoiding irresponsible breeders and smuggled puppies.

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