Undercover investigation reveals puppy smuggling trade is rife

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Dogs Trust is calling on the government to take immediate action to address the illegal importation of puppies into Great Britain, after an undercover investigation discovered smugglers across Central and Eastern Europe continuing to abuse the system.

The UK’s largest dog welfare charity is urging people to contact their local MP via the Dogs Trust website to insist that the government revise inadequate legislation to put a stop to this horrific trade.

Undercover footage revealed a vet in Lithuania selling sedatives to allow puppies to be smuggled across the British border. Puppies as young as four weeks old were also transported with their umbilical cords still attached during a cramped 1,000 mile, 30-hour journey across Europe.

In another shocking case, puppies were observed vomiting and another eating their own faeces during a journey in a packed mini-van from Lithuania. Confined to pet carriers stacked amongst other packages in the back of the van with no air conditioning, and outside temperatures of 25 degrees, the puppies were given water just twice and not fed at all.

Vets in Poland and Lithuania were also filmed falsifying pet passports and faking rabies vaccination records, enabling underage puppies to slip through the net without the correct paperwork as part of the third undercover investigation by Dogs Trust.

Paula Boyden, veterinary director for Dogs Trust said: “These shocking cases clearly show that urgent action is needed to stop the puppy smuggling scandal. It remains as serious an issue for animal welfare and public health in 2017 as it did in 2014, when our first investigation highlighted the devastating effects of the 2012 changes to the Pet Travel Scheme, which effectively invited corrupt dealers to traffic underage puppies into Great Britain without the required treatments.

“The number of prosecutions is far too low and the lack of visual checks at ferry ports and borders is unacceptable. We want to see stronger deterrents including prison sentences for those caught trafficking puppies. To highlight the flaws in the system, we smuggled a fake dog ‘Charly’ though the border twice – once at Eurotunnel and once at Dover – after no visual checks were made.

“The government must revise pet travel legislation when the UK leaves the EU and ensure that puppies entering this country are healthy, not underage and are not being brought in to sell on to unsuspecting buyers via a scheme meant for non-commercial use.”

Puppies are bred in large numbers, often in horrific conditions in Central and Eastern Europe by corrupt breeders who are continuing to exploit the demand for these desirable breeds in Great Britain. They are brought into the country illegally at a young age in order to appear ‘cuter’ to buyers, with desirable breeds such as Pugs, Dachshunds, English and French Bulldogs making up 82% of those intercepted at the border.

In 2016 alone, 275,876 dogs travelled to Great Britain on the Pet Travel Scheme; a non-commercial system allowing animals to travel easily between EU Member States without undergoing quarantine. The highest number of puppies intercepted as part of the Dogs Trust Puppy Pilot arrived from Hungary, Poland and Lithuania with Latvia, Slovakia and Romania also predominant. Of the puppies seized, more than 95 per cent of puppies rescued by Dogs Trust were deemed too young to travel and 6 per cent sadly died due to poor health, malnutrition and dehydration.

Paula continues: “Following two previous investigations in 2014 and 2015, we launched our Puppy Pilot scheme. Through this, and with the help of APHA, Border Force and Kent Trading Standards, we have funded the quarantine costs of over 500 illegally imported puppies and found them new homes through our rehoming centres. Until Dogs Trust stepped in, seized puppies were at risk of being put to sleep or turned away at the borders.”

Dogs Trust has released an animation to highlight the plight of a smuggled puppy, Charly, as he undertakes the perilous journey to Great Britain.

To watch and share the animation, as well as emailing your local MP to support Dogs Trust’s campaign to help transform the lives of illegally imported puppies visit www.puppysmuggling.org.uk.