One in three UK vets have seen puppies they believe to have been illegally imported from overseas in the last year, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The BVA surveyed over 1,000 vets, and found their suspicions had been raised for a number of reasons. These included foreign microchips, the puppy’s age not matching the age given in its pet passport, and health problems such as parvovirus and kennel cough. The most common breeds suspected by vets to have been illegally imported were French Bulldogs (reported by 50 per cent of vets), Pugs (29 per cent), Chihuahuas (16 per cent), and popular crossbreeds (13 per cent).
Vet and BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said, “Illegal importers only care about profit, not puppy welfare. As vets, we’ve heard awful stories of people buying puppies only for their puppy to be dead 24 hours later because of the way it was bred and cared for in its early days outside the UK.
“It’s extremely concerning that we’re seeing so many flat-faced breeds, like French Bulldogs, being brought into the country, given the serious breathing and health issues they already suffer from, let alone the added disease risks associated with illegal imports.”
Illegally imported puppies are usually poorly bred, and have not had the correct vaccinations or health checks. Owners are often unaware of the puppy’s background, and buy a sick puppy that needs extensive veterinary care, or, in the worst cases, euthanasia. Buying puppies bred in the UK isn't always safe either: puppy farms are everywhere in the country and are especially present in Wales.
The number of puppies illegally imported and badly bred every year goes up in the run-up to Christmas because of the higher demand from people who want to place a puppy under the Christmas tree, and as a result shelters and charities deal with an influx of unwanted dogs - leftovers of Christmas litters that failed to sell, or dogs given as a gift to people unprepared to care for one. To underline the problem, Dogs Trust has temporarily changed its name to Socks Trust - asking the public to give socks rather than dogs as presents this year.
The BVA advises anyone considering buying a dog to use the ‘Puppy Contract’, a free online guide that offers advice and outlines both the owner and breeder’s responsibilities when buying and selling a puppy.