The European Parliament (EP) is calling on the European Commission to take action to try to stop the illegal trafficking of dogs and cats.
The RSPCA has welcomed the resolution; the issue has become a major concern for the charity, and other animal welfare organisations, since the Pet Travel Scheme was introduced in 2003.
This system was designed to allow people to travel with their pets for holidays and for shows, but the RSPCA feels it is all too often exploited by animal traffickers for commercial purposes. In 2015 alone, 93,424 dogs were imported into the UK for commercial and noncommercial reasons and 85,730 of those came from within the EU.
The RSPCA estimates, in its recent report, Sold a pup? Exposing the breeding, trade and sale of puppies that more than 70,000 puppies were imported into the UK – 30,000 from illegal farms in Romania, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania; and 40,000 from Ireland – over the last 12 months.
David Bowles, assistant director of external affairs at the RSPCA, said: “There is a huge demand for particular breeds and designer crossbreeds in the UK and responsible, regulated breeders cannot produce enough puppies. This means that unscrupulous and unregulated breeders and dealers are filling the gap with puppies, many of which are illegally trafficked into the country.
“A lot of these puppies are bred in horrendous conditions by large-scale breeders with little or no consideration for the welfare of the animals themselves. They may be taken from their mothers when they are too young and transported across the EU without vaccinations or legitimate paperwork.
“Many of these puppies contract life-threatening diseases and are at risk of developing behavioural issues in later life.
“That’s why we’ve launched the Scrap the Puppy Trade campaign, to tackle this issue head-on. We want the Government in England to introduce legislation which would help bring this illegal – but profitable – trade to an end.
“Just two of the recommendations we’re making to Westminster is to increase risk-based spot checks at Dover to enforce the rules on non-commercial trade in dogs and puppies; and to transfer the responsibility for implementing and enforcing the PETS system from the ferry companies to the statutory border control agency.”