Dogs Trust Merseyside warns of puppy smugglers this Christmas - most popular breeds illegally smuggled

There’s been an 60 per cent increase in the number of pregnant dogs seized at UK borders.
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It's never a good idea to give a puppy as a gift. Still, Dogs Trust Merseyside is urging potential dog owners in the region not to buy puppies during the festive season, as doing so is helping fuel the illegal puppy smuggling trade. Puppy smugglers from Central and Eastern Europe continue to illegally import puppies as they look to cash in on a key period for puppy purchasing.

“We’ve seen dogs brought in horrific conditions”

Adam Clowes, Operations Director for Dogs Trust, said, "These aren't your normal breeders that are doing it because they love the breed of dog and they want to provide people with a family pet. These are people who are just looking to make money out of it. We've seen dogs brought in horrific conditions, whether that's kept in the boot of a car or underneath the seat, as they try and get them into the country illegally to make as much money as they can."

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More than 2,000 puppies have been seized at the UK border and taken into Dogs Trust's care as part of its Puppy Pilot scheme since it launched in 2015 – an estimated equivalent market value of over £3m. The scheme provides quarantine and support for puppies seized at ports until they can go to loving new homes. Seizing and rehoming these puppies helps to take money out of the pockets of the illegal importers.

Dogs Trust has also seen a 60 per cent increase in the number of pregnant dogs seized at UK borders since 2021, many in the late stages of pregnancy and with some giving birth within days of arriving in the country. The dog welfare charity expects numbers to continue to rise if urgent action is not taken.

“The number one dog we’ve seen illegally smuggled in is the dachshund”

Adam says, "The number one dog we’ve seen illegally smuggled in is the dachshund. They’re really great dogs, particularly for people with young children or living in flats. They're just capitalising on that. Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, Bichons. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of large breeds: labradors, Dobermans, Shar Peis, Bernese mountain dogs, and anything they think they can make money with. The other challenge we're seeing, particularly in some of the larger breeds, is that they're being imported with their ears cropped and their tails docked, which is actually illegal to do in the UK."

For many years, the charity has campaigned for more to be done to stop illegal imports of dogs and is actively calling on the Government to allow the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to finally pass through the parliamentary process to tackle the trade once and for all. This Bill includes the provision of new powers enabling the Government to introduce measures via secondary legislation to tackle the abuses of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

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