Rabies risk as illicit puppy farms target UK

A still from a Dogs Trust video of dogs being kept in breeding kennels. Picture: PA

A still from a Dogs Trust video of dogs being kept in breeding kennels. Picture: PA

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A CHARITY has uncovered a “high level of corruption” and “shocking” animal welfare following its investigation into the trade of puppies from Eastern Europe to the UK.

The Dogs Trust has released footage which it says shows criminal breeders, vets and transporters in Hungary and Lithuania abusing the Pet Travel Scheme, which allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets to enter Britain without quarantine.

European vets were caught on camera creating false pet passports and rabies vaccination records.

The charity revealed that under-age puppies slipped through the net undeclared due to a lack of checks at ferry ports and borders, enabling breeders to make up to £100,000 a year.

It also found that some puppies are forced to make journeys of more than 1,000 miles in appalling conditions without suitable treatments or vaccinations, increasing the risk of spreading diseases such as rabies in the UK.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust veterinary director, said: “While ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ remains our famous slogan, a puppy remains on the top of many wish lists. Unsuspecting British shoppers will continue to buy puppies online which may have been brought into the country illegally, meaning the risk of unknowingly bringing a puppy from Eastern Europe with diseases and behavioural problems into the home is very real.

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“The number of declared puppies entering Great Britain between 2011 and 2013 from Lithuania has increased by 780 per cent and risen 663 per cent from Hungary. This rise does not even scratch the surface if you consider the number of puppies that are illegally smuggled and not accounted for in these figures.

“Dogs Trust is urging anyone considering a puppy to stop and think, ‘Where on earth is my dog coming from?’.”

Dogs Trust is urgently calling on the government to have a co-ordinated approach to the enforcement of the Pet Travel Scheme, from ferry companies and the Eurotunnel to government agencies.

It also wants the introduction of a strict penalty charge and deterrent for those caught illegally bringing dogs into Britain.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Responsibility for stopping the illegal movement of puppies begins in the country where they are born, and we are writing to the authorities in Lithuania and Hungary to remind them of their duty to ensure passports are correct and the welfare of pets intended for sale is safeguarded.”

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We are very concerned by the lucrative puppy trade which sees puppies being imported into the country to be sold to unsuspecting families who assume they are getting a healthy, well-cared-for young animal when this could not be further from the truth.

“Many of these poor animals come from puppy farms where conditions are atrocious and in-breeding and disease are rife. Few pups are veterinary-checked or vaccinated prior to sale and any paperwork stating so may be fake.”

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