Dogs Trust has welcomed the recommendation by the EFRA Committee to increase the age at which puppies can be brought into the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) from 15 weeks to six months. The dog welfare charity believes that, if implemented, the new recommendation would eliminate the abhorrent illegal puppy trade overnight.
They have long campaigned against the illegal importation of puppies to the UK and introduced their quarantine initiative at the end of last year. This has so far provided care and support for over 300 illegally imported puppies seized by enforcement authorities at the border which otherwise would face being put down or turned away.
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, comments, "One of the big challenges is the nature of the checks being carried out at the ports, with a current emphasis on administrative rather than visual checks. Puppy dealers transport puppies under the legal age in order that they are still ‘cute and fluffy’ when they are sold to unsuspecting UK buyers. By increasing the age at which puppies can travel to the UK it removes their attractiveness to buyers. Dogs Trust also believes that dogs entering the UK should not only be vaccinated, but also pass a rabies blood test and then have a wait period consistent with the incubation of rabies before entry. This would bring puppies up to at least six months of age, which is the EFRA recommendation."
EFRA also recommended that anyone breeding two or more litters a year be licensed as a breeder and that those falling below this threshold be registered with their Local Authority.
Paula adds, "We recognise that one accidental litter is always a possibility, however a second litter is likely to be deliberate breeding. The charity therefore believes that licensing is entirely appropriate. We believe that all forms of advertising, including online, should be required to display the seller’s registration or licence number and agree with EFRA that a publicly accessible list of registered and licensed breeders and sellers be kept to enable websites and buyers to check their legitimacy.
"As part of our work as Chair of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), we are very aware of the many thousands of animals that are advertised for sale on classified websites every day. The EFRA recommendation that the PAAG Minimum Standards be made mandatory for all classified websites advertising pets for sale, is a significant step forward in recognising the changing world in which we live in. Currently only six websites advertising pets voluntarily follow the PAAG Minimum Standards, allowing ‘bad sellers’ to simply post their adverts elsewhere."
The EFRA Committee is also recommending an increase in sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty. Currently a person who injures or kills a dog can only receive a maximum custodial sentence of six months. Dogs Trust strongly urges the Government to follow up on the recommendation and increase sentences in line with the five year penalty available to courts in Northern Ireland.