Dogs Trust undercover investigation reveals magnitude of puppy smuggling trade

The UK’s largest dog welfare charity is calling on the government to take urgent action to stop illegal importation of puppies as Brexit approaches.

This follows an undercover investigation, which exposes the magnitude and ease of trade routes into the UK for European smugglers.

A new Dogs Trust report has found that underage puppies and heavily pregnant bitches forced to travel over 1000 miles across Europe and into the UK in sickening conditions.

The report, which is the charity’s fourth report into this illegal trade, is released less than six months until the UK’s exist from the EU in order to highlight the significant opportunity the government has to redraw the UK’s pet travel rules and end the cruel trade.

The findings continue to expose gaping loopholes in the existing Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), the rules of which changed in 2012 to allow puppies to enter the UK at a much younger age.

Unscrupulous dealers have exploited this opportunity, and the demand for popular breeds, such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Dachshunds and English Bulldogs has led to an influx of puppies smuggled into the UK often in appalling conditions, from Central and Easter Europe.

Dogs Trust has uncovered a network of corrupt breeders, dealers and vets, who openly admit to breaking the law to deceitfully export puppies. The report also reveals the horrific ways in which puppies are smuggled into the UK, which include:

  • Puppies sedated in cramped conditions and forced into 30-hour journeys over 1,000 miles with little water and no toilet breaks, found hidden amongst their own faeces.
  • Heavily pregnant bitches caged in sickening conditions and forced to travel gruelling journeys to allow for the puppies to be born in the UK – young, ‘UK born’ puppies amount to quicker sales.
  • Corrupt vets falsify passports and provide fake vaccination stamps to enable puppies to travel while they are younger than legally allowed, and therefore more desirable, but unprotected against diseases such as rabies.

Dogs Trusts Snetterton’s Rehoming Centre Manager, Diane McLelland-Taylor, says: “Our investigations have revealed shocking welfare conditions. There is no regard for the lives of these vulnerable puppies, who are subjected to gruelling journeys of more than 30 hours in hot, cramped and filthy conditions with no toilet breaks and very little water. Some don’t survive the journey, and those who do may have physical health and behavioural issues due to their poor start in life.

“Puppy smugglers are only concerned with making a profit, and the UK provides an attractive market because the high demand for fashionable breeds converts into fast internet sales. Importers are exploiting the lack of visual checks being made at borders, and insufficient penalties for illegally importing puppies mean there is no real deterrent to these abhorrent crimes.

“With Brexit around the corner this is an opportunity of a lifetime to put robust measures in place that protect dogs and the public. We urge the government to take forward our clear recommendations to overhaul our pet travel legislation and increase the penalties for those caught fuelling this despicable trade.”

Dogs Trust is asking members of the public to contact their MP via the Dogs Trust website to help put an end to the cruel puppy smuggling trade. To find out more and contact your MP, visit