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Fake Puppy Smuggle Highlights Failures in Pet Travel Scheme

27 July 2015
Dogs Trust

UK - An undercover investigation by Dogs Trust into the puppy smuggling trade revealed that underage and unvaccinated puppies continue to travel illegally from Eastern Europe to the UK.

The charity also ‘smuggled’ a stuffed toy dog in a carry-crate from Europe onto British soil multiple occasions without any enforcer identifying her as fake – begging the question, what else could have been in that crate and why is it still so easy to smuggle puppies?

Puppies smuggled to the UK are often sold online to unsuspecting members of the public by commercial dealers and breeders.  

The charity first highlighted the influx of illegally landed puppies from Eastern Europe in November 2014, following a relaxation of the Pet Travel Scheme in 2012.

These findings were then presented to DEFRA, who heralded the already-planned changes to the Pet Travel Scheme (which came into force on 29 December 2014) as the solution.

Dogs Trust had strong suspicions that the changes would be ineffective - the findings of our second investigation have proven us correct. The illegal puppy trade continues to boom and the potential risks to human and dog health and welfare remain.

Dogs Trust’s second undercover investigation has gathered further evidence of corruption from vets and breeders in Lithuania and Romania, and the worrying ease in which commercial transporters can illegally bring puppies into Great Britain under a scheme designed for pet owners.

Our experiment with Mitzi, the stuffed toy dog, shows the urgent need for visual checks of pets travelling with passports. In the absence of any physical sight check at the borders, corrupt dealers can smuggle underage, sickly, or undocumented puppies into Great Britain – bringing with them a risk of disease.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust commented: “Dogs Trust has twice now presented DEFRA with evidence of the illegal puppy trade, both from those smuggling puppies and those exploiting the Pet Travel Scheme for profit.

"We have provided detailed recommendations which if implemented, would act as a great step forward in curbing the problem. We are hugely disappointed with DEFRA’s response. As our evidence demonstrates the Pet Travel Scheme amendments in December 2014 have been ineffective, we urge all the appropriate agencies to take the findings of our two investigations seriously. The implications of the puppy smuggling trade are huge; for consumers who are being duped and the puppies that suffer horribly, plus the risk of disease that is kicking at our shores.”

Paula added: “We need a joined up approach and Government support, it cannot be left to animal welfare charities and concerned individuals to fight the puppy smuggling scandal alone.”

For more on Dog Trust's findings, please visit

ThePetSite News Desk

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