1,200 ‘designer puppies’ seized at UK borders in appalling conditions
The Daily Mirror and the Dogs Trust have been investigating the illegal smuggling of puppies into the UK and have uncovered the huge numbers involved, along with the appalling conditions in which these dogs are transported.
Designer puppies seized
The undercover investigation discovered that around 1,200 ‘designer puppies’ were seized at UK borders in just 2 years, all with the intention of being sold on to unsuspecting buyers.
The Dogs Trust obtained the figures from the Governments Animal and Plant Health Agency, which showed the full amount of illegally imported puppies intercepted in the UK in the last 2 years, with over half coming via the Dover Port in Kent (377) and the Channel Tunnel entry point in Folkstone (360). This number is just those intercepted. The true number either successfully entering the UK or sadly dying on their journey here, is unknown.
Under age and very distressed
Trucks from Eastern Europe, filled with puppies below the legal age for transportation and younger than the ages shown on their paper work, enter the UK in extremely distressing conditions. Most of the dogs are drugged in order to sneak them through border check points and many were found in cramped cages in sweltering hot lorries, in abandoned ports.
The rise in popularity of certain pedigree dogs such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Dachshunds, has fuelled the demand for such breeds and in turn, criminal gangs are cashing in; exploiting the lax border controls and exploiting the puppies suffering in the process.
Sadly, it’s no surprise these dogs are being traded in this way, given that some of the small teacup breeds (so small, puppies can fit in a tea cup) can be bought for £20 in Eastern European countries, but sold for over £1200 here in the UK. With such lucrative profits on offer, even small-scale operations can make thousands of pounds every week by illegally trading these dogs.
In the UK, the maximum amount of dogs a person can transport, is 5, providing they have been microchipped, vaccinated for tapeworm and rabies and are at least 12 weeks old. However, in 2017, the charity, Dogs Trust, undertook a 6-month investigation into a network of illegal puppy farmers, dealers and vets in Poland and Lithuania. They recorded footage of puppies and dogs being mistreated and kept in squalor; crammed into cages and piled one on top of the other and then packed inside lorries and vans.
The Dogs Trust also claimed that puppies as young as 4 weeks old and still with their umbilical cords attached, were crammed into the tiny cages and forced to endure the 30-hour journey through to the UK.
Drugs and false paperwork
In order to pass through the border check points, dogs were drugged in order to sneak them through. In one video clip, a corrupt vet explains how to inject the drug before a check points so that they’re quiet and won’t be noticed. She then offers the investigator further medication to rouse the puppy once it’s passed the check point.
On the undercover recordings, one smuggler boasts how he earns around £890 for every single puppy he sells and how falsifying the paperwork is the key to getting around the UK’s dog importation rules.
One smuggler from Poland explained how he had 5 Yorkshire Terriers seized from him as his paperwork said the pups were 12 weeks old, yet because they hardly had any adult teeth, they were in reality around 8 weeks old. He shows one puppy to the reporter and boasts how because the dog has good teeth, its paperwork can show that the dog is older than it really is.
Puppy Pilot Scheme
From November 2015 to July 2018, 836 puppies were put into quarantine by the Dogs Trust’s ‘Puppy Pilot Scheme’ and thankfully, nearly all of them have now been re-homed.
From the dogs seized, there was a litter of puppies that were kept in darkness in a small cupboard under the stairs in a home in Eastern Europe, never seeing daylight, and 7 Cane Corso puppies that had had their tails docked and ears cropped using scissors and vodka (as an anaesthetic) and were then left with infected wounds.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency works alongside Kent County Council and the Dogs Trust to rehome the seized dogs, spoke on the matter: “We take the issue of illegal trafficking of puppies very seriously and are gathering intelligence to help us understand the size of the problem.”
Government action required
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of the Dogs Trust has warned buyers in the UK to do their research before buying a puppy. She said: “We would urge everyone to do their research before buying a puppy and we urge the Government to make the Pet Travel Scheme more robust and effective…. Illegally importing puppies needs to end now. We urge the Government to increase the penalties”