The import of puppies into the UK has risen “substantially” during lockdown, according to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
The government body’s annual statistics revealed that the number of dogs being commercially imported into the country has increased by more than 50% due to lockdown.
The number of dogs imported from the EU rose by 52% over the year, while puppy imports from Romania shot up by 67% to meet demand.
In 2019, there were 39,562 puppies imported into the county, with that figure rising to 60,190 in 2020.
In response to the demand for puppies, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) launched its #ForPupsSake campaign to pressure the government to increase the minimum age that puppies can be brought into the UK from 15 weeks to 24 weeks as well as introducing better enforcement checks at the borders.
David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of public affairs, said: “We’re alarmed but unsurprised by the huge increase.
“We’ve seen the demand for dogs skyrocket during lockdown and, perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s led to a spike in the number of illicit breeders and dealers exploiting dogs and conning the public in order to cash in.”
He added: “Our frontline investigations into unscrupulous breeders and sellers have uncovered organised criminal gangs who import puppies from overseas – often from Ireland and Eastern European countries such as Romania – to sell on to unsuspecting buyers here in the UK.
“These latest statistics from Defra just goes to show the scale of this problem, and these figures don’t account for the vast numbers of dogs we suspect are being illegally trafficked into the country in addition to these.”