The UK’s largest dog welfare charity is calling on the government to take urgent action to stop the illegal importation of puppies into the UK as Brexit approaches. This follows an undercover investigation, which exposes the magnitude and ease of trade routes into the UK for European smugglers.
Dogs Trust’s fourth report into this illegal trade is released with less than six months until the UK’s exit from the EU in order to highlight the significant opportunity the government has to redraw the UK’s pet travel rules [currently regulated by EU legislation] and end this cruel trade.
The findings 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 has led to an influx of puppies smuggled into the UK often in appalling conditions, from Central and Eastern Europe (see infographic below).
Dogs Trust has uncovered a network of corrupt breeders, dealers, and vets, who openly admit to breaking the law to deceitfully export puppies. The report also reveals the horrific ways in which puppies are smuggled into the UK. Findings include:
- 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 and 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 more 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.
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, 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 fashionable 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.”
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 and contact your MP, visit www.puppysmuggling.org.uk
Undercover footage obtained in Hungary and Serbia demonstrating the scale of the puppy smuggling problem, the new trade routes and the use of pregnant bitches to bring underage puppies to the UK for sale to unsuspecting buyers: