Concerns mount over rise in illegal puppy sales

Concerns mount over rise in illegal puppy sales

The proportion of puppies being sold with passports more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, with a growing proportion of those also under the minimum legal import age, an RVC study has found.

The pandemic prompted a boom in dog ownership and while new laws have been called for would-be owners have also been urged to carry out their own research before making a purchase.

Lead author Rowena Packer said: “This is deeply worrying and requires urgent measures to avoid associated welfare harms upon the puppies themselves, but also their mothers outside of the UK and to public health, given infectious disease risks posed by importation to owners and other dogs in the UK.

“Measures to improve puppy buying include continuing efforts to raise awareness and change the behaviour of prospective puppy buyers, but also legislative change, including raising the minimum age of dogs at importation, to prevent the greatest harms.”

The analysis, which has been published in the journal Animals, compared puppies aged less than 16 weeks that were purchased from private sellers between 23 March and 31 December 2021, with the same periods in the preceding two years.

It found that the proportion of puppies being purchased with passports rose from 4.1% in 2019 to 10.4% in 2021.

More than 89% were also acquired before the age of 13 weeks, below the minimum legal import age of 15 weeks, which the study suggested “likely indicates an increase in illegal importations of puppies to the UK” over that period.

The report said a lack of progress on the Kept Animals Bill – which was finally dropped last month – along with insufficient penalties for offenders and a failure to increase minimum import ages, meant there was “a reliance upon changing consumer behaviour” to tackle the problem.

The illegal trade in puppies also spiked in Northern Ireland Vo Down man Aaron Phillips last week found guilty of  trying to ship stolen dogs from the Irish Republic to England via Belfast in a multi-agency cross-border operation.

The Co Down man is due to be sentenced this week after 34 dogs were found in the back of his van in the docks area of the city at the height of the Covid pandemic in June 2020.

He has already admitted a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs, some of which were so small they were falling through the gaps in the bars of their cages.

Phillips was tracked and apprehended as part of the UK and Ireland-wide Operation Delphin, aimed at stamping out the lucrative illegal trade of puppies across the Irish Sea.