COVID-19 info: Our rehoming centres are not open for public browsing but you can still make an appointment to adopt or bring a dog to us. We’ve set up new processes which include social distancing measures to help keep staff and our visitors safe.

Dogs Trust fears no end in sight for cruel puppy trade

With Government figures released today [5.6.19] showing that dog imports breached the 300,000 mark for the first time in 2018, Dogs Trust fears that the huge demand for puppies in Great Britain is driving an illegal trade in animals from Central & Eastern Europe. 

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. Although some of these will be British dogs entering the country on British pet passports, Dogs Trust investigations have repeatedly shown that PETS is being used as a cover to import puppies from Central & Eastern Europe for commercial reasons. It is illegal to import dogs to Great Britain via PETS with the intention of selling them.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, says:

“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 the vast sums people are willing to pay for such breeds and the lack of supply within Great Britain itself from reputable breeders.”

“The four undercover investigations that Dogs Trust has carried out into the abuses of the Pet Travel Scheme have provided Government with a mountain of evidence. We now 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.”

Dogs Trust is 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 buyer advice can be viewed here.