Our undercover investigation reveals magnitude of horrifying Puppy Smuggling trade | Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust

Our undercover investigation reveals magnitude of horrifying Puppy Smuggling trade

We are calling on the government to take urgent action to stop the illegal importation of puppies into the UK as Brexit approaches, but we need your help. 

With less than six months to go, we have released our fourth investigative report into the cruel Puppy Smuggling trade to highlight the significant opportunity the government has to redraw the UK's pet travel rules - which are currently regulated by EU legislation - and end this cruel trade.

Our investigation exposes the magnitude and ease of trade routes into the UK for European smugglers.

  • We find underage puppies and heavily pregnant bitches forced to travel over 1000 miles across Europe and into the UK in sickening conditions
  • We uncover corrupt vets providing falsified pet passports and fake vaccination stamps for underage puppies
  • We witness one dealer in Hungary boast of 300 bitches producing puppies that are advertised and sold in the UK
  • We reveal that after four years and as many investigations, the government has not acted effectively to clamp down on criminals illegally importing puppies
  • We reveal Pet travel legislation is being abused and weak penalties are not a deterrent
  • We ask the public to email their MP to finally put an end to this illegal trade

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director, says:

"Our investigations have revealed shocking welfare conditions. There is no regard for the lives of these vulnerable puppies, who are subjected to gruelling journeys of more than 30 hours in hot, cramped and filthy conditions with no toilet breaks and very little water. Some don't survive the journey, and those who do may have physical health and behavioural issues due to their poor start in life.

"Puppy smugglers are only concerned with making a profit, and the UK provides an attractive market because the high demand for 'designer breeds' converts into fast internet sales. Importers are exploiting the lack of visual checks being made at the borders, and insufficient penalties for illegally importing puppies mean there is no real deterrent for these abhorrent crimes.

"With Brexit around the corner this is an opportunity of a lifetime to put robust measures in place that protect dogs and the public. We urge the government to take forward our clear recommendations to overhaul our pet travel legislation and increase the penalties for those caught fuelling this despicable trade."

The findings in our report continue to expose gaping loopholes in the existing Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), the rules of which changed in 2012 to allow puppies to enter the UK at a much younger age. Unscrupulous dealers have exploited this opportunity, and the demand for popular breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Dachshunds and English Bulldogs have led to an influx of puppies smuggled into the UK often in appalling conditions, from Central and Eastern Europe.

The fourth investigation

During this investigation we uncovered a network of corrupt breeders, dealers and vets, who openly admit to breaking the law to deceitfully export puppies. We also reveal the appalling ways in which puppies are smuggled into the UK. We found:

  • Puppies sedated in cramped conditions and forced into 30 hour journeys over 1,000 miles with little water and no toilet breaks, found hidden amongst their own faeces
  • Heavily pregnant bitches caged in sickening conditions forced to travel gruelling journeys to allow for the puppies to be born in the UK - young, 'UK born' puppies amount to quicker sales
  • Dealers claiming to evade border controls across Europe and describing the scale of illegal exportation; with one Hungarian dealer explaining around 400 puppies are exported each week from his hometown. This equates to 20,000 puppies a year providing an annual turnover of £28million based on the average sale price of £1,400 per puppy* - from just one town alone. These particular puppies were destined for Spain but are an example of the extent criminals are going to, to put profit over puppy welfare
  • One dealer highlighted 300 bitches producing 'designer' puppies including French Bulldogs, some of which are then advertised and sold in the UK
  • Corrupt vets falsify passports and provide fake vaccination stamps to enable puppies to travel while they are younger than legally allowed, and therefore more desirable, but unprotected against diseases, such as rabies. Some vets were willing to supply sedatives to bring puppies across the UK border without detection with no passport at all

  • New trade routes from Serbia, a non-EU country where the most stringent rules of entry into the EU apply - we found evidence of underage puppies being sold with EU microchips and pre-filled European passports and passed off as EU-bred animals for easier entry into EU countries

How can I help?

In just a few simple steps you can join our mission to stop this cruel trade. We have sent all MPs a copy of our report, and we hope as many as possible will be joining our fight against Puppy Smuggling. But we also need your help. Please email your MP to ask them to help us put an end to Puppy Smuggling.

We want to stop people in the UK being duped into buying a smuggled puppy from an unscrupulous breeder. We have lots of advice to help you ensure you are buying a puppy responsibly. Take a look, and share with your friends!

Email your MP to ask them to help put an end to the cruel #PuppySmuggling trade