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Record number of puppies saved from devious smugglers as Christmas puppy trade ramps up

The problem

With just six weeks to go until Christmas, we're urging people not to fuel the cruel puppy smuggling trade - albeit unintentionally - by purchasing an illegally smuggled puppy.

The solution

We have released new advice for anyone considering buying a puppy to make sensible choices, and avoid being tricked into buying one which may have been smuggled. We hope this advice will equip people with the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to buying a puppy.

Our warning comes after nearly 100 puppies were seized in just one week during a covert operation at the UK border as devious breeders and sellers hone in on the Christmas trade. Sadly, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg as many more puppies are expected to be smuggled into the country undetected in the run up to the festive season.

Our investigation

Since 2014, we have been exposing the horrors that illegally smuggled puppies are being forced to endure, as the demand for desirable and in-trend breeds such as French Bulldog puppies, English Bulldog puppies, Chow Chow puppies and Daschund puppies shows no sign of slowing down, and continues to help to fuel this sickening trade.

The maximum sentence under the Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals (Amendment) Order 2011 is currently just three months and with importers making tens of thousands of pounds a year, the penalties are not a strong enough deterrent.

We were disappointed that Defra’s review of this legislation recently gave no clear indication in tackling the issues that have arisen from the changes made to pet travel legislation in 2012, including the illegal importation of puppies. Whilst Brexit provides a crucial opportunity to review existing legislation, there are long overdue changes that can be made as part of this review.

In a recent poll we were very concerned to find out that only half of respondents said they would be concerned if their most recently bought puppy was imported illegally, with 33% saying they would buy a dog from an online classified site or social media. These results deepen our concerns even further that not enough people are aware of this shocking trade.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director for Dogs Trust said:

“Whilst many people’s purchases may be well intended, unbeknown to them the internet has become a thriving marketplace for advertising illegally imported puppies. Buying an illegally imported puppy could potentially cost well-meaning but unsuspecting families thousands of pounds in quarantine and vet bills and emotional heartache for the family if the puppy falls ill or worse, dies.

“We continue to be astounded at the lengths these deceptive breeders and dealers will go to in order to illegally import puppies to make huge profits with complete disregard for their wellbeing. The cases we are seeing on a weekly basis are horrific and need to stop.”

Paula continues:

“Illegally importing puppies needs to end now. We urge the Government to improve this failing legislation. This includes increasing penalties for those illegally importing puppies and a significant overhaul of the pet checking system at ports.

“Members of the public have a crucial role to play too. We’re seeing a huge spike in online advertising and ‘trend buying’ of fashionable breeds with Pugs, Dachshunds, English and French Bulldogs making up 82% of those admitted to Dogs Trust through our Puppy Pilot. We urge anyone who is considering getting a puppy this Christmas or beyond, to make sure a dog is for life not just for Christmas. Please do think about the breed and your lifestyle as well as following buyer advice to help limit the chances your puppy is a smuggled one.”

We continue to remind everyone of our infamous slogan 'A Dog is For Life, not just for Christmas' and ask people to think about the responsibilities of dog ownership before they bring a four-legged friend into their home.

Help us put a stop to Puppy Smuggling