Ministers urged to properly fund crackdown on ‘abhorrent’ puppy smuggling trade

Ministers tackling illegal puppy smuggling should "put their money where their mouth is", MPs warn today after concerns the Government is not properly funding measures to tackle the trade.

In a letter to the Commons Environment committee, Environment minister Lord Goldsmith said the department was committed to "cracking down" on the "abhorrent practice."

But he admitted UK Border Force had not published formal targets for the interception of smuggled pets.

And no specific funding has been provided to Border Force or local authorities to tackle the trade in the last five years.

Neil Parish, Chair of the committee said: "Whilst DEFRA clearly support the Committee's views on this horrible practice, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.

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“If we really want puppies to be protected, there need to be sensible pet travel regulations, and authorities need to be given appropriate funding and powers to stop smugglers."

Lord Goldsmith has launched a £225,000 campaign to raise awareness of unscrupulous sellers of puppies and kittens.

The strategy – dubbed ‘Petfished’ – launched last week, urging consumers to make conscious and responsible choices when purchasing pets.

But the Committee also raised concerns about the minimum age requirement for puppies to travel – arguing this should be raised from 15 weeks to six months.

Lord Goldsmith said there were “no current plans” to change the law, but claimed Brexit could allow for more “robust controls” in the future.

Daniella Dos Santos, President of the British Veterinary Association, who gave oral evidence to the Committee, said: “This is such a missed opportunity for meaningful action to clamp down illegal puppy smuggling and improve disease controls. It’s far too easy for organised criminals to bring puppies into the UK for sale by abusing the current pet travel controls.

“EU Exit has provided an opportunity to strengthen our rules and only allow puppies to enter the UK at an age where they can no longer be advertised as cute puppies. It’s deeply disappointing that Defra isn’t considering taking this action. 

“Vets see the heartache that can result from poorly bred and badly socialised puppies being illegally imported and sold to unsuspecting families. Awareness campaigns are important and useful but we also need strong regulatory measures that will stop the problem coming into the country. We’re appealing to the Government to look again at the evidence.”

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