Brexit provides an opportunity for us to ‘crackdown on puppy smuggling’, says RSPCA

As MPs discussed puppy smuggling in Parliament this week, the RSPCA says that Brexit is an opportunity to crackdown on the growing problem.

Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston led a Parliamentary debate on the issue, an increasing problem in England and Wales as the demand for fashionable breeds and designer crossbreeds’ soars.

The RSPCA – whose Scrap the Puppy Trade campaign has, for four years, been calling for more action to crackdown on the unscrupulous trade in puppies – are calling on MPs to use the opportunity of Brexit to crackdown on the problem.

RSPCA assistant director of external affairs, David Bowels, said: “We’ve welcomed moved by the government to tackle the puppy trade, including the introduction of new licensing legislation in October and a pledge to ban third party sales from 2020. But we believe that more needs to be done to tackle the illegal smuggling of puppies from abroad.

“We believe that Brexit provides us with an opportunity to further crackdown on illegal trade. By raising the age at which a puppy can be imported into the country – from 15 weeks to 24 weeks- and reducing controls such as tick treatment, we believe puppies entering this country would be happier and healthier.

“We also believe there needs to be more enforcement at our borders to ensure that checks are carried out on imports of puppies. Currently, it is too easy for smugglers to avoid detection as easily as travelling late at night or hiding shipments of puppies behind cargo such as bales of sawdust.”

The RSPCA – which has campaigned tirelessly for an increase in maximum sentences under the Animal Welfare Act – is also continuing the call for this move to help tackle dealers and sellers who continue to flout the laws and make huge amounts of money.

Puppy smugglers have abused the Pet Passport system which was changed in 2012 to allow open access to the UK from Europe to import puppies for the pet trade via this loophole.

The number of puppies coming into the country has risen dramatically over the years particularly from central and eastern Europe.

Mr Bowels added: “We simply don’t know how vat the trade in puppies is in Britain, but we believe it is at least 800,000 animals a year. Sadly, a rising demand in puppies means that responsible, reputable breeders who pride themselves on high levels of animal welfare cannot meet demand and we’re seeing more and more puppies being illegally smuggled into the country from abroad or being bred on puppy farms here at home.

“These dogs face serious health problems and behavioural issues, which often affect the unsuspecting families who take the on. We believe more than 80,000 puppies a year are coming into the country from places such as Ireland, Romania and Hungary.”

RSPCA operations at ports have discovered large numbers of puppies being smuggled into the country in vans before being passed on to sellers who wll advertise the dogs online as ‘home-bred’ family pets.

In November 2016, the RSPCA intercepted a shipment of 96 puppies at Holyhead Port destined for the British market.

The charity is urging the public to play their part in tackling this trade by taking a rescue dog instead of buying a puppy. For those who want to buy a puppy, welfare experts urge them to use the Puppy Contract to them responsibly source a happy, healthy dog.

For more information you can visit www.rspca.org.uk.