The Dogs Trust is calling for urgent action to end puppy smuggling as the charity reaches the shocking milestone of 1,500 smuggled puppies rescued and rehomed.
The trust, which finds new homes for smuggled puppies throughits Puppy Pilot scheme, says the street value for the 1,500 dogs was approximately £3 million if they had been sold by dealers.
And in Northamptonshire, the trust says it has seen a 114 percent increase in the number of adverts for the top five breeds of puppies most commonly seen in their Puppy Pilot scheme, raising further concern.
The trust is calling for the Government to raise the minimum age for puppies to enter the UK to six months and increase penalties for those caught illegally importing dogs.
The Puppy Pilot scheme was originally set up in 2015 to aid the interception of illegally imported puppies by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at the ports and provide care and rehabilitation for them prior to finding them new homes. Five years on and the ‘pilot’ scheme is still needed more than ever as demand for dogs during the pandemic continues to fuel the trade.
In 2020, Dog Trust saw a 66% increase in dogs rescued through the scheme, compared to the previous year - from 204 in 2019 to 338 in 2020.
A spokesperson for the trust said: "In the five years Dogs Trust has been running the programme, the most common breed to be intercepted and cared for through the scheme has been the Dachshund, with around 425 puppies being rehomed since 2015 – over a quarter (28%) of the total number of dogs.
"The second most popular was the French Bulldog (21%) and the third was the English Bulldog (10%). The puppies that were seized at the border and went into quarantine primarily came from Hungary (16%), Poland (12%), Romania (10%) and Slovakia (5%)," the spokesperson added.
"For more than six years, Dogs Trust has been calling on Government to end puppy smuggling, an illegal practice whereby puppies, generally under the legal minimum of 15 weeks of age, are brought into Great Britain for sale with either no or falsified paperwork and often without having received the necessary treatments, including rabies vaccination. These puppies are forced to travel for long journeys in squalid, cramped conditions with no toilet breaks, no food and insufficient water, so they can be sold to unsuspecting buyers.
"Another disturbing and increasing trend is heavily pregnant dogs being transported illegally into the country in the late stages of pregnancy, causing significant suffering and health implications to both mum and puppies. Not only will importing one dog attract less suspicion at the border, but as responsible buyers will ask to see the puppies with their mother, this tactic allows criminals to give the impression of being legitimate breeders and avoid being reported to Trading Standards."