With just six weeks to go until Christmas, Dogs Trust is urging people not to fuel a cruel puppy trade – albeit unintentionally – by purchasing an illegally imported puppy.

The warning comes after nearly 100 puppies were seized in just one week at the UK border as devious importers hone in on the Christmas trade.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as many more are expected to be illegally imported into the country undetected in the run up to Christmas.

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, exposed the horrors that illegally imported puppies are being forced to endure as part of their third undercover investigation earlier this year as the demand for desirable and in-trend breeds continues to help fuel this sickening trade.

The charity has produced some buyer advice to help people make sensible choices and avoid being tricked into buying puppies which have been illegally imported from Central and Eastern Europe.

Worryingly only half of respondents in a recent poll (48%) said they ‘would be concerned if their most recently bought puppy was imported illegally’ and 33% said they ‘would buy a dog from an online classified site or social media’ highlighting Dogs Trust’s concern that people are not aware enough of this shocking trade.

They now hope this advice will equip people with the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to buying a puppy.

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.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Litter of Chow Chows imported at just four weeks old

“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.”

Uncovered during the seizure and other recent cases include:

  • Three cases of pregnant French Bulldog bitches being seized as importers find sinister new ways to get them through the border undetected
  • Three Bulldogs suffering with urine burns after travelling in poor conditions
  • Three French Bulldogs transported so young that they could fit in a small dog bowl
  • A litter of Chow Chows illegally imported through the border at just four weeks old; 11 weeks under the minimum age
  • Seven dogs with open infected wounds after having their ears and tails illegally cropped and docked.

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.

Dogs Trust was 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.

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.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

A litter of smuggled English Bulldogs

“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.”

To support Dogs Trust’s campaign visit www.puppysmuggling.org.uk