The RSPCA has called for a joint effort to tackle the puppy smuggling problem.
“No one organisation can tackle this problem on its own,” was the message from the RSPCA at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee session on the puppy smuggling problem last week.
Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the charity’s Special Operations Unit, which specialises in investigating organised animal crime such as the puppy trade, joined Dogs Trust veterinary director Paula Boyden, City of London Corporation enforcement officer Robert Ques, and British Veterinary Association president Daniella Dos Santos as expert witnesses at the EFRA hearing.
The committee – chaired by Neil Parish MP – sought to find out more about what is happening currently and explore ways to tackle the problem and improve the situation.
The panel raised concerns over the lack of robust statistics on how many dogs were coming into the country each year and the fact that no records were kept on those dogs who came in.
Ian said: “We know that smugglers will bring in puppies before 5am because they know they can avoid checks at the ports and borders. These are dogs that are deliberately being brought in with no paperwork at all.”
Many other puppies are brought in by transporters who abuse and exploit the pet passport scheme.
Lib Dem MP and committee member Angela Smith said: “We’re not talking about puppy smuggling here – we’re talking about puppy trafficking. It’s absolutely evil.”
Ian added: “No one organisation can tackle this problem on its own.
“These puppies are a commodity, they’re being trafficked across Europe as a commodity. The sort of people involved in this are involved in other crime, too. They’ve got no regard for the puppies and no regard for anyone else.
“We need to change consumer habits because it’s too easy to buy a dog.
“The aim is to try and change the attitude that you don’t want to buy a dog as cheaply as possible. What you want is quality – just like you do with any other domestic items you buy.”
The witnesses suggested the following could help to crackdown on the smuggling of puppies – but it would need the assistance and cooperation of numerous authorities, agencies and organisations:
> Registration scheme for anyone selling puppies
> Additional training for border staff in terms of dog welfare
> Change minimum age of puppies at import to 24 weeks
> Government-led education campaign to ensure the public is informed and can make responsible decisions about puppy buying.