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LGA - Councils warn of illegal puppy trade

Councils are warning people not to be taken in by illegal puppy dealers this Christmas.  

Everyone knows that a dog is for life and not just for Christmas – but families hoping for a lifetime companion could be left devastated with puppies bought from illegal puppy dealers, council leaders are warning.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is highlighting that some families have seen new pets bought from the illegal puppy trade needing to go into quarantine, becoming seriously ill or dying within days or even hours of being introduced to them.

Puppies brought into the country illegally have often been bred on puppy farms before being taken from their mothers too young, leaving them susceptible to illness. They endure appalling conditions as they are transported hundreds of miles across Europe, with some not surviving the journey.

Trading standards officers in Northamptonshire have recently highlighted cases of puppies being illegally brought to the UK from Slovakia and Moldova, while officers in Coventry discovered an American Bulldog who had been imported too young. Vaccinations are only effective on puppies from 15 weeks, so those brought in younger than this need to go into quarantine to make sure that diseases such as rabies aren't brought into the country.

In Warwickshire a dog owner recently had to pay over £1000 in quarantine fees after a vet alerted Trading Standards to the fact a Rottweiler puppy, who was suffering from dehydration, was too young to have been imported. By law, pet owners who want to keep their dog are required to pay quarantine fees, landing families with hefty bills and taking puppies away when they've only just started to settle in.

Local councils work with animal charities and other agencies to look after the welfare of animals in their areas and to enforce laws intended to stop diseases like rabies from being brought into the country. Powers include placing animals in quarantine if they don't have the necessary vaccinations and pursuing the arrest of those responsible for illegally importing puppies.

Cllr Nick Worth, the LGA's Regulatory Services spokesman, said:

"We know that some families will be keen to welcome a new puppy to the family at Christmas time, but I urge people to find a pet from a reputable breeder or a rehoming centre.

"Unwittingly buying illegal puppies can not only end in upset for families when their new pet becomes ill or worse, but the money funds this cruel trade that sees puppies removed from their mothers and forced to endure long journeys in horrific conditions at just weeks old.

"You can find advice online about buying or adopting a puppy, or by speaking to your vet. If buying from a breeder, make sure you see the puppies with their mum, find out about the animal's history, and if you have any concerns, get in touch with your local council's animal welfare team."

People can help tackle the illegal puppy trade and avoid an upsetting experience by following this advice:

  • Look for clues that the puppy was actually born and reared there, such as food bowls and bedding. If the puppy appears scared in its surroundings, it may not have been brought up there.

  • Ask to see certificates of vaccinations and microchipping records.

  • Check for any signs of illness.

  • Avoid anywhere advertising more than three breeds.

  • Spend plenty of time with the puppy – you should not feel rushed.

  • Make sure you see the puppies with their mum, and that she is healthy and happy.

  • Ask your vet for reputable breeders, or rehome a dog.

The LGA is urging anyone with concerns when they visit a puppy to contact their local council.

An investigation by the Dogs Trust in 2015 uncovered shocking examples from the trade, including a breeder in Romania keeping four-week-old puppies away from their mums in barren faeces-ridden cages, and Lithuanian puppies being sedated and hidden to smuggle them across borders.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, commented:

"Alarmingly, data collected by the Belgian Government over the course of five years showed the mortality rates of puppies imported into Belgium to be significantly higher than for dogs bred in Belgium. This demonstrates that smuggled puppies undoubtedly experience a traumatic start to life, which impacts on their health and can even cause death.

"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. Dogs Trust is urgently calling for a joined up approach and Government support to help animal welfare charities, councils and concerned individuals to fight the puppy smuggling scandal.""

Notes

"A dog is for life and not just for Christmas" is a Dogs Trust registered trademark.

The Dogs Trust 2015 investigation was its second looking at the illegal puppy trade; their reports are available at www.dogstrust.org.uk/whats-happening/issues-campaigns/puppy-smuggling/

Case Studies:

Northamptonshire: Trading Standards officers in Northamptonshire have highlighted two cases of puppies being brought into the UK illegally since October. The first was a Slovakian puppy that had to be quarantined for 21 days and the second was a dog from Moldova that will now spend four months in quarantine.

/www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/en/news/Newsreleases/Pages/Trading-Standards-warning-about-illegally-imported-puppies.aspx

Coventry: Coventry City Council Trading Standards have highlighted a recent case where an American Bulldog purchased from the Republic of Ireland as a pet, was found to be too young to be legally imported into the UK and, when discovered, needed to be quarantined for four weeks and had to be re-vaccinated against rabies.

www.coventry.gov.uk/news/article/1507/illegally_imported_dog_quarantined

Warwickshire: Warwickshire County Council's Trading Standards Service has warned consumers who unwittingly purchase puppies illegally smuggled from abroad that they could face an unexpected bill for more than £1000 for quarantine fees after officers were contacted by a local vet who had been asked to examine a Rottweiler puppy that had fallen ill with dehydration. The vet quickly realised that the puppy had been illegally imported and alerted Trading Standards. The animal, which was too young to enter the country legally, had not been vaccinated against rabies.

http://news.warwickshire.gov.uk/blog/2015/09/15/puppy-buyers-who-get-it-wrong-face-1000-bill/

Cornwall: The council has been carrying out a public awareness campaign about the purchasing of puppies, both in relation to illegally imported puppies and those produced by low-welfare ‘puppy farms'.

www.cornwall.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/council-news-room/media-releases/news-from-2015/news-from-december-2015/pug-puppy-sale-advertisement-pulled-following-scam-suspicions/

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