Dogs Trust Merseyside warn ‘puppy smuggling’ by criminal gangs rife at Christmas

Dogs Trust Merseyside is urging potential new owners not to be drawn in by ‘puppy smuggling’ criminal gangs offering easy click and buy purchases online this Christmas.

Dogs Trust Merseyside is urging potential new owners not to be drawn in by ‘puppy smuggling’ criminal gangs offering easy click and buy purchases online this Christmas.

The dog welfare charity has warned the festive market is being flooded with illegally imported puppies as organised groups look to cash in on the peak period for purchasing pets.

Dachshunds, Bichons and Pomeranians are amongst the top breeds seized at the UK border in the lead up to Christmas and festive shoppers are urged to walk away from online ads that look ‘too good to be true’.

Potential owners are instead being urged to give homes to pets in the care of Dogs Trust Merseyside, or, turn to trusted breeders, following the guidelines listed below.

Puppy smuggling

More than 2,000 puppies have been seized at the UK border and taken into the Dogs Trust’s care as part of its Puppy Pilot scheme since it launched in 2015 – an estimated equivalent market value of £3m, with an average value per puppy of £1,500. In addition, over 130 pregnant dogs have been seized since 2017, bearing around 600 puppies that were intended to be sold on to unsuspecting buyers in the UK.

The cruel trade sees animals travelling thousands of miles in cramped, dirty conditions, with little food and water.

Dogs Trust believes the increase and popularity of shopping online, with people able to search and find a puppy advertised for sale at the click of a button, combined with paltry penalties for those caught illegally importing dogs relative to the huge profits to be made, is creating a ‘perfect storm’ for the puppy smuggling trade.

Suffering and misery

Georgina Lowery, Dogs Trust rehoming centre manager said: “It’s very easy, especially when you’re looking for a puppy, to make decisions with your heart. But this is exactly the trap smugglers want you to fall into. Unknowingly buying a smuggled puppy could have very real consequences for the owner too. The puppy might be too young to have been legally imported or have health issues that you don’t necessarily notice until too late.

Dachshunds, Bichons and Pomeranians are amongst the top breeds seized at the UK border. Image: Alex Photo - stock.adobe.com

“If we don’t crack down on puppy smuggling soon, our fear is that it will continue causing suffering and misery for so many dogs. We are urging the Government to progress the Kept Animals Bill through Parliament as a priority, to introduce vital protections for pets and bring an end to this barbaric trade.”

Many of these puppies smuggled into the country end up in rehoming centres, such as Dogs Trust Merseyside.

For many years, Dogs Trust 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).

What to do when buying a puppy

Dogs Trust advises that welcoming a dog into your family is a 10-15 year commitment. The charity does not advise buying a puppy for Christmas, but have put together a dos and don’ts list for buying responsibly when ready:

  • Do ask to see mum and pup together
  • Do visit your new pup more than once
  • Do get all your pup’s paperwork before going home
  • Do check that the pup is at a legal age to be separated from their mum (over eight weeks old)
  • Do walk away if you’re at all unsure
  • Do report all suspicious sellers or breeders to Trading Standards
  • Don’t meet anywhere that isn’t the pup’s home
  • Don’t buy a pup from anyone who can supply various breeds on demand
  • Don’t pay anything until you have met the pup in person
  • Don’t feel pressure to buy a puppy