The charity is calling on the government to raise the minimum age for puppies to enter the UK to six months and to increase penalties for those caught illegally importing dogs.
Originally set up in 2016, the scheme helps intercept illegally imported puppies by the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at ports.
In the past year, Dogs Trust has seen a 66% increase in dogs rescued through the scheme, compared to the previous year, from 204 in 2019 to 338 in 2020.
Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, said: “The 1500th puppy rehomed through the Puppy Pilot is a bittersweet milestone for us to reach. The scheme was originally set up on a trial basis in 2015, because there were not sufficient resources to care for the puppies being seized at the border.
“Five years on the need for our services is greater than ever as the demand for dogs during lockdown has further exacerbated the problem and, unfortunately, we know that the dogs we care for are just a small proportion of those that make it into the country illegally.”
She added: “We held our first conference with relevant stakeholders, Defra and APHA representatives to highlight our concerns about the illegal importation of puppies over eight years ago, and our asks remain the same.
“Now that the UK has left the EU, there has never been a better time for the Government to raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable. We also want to see tougher penalties for smugglers, as only a handful of cases have ever led to a prosecution, with paltry penalties that are no deterrent.”