West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper is calling for action on the cruel puppy smuggling trade as the charity Dogs Trust warns the public about the perils of buying dogs via online adverts after rescuing dozens of smuggled pups since the start of lockdown worth tens of thousands of pounds. The dogs were destined to be sold on to unsuspecting UK buyers during the peak of the lockdown puppy-buying rush.  

MP Rosie recently attended an MP webinar on Puppy Smuggling: Business as Usual for Illegal Importers where she learned more about the rise in demand and continued her support for Dogs Trust.   

Since the beginning of lockdown on 23 March, when demand for puppies began increasing rapidly, Dogs Trust has rescued 43 dogs via its Puppy Pilot scheme* that were illegally imported into the UK from central and eastern Europe, with an estimated street value of £80,000.   

The charity has also saved 12 heavily pregnant mums, who have given birth to 53 puppies worth around an additional £100,000 to cruel smugglers.  

The latest innocent victims are a group of six terrified pups, found covered in sticky oil in the back of a van, that would have been sold on to UK dog lovers as puppy smugglers continue to operate and take advantage of the demand for dogs during the coronavirus lockdown.  

The puppies were seized at Dover port during lockdown, having been illegally imported from Romania – underage and after a journey that would have taken more than 24 hours – despite the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the UK preventing non-essential travel.  

That is why the UK’s largest dog welfare charity is again urging the Government to act now to end this cruel trade, as promised in its recent manifesto.  

The three Maltese, two Havanese and one Bichon Frise pups, aged at around 11 weeks old, were found in an appalling condition, drenched in oil and suffering from diarrhoea.   

The six puppies had to be shaved because of the oil spill, which happened due to unsafe travelling conditions in the back of the van during the arduous journey across borders. They are now in Dogs Trust’s care and will be rehomed responsibly when they are fit and able.  

Dogs Trust believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg of this cruel trade and is warning potential dog owners; Don’t Be Dogfished, as it is all too easy to be scammed into buying dogs like these via online adverts.  

With millions of us working from home, we have seen a huge spike in demand for puppies, with Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increase by 120% when lockdown was announced, according to data from Propellernet.   

That is why we have been asking the nation to consider whether now really is the right time to be getting a dog and, if it is, to make sure they are sourcing their puppy responsibly without falling victim to illegal puppy smugglers.  

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust’s Veterinary Director, said: 
“It is absolutely heart-breaking that we continue to see dogs being illegally imported into the country, often in terrible conditions to make huge profits for cruel puppy smugglers.   

“We might be in the midst of a pandemic, but these devious sellers will still use every trick in the book to scam unsuspecting dog lovers.  

“Sadly, it’s all too easy to be Dogfished and it can be very difficult to know if you are buying a puppy that has been smuggled. We would advise you to always see a puppy with and interacting with their mum and go and see it more than once.  

“Ask lots of questions, and ask to see vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract. If you have any doubts or it feels too good to be true, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller.”  

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“I’m very pleased to support Dogs Trust in calling for an end to cruel puppy trade. These illegally imported puppies suffer the most harrowing of journeys at the hands of these unscrupulous dealers.  

If my West Lancashire constituents are considering buying a puppy I would strongly urge you to consider the guidance put forward by the Dogs Trust and thoroughly research who and where you are buying from.   

Smuggled puppies often haven’t had the important early life experiences of socialisation with people and habituation with everyday objects which help prevent them being fearful in later life. They are often forced to endure long journeys from Central and Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, with little to no food or water and no toilet breaks.  

The Puppy Pilot scheme has rescued 1,167 dogs since it began in December 2015 with most popular breeds including Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, Maltese and even larger breeds such as Chow Chows.   

The story of all these dogs and thousands more like them is why Dogs Trust is calling on immediate action from the Government, after it promised in its manifesto to crack down on puppy smuggling.  

Dogs Trust is calling for:  

  1. A requirement for every dog to have a rabies blood test before entry into the UK, together with a wait period which is in line with the incubation period of rabies.  This would significantly the increase the minimum age for importing dogs and help to stop the trade. 
  2. Visual checks at ports carried out by enforcement agencies with animal welfare expertise, with physical checks where necessary. 
  3. Stronger penalties for puppy smugglers caught illegally importing dogs into the country which will act as a deterrent for this abhorrent trade.

Sadly, it is all too easy to be scammed into buying a dog which may not be what it seems. We call this Dogfishing. Remember:    

  • Always see puppy and mum together at their home and make sure to visit more than once, even if it via video call due to coronavirus restrictions. 
  • Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more. 
  • If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller. 
  • For more information and advice about how to avoid being misled when buying a puppy advertised online, search ‘Dogfished’ or visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/dogfished 

For more information on how to avoid being Dogfished, visit www.dogfished.org.uk/dogfished  

*The Puppy Pilot is a scheme established by Dogs Trust to aid the interception of dogs seized by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at the ports and provide care and rehabilitation for them prior to finding them new homes. 

About Dogs Trust 

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and cares for 15,000 dogs across its network of 20 rehoming centres in the UK and one in Dublin. Dogs Trust has a non-destruction policy and will never put a healthy dog to sleep. The charity also focuses its efforts on understanding dogs and sharing that knowledge with the wider public to prevent problem behaviours that can result in relinquishment or abandonment. We are working towards the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction. 


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