Dogs Trust has said “urgent improvements” are needed when it comes to reporting illegally imported dogs.
A survey found that almost three quarters of UK vet professionals (74%) believe they have seen a dog that could have been illegally imported in the past 12 months – but only half (50%) would know to report it to Trading Standards, according to new findings released by Dogs Trust.
The UK dog welfare charity polled professionals in the veterinary sector earlier this year to understand how confident they felt about identifying and reporting suspected cases of illegally imported dogs.
As well as welfare concerns for the dogs imported, Dogs Trust said a key reason to report is potential disease risk – puppies that have been illegally imported have often been given the required rabies vaccination at too young an age for it to be effective, whilst some may not have received it at all.
Dogs Trust has published four investigative reports exposing the trade, which have repeatedly shown that the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is being used as a cover to import underage puppies from central and eastern Europe for commercial reasons.
The charity added that it is illegal to import dogs to Great Britain via PETS with the intention of selling them. Dogs Trust’s most recent reports revealed a trend for heavily pregnant dogs to be brought into the country “with little care and consideration for them, or their unborn puppies’ health”.
Dogs Trust’s veterinary director Paula Boyden, said: “We have heard stories of vet professionals trying to report a dog they suspect could have been illegally imported but then struggling to get through to the relevant contact, whilst also having to explain the situation to the unsuspecting owners.
“These findings highlight an urgent need to improve the process of reporting cases to Trading Standards in a timely manner, particularly out of hours.”
She added: “More could be done to build confidence among vet professionals in the reporting process, so that when they take the time to report a suspected case, they feel assured it will be handled promptly and consistently. We will continue to do all we can to assist Trading Standards and other agencies to improve this process.
“It is clear that an improved protocol around reporting needs to come hand in hand with better public awareness of the illegal importation of dogs.”