The Dog Trust has evidence of hundreds of designer dogs smuggled in appalling conditions into the UK from eastern Europe
Thousands of designer puppies are being smuggled into the UK every year as part of a 100m black market that could expand further because of pressure on border controls, a leading dog welfare charity has warned.
Dachshunds, chow-chows, pugs and French and English bulldogs are regularly being brought illegally into the UK from central and eastern Europe with falsified pet passport data and fake vaccination records boosting the risk of foreign canine diseases spreading to the UK dog population according to the charity Dogs Trust.
The puppies typically underage are transported in inhumane conditions in cars, vans and minibuses for thousands of miles to be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting consumers in the UK. The majority are brought from breeding farms in Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, smuggled into Britain via Eurotunnel shuttle trains (arriving in Folkestone) and ferries (arriving in Dover) in the small hours of the morning.
Figures from the Dogs Trust reveal that one in every 10 puppies smuggled into the UK will die within their first three weeks here. The charity first highlighted the influx of puppies from central and eastern Europe in 2014, following a relaxation of the rules of the then pet travel scheme in 2012 for the purposes of EU harmonisation. Over six months 382 illegally imported puppies were seized at Dover and Folkestone although no prosecutions ensued but the trust says this is the tip of the iceberg.
Since December 2015, the trust the UKs largest dog welfare charity, which cares for nearly 17,000 stray and abandoned dogs each year has also provided care and support for illegally imported puppies through their time in quarantine. The RSPCA is supporting the trusts new campaign launched on Thursday to make consumers aware of the issue.
Dogs Trust says its investigations have revealed the lack of resources available to the agencies based at the ports. It fears many puppies are entering the country only because there is not sufficient funding to provide adequate staffing at the ports or for the costs of quarantine.
Deciding to get a puppy is a huge responsibility that should not be a snap decision, said Runa Hanaghan, the charitys deputy veterinary director. Nobody would dream of buying one if they knew it would have to go through appalling conditions to get to them. The figures from our landmark quarantine pilot make for grim reading; around one in 10 smuggled puppies are at risk of dying within their first three weeks in the country and those that do survive have suffered terribly in the process of getting here.