From chow chows to French bulldogs, these saddening photographs show some of the illegally imported puppies being held at a quarantine facility in a secret location in England after a tortuous journey into the country.
Britain has seen a huge increase of dogs illegally arriving from abroad during the coronavirus pandemic after demand and street values both soared, with Dogs Trust reporting a 66 per cent rise last year compared to 2019.
Many of the dogs are being imported from Eastern European countries, taken from their parents too young and enduring long journeys in poor conditions before they enter the UK under the current legal age of 15 weeks.
Campaigners want the UK Government to raise the age of imported puppies to six months to make them less desirable – along with tougher penalties, with prosecuted smugglers currently often only facing minor penalties.
Among the puppies pictured at a Dogs Trust rehoming facility in an unspecified location yesterday were illegally imported cocker spaniels, chow chows, French bulldogs, Maltese Terriers, Dachshunds and Havanese breeds.
It comes after former Love Island contestant Olivia Bower revealed in March that Instagram influencers are being offered free puppies in exchange for a post online, with many of them coming from puppy farms based abroad.
An illegally imported chow chow puppy in a kennel at a Dogs Trust rehoming facility in a secret location in England yesterday
An illegally imported cocker spaniel puppy in a kennel at a Dogs Trust rehoming facility in England is pictured yesterday
Maltese Terriers and cocker spaniels are held in cages at a quarantine facility in a secret location in England yesterday
Dogs Trust has seen a marked increase by 66 per cent of illegally imported puppies during the coronavirus pandemic
Dogs Trust said it had rescued 1,500 smuggled puppies through its Puppy Pilot scheme in just five years, adding that many had been imported in ‘terrible conditions – and this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg’.
Since the rescue scheme began in late 2015, the street value of the puppies intercepted is more than £3million – and the charity is now urging dog buyers to do their research to avoid inadvertently fuelling the trade.
The Puppy Pilot scheme was set up to help the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) with intercepting illegally imported puppies by at UK ports, and providing care and rehabilitation for them prior to finding new homes.
In 2020, Dogs Trust saw a 66 per cent increase in dogs rescued through the scheme, compared to the previous year – from 204 in 2019 to 338 in 2020. The average age in 2020 was eight weeks, compared to 11 weeks in 2019.
The legal age for puppies to enter the country is 15 weeks from another EU country and the youngest ones seized were just four weeks old, who are too young to have been taken away from their mother or transported far.
A staff member checks on illegally imported puppies in kennels at a quarantine facility in an unspecified location yesterday
Many of the dogs are imported from Eastern European countries after being taken from their parents too young
The dogs often enduring long journeys in poor conditions before entering the UK under the current legal age of 15 weeks
Dogs Trust are calling on the U.K. government to raise the age of imported puppies to 6 months to make them less desirable
The most common breed to be intercepted and cared for through the scheme has been the Dachshund, with around 425 puppies being rehomed since 2015 – over a quarter (28 per cent) of the total number of dogs.
The second most popular was the French Bulldog (21 per cent). The puppies that were seized at the border and went into quarantine primarily came from Hungary (16 per cent), Poland (12 per cent) and Romania (10 per cent).
Dogs Trust said the puppies are often brought into Britain for sale with either no or falsified paperwork and often without having received the necessary treatments, including rabies vaccination.
Campaigners said they are also forced to travel for long journeys in squalid, cramped conditions with no toilet breaks, no food and insufficient water, so they can be sold to unsuspecting buyers.
Another increasing trend is heavily pregnant dogs being transported illegally into the country in the late stages of pregnancy, causing significant suffering and health implications to both the mother and puppies.
Campaigners want to see tougher penalties for smugglers with prosecuted cases often only bringing minor penalties
An illegally imported Maltese Terrier puppy sits under a heat lamp in a kennel while held at a quarantine facility yesterday
Illegally imported cocker spaniel puppies are held at a quarantine facility in an unspecified location in England yesterday
Maltese Terriers are among the illegally imported puppies being held at the quarantine facility in a secret location yesterday
Since August 2017 Dogs Trust has cared for 41 pregnant mothers through Puppy Pilot. Some 217 puppies have been born, of which 41 died. It is illegal to transport a pregnant dog in the last 10 per cent of her pregnancy.
On Sunday, Boris Johnson promised a ‘ruthless’ crackdown on pet crime. Demand for dogs during the pandemic triggered a massive rise in thefts, with some breeds fetching up to £4,000 each – four times pre-Covid prices.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has set up a taskforce that the Prime Minister said would ensure that the ‘criminal justice system is dealing properly with anyone who is so malicious as to steal a dog’.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson – who owns a white, male Jack Russell cross called Dilyn with his fiancée Carrie Symonds – said the crime is too often dismissed as trivial and on a par with shoplifting.
But he added: ‘I believe strongly in the broken windows theory – that if you want to stop serious crime, then you must also be ruthless in dealing with offences that might seem second order to some, but which in reality cause huge pain and grief to the victims.’
Illegally imported Maltese Terriers are held at a quarantine facility after being seized in an unspecified location yesterday
Dog campaigners said many had been imported in ‘terrible conditions – and this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg’
Dogs Trust said it had rescued 1,500 smuggled puppies through its Puppy Pilot scheme in just five years
An illegally imported French bulldog puppy is held at a quarantine facility in an unspecified location yesterday
Since the start of the year, police have recovered 27 stolen dogs in Hertfordshire, 26 in Surrey, 83 in Suffolk and 80 in Carmarthenshire.
Dog ownership has soared since the first lockdown, with 2.2 million people getting one in the first six months of the pandemic. But new figures have also revealed that dog thefts have risen by a fifth in the past year.
Data from 37 of Britain’s 45 police forces shows an estimated 2,438 dogs were reported stolen last year, a 19 per cent increase on 2019 when there were 2,026.
Charities believe the overall figure is significantly higher. Volunteer group DogLost reported a 170 per cent leap in the number of pets reported stolen from 172 in 2019 to 465 last year.