If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember Holly’s story, in which I told you about Holly the Labrador. She was rescued from a life of bearing litter after litter so that her puppies could be sold on to make her owner money.
This week I’d like to tell you about the new campaign by the Dogs’ Trust, which wants to put an end to puppy smuggling.
What’s the problem?
With a high demand for designer breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, especially during the run-up to Christmas, there is a market for small puppies in the UK. So much so, that puppies are being brought in large numbers from Eastern and Central Europe, often in terrible conditions.
The puppies are often taken away from their mums too soon, not given their vaccinations, and transported without adequate access to food or water. Sadly, some don’t even make it.
What is Dogs’ Trust doing to stop this?
Dogs’ Trust has recently produced its fourth report into the problems caused by puppy smuggling, highlighting what’s really happening and why current legislation is not as effective as it needs to be.
The investigators discovered one dealer in Hungary, who boasted about having 300 bitches producing puppies for sale in the UK.
They also filmed 15 breeders/dealers who sold underage puppies, some as young as 7 weeks, to the UK.
This wouldn’t be possible without help from corrupt vets. The team found4 in Lithuania and 2 in Hungary, who provided falsified papers allowing underage dogs to travel. This is bad enough, because in most cases it means that the dogs were taken away from their mums too soon, but it also has implications for the rabies vaccinations and in the case of very young dogs, make the vaccinations invalid.
In terms of what is available to buy online, investigators spent just £120 on 2 fake pet passports, complete with fake vaccination paperwork for puppies that didn’t exist.
They also bought a French bulldog puppy online that was only 10 weeks old, although the dealer initially claimed it was 4 months old. The puppy had been brought to the UK from Lithuania, and did not have a rabies vaccination. In fact, at 10 weeks old, the puppy was too young for the vaccination to be effective.
Normally, a French bulldog puppy can be sold for £2,500. Illegal puppy smugglers can sell them for much less and still make a profit, which is why they won’t stop doing it unless there are stronger deterrents.
Existing legislation is being abused, whilst insufficient border checks and weak penalties mean that the illegal trade is still going on.
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at 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 ‘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.
Why is this important now?
This is the fourth report that Dogs’ trust has produced on the subject of puppy smuggling, which shows that the situation is not improving. As Brexit approaches, it’s a good opportunity for the government to revisit the Pet Travel rules. At the moment, this legislation is regulated by EU rules, so there will need to be something to replace it after Brexit. What better time to tighten up checks and measures to make it harder for people to smuggle puppies into the country?
What can you do?
- If you’re thinking about getting a puppy, make sure you get it from a reputable breeder – or even better, give a home to a rescue dog. Buying puppies that have been smuggled in is just supporting the trade and showing that there is a market for these dogs. If there is no market, there’s no financial incentive for people to keep doing it.
- Tell your friends – if you know other people who are thinking about getting a dog, please spread the word so that they know what’s going on. It may be easier in the short-term to get a dog this way, because there are no home-checks as with many rescues, but you really don’t know what you’re getting, and buying illegally transported puppies just encourages people to keep on breeding more. Dogs’ Trust has a lot of tips and questions to ask for people who want to get a puppy.
- Every MP has received the Dogs’ Trust report. You can email your MP specifically to ask them to help in the fight against the illegal puppy smuggling trade. The more your MP hears about the issue, they’ll have to take note and realise that it’s something important to their constituents.