The RSPCA has called for a change to the law to stop the importation of puppies from abroad, which has “soared” during lockdown.
The latest summer figures, released by the Government in response to a parliamentary question, show that numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs rose from 5,964 between June and August last year, to 12,733 in the same period this year.
According to the RSPCA, the rising number comes as more people have looked at purchasing pets after being at home more and working from home.
These figures suggest that this rise in demand is “fuelling a worrying trend in a potentially exploitative and damaging trade which causes suffering to young dogs”.
CEO Chris Sherwood said: “These figures confirm our worries that the increase in the demand for pets during lockdown is fuelling this trade which puts puppies at very real risk of suffering.
“Buying an imported puppy leaves new owners open to the very real risk they are supporting cruel puppy farming, with the parents kept in awful conditions, used as breeding machines with sick and dying pups – and there is no real way of checking.”
He added: “Travelling long distances as a young pup is stressful and a real welfare issue. There are also risks of serious disease and future behaviour problems which can leave owners distraught.
“We want to encourage people to take their time and wait for the right animal and realise the benefits of rescuing a dog where great efforts are made to make sure you get the animal which is right for your family and circumstances.
Sherwood is now urging new owners to use the Puppy Contract in order to avoid poor breeders and “unscrupulous” puppy farms.
In addition, the RSPCA is calling for a change in the law to close a loophole which allows the trade to continue.
Sherwood said: “The third-party sales ban came in this year, which is designed to ensure puppies bred and sold in this country are kept in a way which puts their welfare first.
“Breeders must meet licensing conditions which mean that the puppies must stay with the parents and be sold from the home.”
He added: “However, the current law means that breeders abroad can get a vendor’s certificate to sell in this country as long as they’re licensed to breed in their home country. There’s no way of checking the conditions these puppies are kept in.
“We want a change in the law which changes the age at which a puppy can be sold from 15 weeks to 24 weeks.”
According to the RSPCA, this would reduce the value of the puppy when they are older, making it less attractive for people who are only interested in making money to take part in this trade.
It would also be easier to check the age of a puppy at six months, which makes it easier to enforce the law.