Defra takes the health and welfare of dogs coming into the UK very seriously. We share Dogs Trust’s concerns about illegal puppy trafficking, where commercial operators have abused European Union (EU) pet travel rules to traffic underage puppies into the UK, using falsified pet passports to conceal the animals’ true ages.
Defra has zero tolerance for this abuse of the Pet Travel Scheme. Defra has published guidance for owners on buying a pet. This contains guidelines such as buying from a reputable supplier and viewing the animal and its documentation, and also highlights the trade in illegal imports. A wider public communications campaign is also being planned.
We have increased resourcing at major UK ports. The UK carries out more checks at the border than most other EU Member States and penalties are in place where people are found to be breaking these rules. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is working in partnership with Dogs Trust, enforcement bodies and transport carriers to identify non-compliant animals destined for Dover and Folkestone ports. This partnership began in December 2015 and has since then resulted in over 800 puppies being seized and placed into quarantine.
Defra has also launched an intelligence-led Task Force to work on this issue. We are working with a wide range of stakeholders (including Dogs Trust) to develop long term solutions to the illegal puppy trade.
Defra considers it extremely important to raise the profile of this issue at an EU level. In 2017, an EU Platform on Animal Welfare was set up, and the UK is a member of this. It contains a specific, smaller subgroup on the dog trade. Defra considers this subgroup to be an important initiative and our Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer will speak at a conference on the Online Puppy Trade in Brussels in November, which is affiliated with this subgroup.
Defra has in recent months held a consultation on a proposed ban on commercial third party puppy and kitten sales in England. This would mean that anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must either deal directly with the breeder or with one of the nation’s many animal rehoming centres. It is hoped that this will drive up animal welfare standards and deter those motivated to traffic puppies into the UK and sell them on for financial gain. This consultation closed in September and is now being reviewed.
We welcome the latest Dogs Trust report and will be reviewing the evidence it presents to consider what further action can be taken to end the illegal puppy trade.