Man accused of smuggling puppies through NI

Man accused of smuggling puppies through NI

A man found with more than 50 puppies in a van at Belfast Harbour used his pet transportation business as a front to smuggle animals into Britain, it has been claimed.

Police told Belfast Magistrates’ Court Mark Hirst (44) is involved in an illegal racket where bogus paperwork is used to move dogs from breeding farms in the Republic.

A judge was also told authorities at the port previously refused to allow him to travel on at least 10 previous occasions because of false documentation, the Irish News reported.

Hirst, of Leys Farm, Park Lane in Huddersfield, was charged with five counts of fraud by false representation, acquiring criminal property, and possessing articles used in fraud.

He was detained on August 2 at DAERA facilities in the harbour area while making arrangements to take animals across to Cairnryan in Scotland.

A total of 57 puppies of various breeds, three adult dogs and a cat were recovered from his van.

Searches of the vehicle uncovered vaccination cards completed by a veterinarian based in Co Longford, the court heard.

According to the detective, Hirst travelled to Northern Ireland by ferry on Monday, drove across the border, and then returned with the animals.

“It is the police case that the defendant is involved as a puppy smuggler,” he alleged.

The court heard Hirst does run a legitimate business transporting pets to locations across the UK.

But the detective claimed: “I believe this is a facade to facilitate a criminal enterprise.”

Bail was refused and the accused was remanded into custody until September 1.