French Bulldogs and Pugs top the list of dog breeds vets most commonly suspected of being imported illegally into the UK, statistics released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have revealed.
Just one year on from the launch of its #BreedtoBreathe campaign, BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey has shown 29 percent companion animal vets had seen puppies that they were concerned had been brought into the country illegally.
By far the most commonly mentioned breed was the French Bulldog, with 54 percent of all vets who had suspected a case of illegal importation citing it alongside Pugs (24 percent) and designer crossbreeds such as Cockapoos (18 percent) as the three breeds they had most concerns about. Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus and Poodle crosses were other breeds mentioned by vets.
The statistics mirror findings from Dogs Trust’s latest puppy smuggling investigation, which reported that 63 percent of puppies intercepted at the British border as part of the Puppy Pilot scheme between December 2015 and July 2018 were French Bulldogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs and Dachshunds.
Some 72 percent of vets said their suspicions were raised by the client’s explanation of how or where they got the puppy. Additionally, 44 percent were told the puppy had been brought from abroad, but they found it to be too young to have been imported legally.
In 28 percent of cases, the puppy’s age did not appear to match the information on the pet passport, while in a similar number of cases the vet found a foreign microchip in a puppy who was too young to have been imported. Other reasons included poorly completed pet passports, suspicious vaccination records and poor health.
BVA junior vice president, Daniella Dos Santos, said: “The #BreedtoBreathe campaign highlighted the serious health and welfare issues that ‘cute’ flat-faced dogs suffer from, and we are extremely concerned that unscrupulous breeders are cashing in on the high demand for these and other trendy breeds.
“Owning a dog is a life-changing commitment and we’d advise anyone thinking about getting a dog to first speak to their local vet about the right breed for them and then use the free online Puppy Contract to ensure they get a happy, healthy and well-socialised puppy from a responsible breeder. We hope our top tips will help well-meaning dog owners get a puppy from a responsible source.”
Dogs Trust veterinary director Paula Boyden added: “Since the changes to the Pet Travel Scheme in 2012 we have seen a significant increase in the number of underage dogs being brought into the country to be sold to unsuspecting owners. The legislation change meant that puppies should be a minimum of 15 weeks old, but we have seen dogs as young as eight weeks old enduring journeys of over 30 hours in horrendous conditions.
“In most instances, owners are unaware of the horrors of their puppy’s early life, but we’re urging them to carefully consider the dog, where they’re getting them from and most importantly to walk away if they have any concerns. Importantly, they also need to flag any concerns to Trading Standards. By increasing the number of cases reported we stand a greater chance of government hearing our pleas for changes to the Pet Travel Scheme to better protect the welfare of all dogs.”
BVA and Dogs Trust are sharing seven tips to help prospective puppy owners get a healthy puppy through a responsible source:
- Talk to your vet first: Your local veterinary practice will be able to advise you on the best breed for you and your family and any health or welfare issues it may be prone to.
- Use the Puppy Contract: The Puppy Contract (https://puppycontract.org.uk/) is a free tool that gives prospective buyers all the information they need and the questions to ask a breeder when buying a puppy, including vaccination, microchipping and health test records.
- Always see the puppy interact with its mother and littermates and make sure you go and visit the puppy more than once
- Ask the breeder lots of questions and expect them to ask you lots too: There should be a two-way exchange between you and the breeder. They should want their puppy to go to the best home. Walk away if the breeder suggests collecting the dog from somewhere that isn’t the puppy’s home.
- Don’t buy a puppy from someone who is selling multiple breeds: This activity could suggest suspicious practices and a breeder that specialises in one breed will have a far better understanding of those dogs and their needs, and the ideal home for them.
- Walk away and report suspicious activity: If a seller is not willing to provide the information listed in the Puppy Contract or allow you to see the puppy interacting with its mother, then you should walk away to avoid fuelling the illegal puppy trade. Report the seller to the local Trading Standards or the RSPCA (in England), the Scottish SPCA (in Scotland) or RSPCA (Cymru) in Wales
- Consider rehoming: There are thousands of dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages waiting for homes at charities across the UK, so consider adopting instead of buying a puppy.